Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Apfelbier Tasting

Very cloudy beer, even after over a month in the bottle.

Appearance: Hella cloudy. Darker shade of yellow. Fluffy persistent white head.

Aroma: Malty/grainy, cidery and a little bit spicy

Flavour: Crisp and very dry with a very slight tartness following the swallow. Hints of cinnamon and pie spices, but it's subtle rather than in your face.

Mouthfeel: Small bubbles of carbonation, thin and very dry. Slightly bitter, a bit acidic.

Overall: I think it's good. The beer is very drinkable, and I appreciate that the spice is more subtle than in your face. My only qualm is that it is really dry and doesn't have any residual sweetness. I should have added a fraction of honey malt or something to favor the cider and spice flavors.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Apfelbier, because pumpkin spice is so last year.

This is the last time this beer would be this clear (Racking from kettle to carboy)

As we in the northern hemisphere face the dark winter, a yearning for solace from the cold fills our hearts. While typically I have made a pumpkin spice beer each year around this time I decided this year that I was sick of pumpkin spice and wanted to do something a bit different.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Oktoberfest, Marzen, a Belated Tasting.

Malty Goodness

This beer turned out very well. I've been staying true to a lager-kick I have going on. I'm slowly tuning the malt darker and darker in the lagers in this series. I began with a Helles that was aged on 10# of cooked apples and some spices (still lagering), have moved on to this amber malty oktoberfest, will next be brewing a Munich dunkel, and as the finale I think I will make a sweet-stout in the style of schwarzbier.

Appearance: Mostly clear, but not perfectly so. could probably be crystal if I left the bottles in the fridge for a few days. Burnt-orange colour, but a pure white head that persists for the entirety of the glass.

Aroma: Cracked grain, very grainy and bread like.

Flavour: Similar to aroma: very grainy, bready and malty. Slight fruitiness from the munich malt. Finishes with a slight graham cracker flavor.

Moutfeel: Moderate carbonation, not thin but not chewy or heavy. Very quaffable.

Overall: Pretty much everything I was hoping for. It's malty and grainy, not really any bitterness to speak of, and very acceptable to the average friend that wants a beer.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Berliner-Ryesse with Lemon zest, GOP and black pepper (Tasting)

A dark picture for a dark outcome

This has been my first berliner (weisse) experience. As seen in my post here, I decided to go the traditional route by not boiling the wort at all, and I innoculated with a starter I made from grain.
For most people, Berliners can be pretty quick turn around sour beers that can be done in a month or two, or much sooner if you do kettle souring, but for me I had to leave this beer for several months.

Here's the problem:

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

101 Ways to use 100# of zinfandel grapes (just kidding, it's 3 ways)

I have never made wine before, but my Italian brother-in-law has made it since he was a kid, and he was willing to lend me his wine press for making my first batch.

Ein sehr gut Oktober: Early for Oktober, late for Oktoberfest.

Ah, the smell of malt in the morning! It's been a few months since I've had a beer brew day, and I'm excited to be back in the swing of things. I have a thirst for a malt-bomb, and the seasons have aligned, so I decided on an oktoberfestbier as my coming-back-to-it-beer. There was a part of me that was tempted to brew up a lot of ales in a short time in order to replenish all my stocks, but instead I went for some fun and decided to dedicate my October to lagers.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Apples Two Ways: Wine and funky cider.

Each year at my parent's house, I used to pick crabapples with my siblings and my parents. Back then, my mom would make them into jelly, but nowadays I keep trying to take my share for fermentation goodies! It's convenient as well, as my girlfriend has recently discovered a love for cider that had previously laid dormant.

Here we have two different preparations of crabapples. On the left we have a wine that was partially prepared by my mother. She took a jam sort of approach to preparing the apples by filling a pot with crabapples and topping off with water before boiling them and draining the liquid. The heat and boiling water pulled out the colour pigments from the skins, as well as quite a bit of acid. I measured the OG and found it to be just 1.025 so I decided to use table sugar to raise up the gravity to 1.070. I also used EC-1118 to ferment it. To be honest, I didn't put too much thought into this one.. Just took the juice my momma gave me and threw some champagne yeast at it. I'll measure FG and see what goes on!

For the carboy on the right, I made a crabapple cider. For this one, I had originally planned to use a wine/cider press to press the juice.. I froze about 20 gallons worth of crabapples (two different varieties) and thawed them to soften them to make squeezing juice easier. I used a paint stirrer drill attachment to break apart the fruits, and loaded it into the wine press in a few nylon bags. Unfortunately, it didn't work out. The nylon bags exploded their apple-sauce insides onto me, I didn't have enough spacers to get a strong squeeze, and I just got frustrated so I ended up draining the juice using a hanging nylon bag instead. I ended up collecting just under 10 L of juice, and ended up topping off with fresh cider and apple juice. This is actually probably way better so that the normal apple juice cuts the acidity of the crabapple juice.

For the cider, I had originally planned to ferment it with 100% Brett that I had isolated from a bottle of cuvee rene, but I ended up using it in combination with EC-1118. The culture of brett had an amazing lambic earthy funky smell to it. I'm hoping that the champagne yeast combo will bring out even more funk and dryness. The OG for this one was right at 1.050 so I'm excited for a quaffable funk cider soon to come!

