Monday, 1 December 2014

Tasting - Poetaster ESB

I've got my first lager, a Czech Pilsner in the fermentation chamber. I'll post more details about it once it's bottled, it was the first I've worked with water modifications as well so I'm interested to see the results! Also, the very first temperature controlled beer I've done - a Scottish 80 - is bottled now, and the sample was delicious, a whole new level of success! Full tasting and update to come.

ESB - Extra Special Bitter are extra special to me.

Maybe it's some remnant of my British ancestry, or maybe it's just the balance inherent to the style.
The balance between the sweetness and bitterness from the malt and the hops, the interplay between the earthy, floral English hops and the caramel flavors alongside the fruitiness from the ESB yeast.. I love this style!

I've never failed to make an ESB that I've enjoyed. While there's always room for improvement, which I expect will be fixed as I introduce temperature and water chemistry control, there's never been one that has turned out badly. The first time I drank a Fuller's ESB I knew that I had to get deeper into the British ales. These, alongside an Oaked Ordinary Bitter are some of the quaffables I try to keep stocked at every part of the year.

Monday, 24 November 2014

100% Brettanomyces bruxellensis "Trois" fermented "Rye - Wit"

Sometimes I just don't give a damn for the style guidelines. This is a bit of a bastard beer: spiced like a wit, but with rye grain instead of wheat, and instead of getting its fruity esters from a belgian strain, I've chosen to go for the fruity flavors from Brett trois. 

Rye malt on the left, barley malt on the right.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Tonka Bean Pumpkin Ale

Okay, I admit: this beer doesn't have any pumpkin in it, but there are tonka beans! I don't see the point of adding pumpkin to the beer when it contributes so little flavor, fermentable sugars, or mouthfeel. Like many other brewers around me, I have forsaken the pumpkin in favor of the spices which I feel are the real star of the pumpkin ale.

For those not familiar, tonka beans are the seeds from Dipteryx odorata: a tree of the pea family which is native to Central and South America. The seeds look like wrinkled black almonds, and smell something like vanilla beans, which were soaked in almond extract and sprinkled with cinnamon. Sometimes I also pick up a caramelly odour as well. I could sit and sniff the jar of beans for ages without getting bored of all the different scents that can be picked up from these weird looking pods.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Fermentation Chamber Complete, and a Scottish 80.

After a few years of homebrewing, it's about time that I made the leap to fermentation temperature control. Anytime you see a thread on a brewing forum that asks what the biggest improvement in a homebrew system is, the overwhelming response is usually temperature control.

While temperature control is important in both the mash and in fermentation, for mashing I'm still relying on an old school dial thermometer. Soon enough I'll order a thermopen to lock in my mash temperatures, but first I wanted to take care of the fermentations.

To start, I got a minifridge off of Kijiji, and took the door off. The fridge was too shallow to fit a carboy inside, so I decided to make a 6" wide wooden frame to extend the front of the fridge.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Chocolate Stout - Review and Recipe

This is a chocolate stout I brewed about 2 months ago now.

I'm still working on developing a chocolate stout that really hits home for me - Momma always taught me that it's better to have extra spice than not enough spice, and I associate with that opinion when it comes to beer. In all honesty, I'm not the kind of brewer looking for balance when it comes to a flavored beer. I strive for balance and to showcase the beer flavors when I'm making a traditional style of beer, but in certain flavored beers, such as a chocolate stout or pumpkin spice beer, I want the flavors to be apparent - like eating chocolate cake or pumpkin pie. It really depends on the circumstance I suppose, because certain other beers I look to showcase the beer with just a hint of the spice to compliment the malt, hops and yeast derived characteristics.

When it comes to brewing with chocolate, many brewers find it difficult to strike a strong chocolate flavor in their beer. There's so many ways to add flavor, from adding bakers chocolate, to cocoa powder, to cocoa nibs. For this beer, I used a few different techniques. I don't use, nor do I recommend using baker's chocolate, because the processing leaves plenty of oils in the bars that can interfere with having a proper head on your beer. Cocoa powder is a good way to get a strong chocolate flavor, but the usual complaints are of a chalky, raw cocoa flavor left in the beer. Cocoa nibs are nearly unprocessed, roasted crushed cocoa beans, so they're the most genuine source of chocolate flavor that you can get, and many people swear by them. The downside is that they can be pricey.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

2013 Lambic - Splitting Onto Fruit

This time last year, I brewed a traditional turbid mashed lambic-style beer. I pitched a starter that I made from the open air underneath a bird-cherry tree in my backyard. I took a sample recently, and it has some decent fruity funk, but not enough sourness for my tastes.

After a tasting, I decided that it would suit some brighter fruit flavors. I had a few pounds of crabapples from my trees that I had frozen, so I took 2.5 pounds and thawed them and refroze them a few times to break open the cell walls in the fruit to release the flavors. Initially, I was going to leave half of it unfruited, but while the funk was decent in this beer, it was lacking the lactic sour that I was craving, so I decided to age it all on fruits. With my other sour for this year currently on 10 pounds of wine grapes, I guess I'll be waiting for a pull from my solera before I get some plain unfruited sour! 

Lambic Style! (Turbid Mash, Spontaneous Fermentation)

On Friday, I brewed my 2nd annual lambic-style beer.

OG: 1.052
8# 2-row (Rahr)
4# unmalted wheat
1.5oz tettnanger (4.0% AA) 60 mins

I milled the grains, and mashed in to reach a single infusion temperature of 155*F.
10 minutes after mashing in, I drew off 2 litres of starchy, turbid wort and brought it to a boil. For those that don't know, the traditional production of lambic is done with a turbid mash where a starchy, unconverted part of the liquid is taken off early in the mash, and brought to a boil. This ensures that there's some complex carbohydrates left for the bacteria to munch on for the year long fermentation to follow. Traditionally, this is done with a step mash, but I didn't want to spend the time on that, as I see no benefit from it.

Inaugural Post!

Hey there!

I am a homebrewer in Alberta, Canada. I've been brewing beer for about 3 years now, and I decided it's finally time to pursue a beer blog. I've learned so much from other bloggers over the years, and I feel it's about time for me to give back to the community. I'm currently pursuing a degree in cellular and molecular biology with a minor in chemistry, so I have some lab equipment and such to play with microbe culturing and such.

I have a deep love for sour beers and wild fermentations, and I'll be working on isolating wild yeasts from time to time so there will be an opportunity for strain sharing in the future. Outside of the few sour and wild ales going on through the year, my go to styles are ESB's, Scottish ales, stouts, IPA's and blondes, and I really enjoy playing with rye malt. I tend to stay away from Belgian ales, but that doesn't mean I don't brew them at all!
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