Friday, 4 September 2015

Notes from the Cellar: Russian Imperial Stout 2013

It's a cold, near-autumn day in Alberta. Grey skies and black beer.

I know I have not yet accumulated a large viewership on this blog, but I still feel guilty when I haven't posted in a while. I know that on days that I'm looking for beer stimulation I get a little frustrated when my favorite blogs haven't updated in a while, so I apologize for the delays. Work has been finished up, I'm wrapping up my last courses for the summer, and I'm rearing to brew a whole bunch of beer in the coming weeks.

Consider this a bit of a placeholder, then. An aperitif to what I hope is a barrage of frequent posts over the months of September and October. I have bottled my berliner ryesse with the addition of lemon zest and grains of paradise, I am pressing crab apples and making batches of crab apple wine with champagne yeast and a cider with 100% Brett (a new strain I isolated from a bottle of cuvee renee), I've got a 100% Wyeast Brett lambicus red wine on my list, and of course several batches of beer, as my summer has all but chewed through my stocks. More empty bottles mean more batches I can make! In the meantime, I have had this - my first RIS - sitting in my basement for ages, and I decided to pull out a dusty bottle and see how it has changed.

Originally, I remember this beer coming out overly fruity - almost like a barleywine. It was between the dark crystal malt, the warm fermentation temperature and an ambitious ABV that caused it to be less roast and more wine. I was hoping that with time this fruitiness would fade and yield a smoother RIS.

10% ABV, 60 IBU's

Appearance: Pitch black, very persistent tan coloured head despite the high ABV.

Aroma: Caramel, fruity fusels, apples, coffee, leather.

Flavor: Immediately fruity, showing that same sort of fusel and fruit like red wine. Roast comes second to the fruit, and comes as at first like black coffee but deepens into a more firm, dark roast. Finishes with leather and nut alongside the roast, a bit of oxidation? Strong bitterness balanced by sweetness.

Mouthfeel: Moderate-low carbonation, thick mouthfeel, lingering bitterness.

Overall: Kind of reminiscent of red wine and dark chocolate. The fruitiness did not fade very much at all, so I can duly note that fusel fruitiness does not fade as ester fruitiness fades. I still have 3 bombers of this beer, but I don't feel that they should be held onto much longer as they don't show signs of improvement. I think this will be a brew to redo come the winter - lower ABV, more roasted grains, and cold slow fermentation.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Dry Hopped Solera First Pull Results

Ahh, freshly poured. A dichotomy of aged sour and fresh dry hops!

This beer turned out really well. It's a great sign for the solera in my basement. It's almost close to being too sour, where when you take that first sip it goes "POW!" across your cheeks.

Appearance: Ended up with a sort of honey colour, with a thick sticky head that takes a few minutes to break down despite the acids. No haze despite the heavy dry-hopping.

Aroma: Dry hops upfront, orange, mango and peach are dominant, but there is a bit of resin notes from the columbus hops. I was hesitant about this hop initially, but I don't think it clashes. There's a pissy/overripe fruit aroma in terms of funk. Not much barnyard.

Tate: Puckering sour at first sip! THP right after the first swallow - lingering cheerios, but it's young in the bottle so that should disappear. Fruity hops flavor much like the aroma: orange and peach and a bit of pine/dank. Some leather, must and funk in the finish, but it's not a funk-bomb. The aftertaste is cheerios and peaches and funk.

Mouthfeel: Thin, dry, pretty typical. Good carbonation. After the swallow there's a distracting bitterness in the back of the throat and some astringency that may be from the oak in the solera.

Overall: Good! Intriguing! The aroma worries me a bit, because when I have my nose in there too long I almost wonder if I'm smelling alcohol notes or if it's solvent/ethyl acetate? Second opinions have so far disagreed so I'm probably paranoid! I'm not a fan of that bitterness in the back of the throat, so I hope that goes away in time.

Any cigar fans? I'm having my first undercrown for a belated birthday!

Friday, 17 July 2015

German Pilsner - Is Pilsner Malt Necessary?

I know that most people will tell you that you don't start brewing beer to save money because with all the equipment and ingredients and such you won't end up saving much, but it doesn't hurt to try. Especially with Canadian beer prices, and especially when you're the typical broke-ass university student, every little bit helps. I try to buy all my hops and grain in bulk, and with my lab equipment I can keep culturing yeasts as long as possible - these things help to save $10 here and there. In buying base grain, To have to buy Marris Otter or other darker base malts, Pilsner malt for especially light malt, and 2-row for neutral american bases gives me 300% the spending that I would have if I were to just buy one type of base malt at a time.

So the question remains: Is it completely necessary to buy Pilsner malt to make a Pilsner?

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

This is my Solera - There are many like it, but this one is mine.

When I first started this solera, I was under the impression that I was special and unique for undertaking this project, but since then I've seen more and more soleras across the internet. Especially for sours, soleras offer an interesting project to undertake.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Apricot Chamomile pLambic Tasting

Appearance: Very slightly hazy, mostly bright yellow colour. Spritzy soda like head that dies quickly after pouring.

Aroma: Lemon zest, citrus, musty, hay, herbal-floral aroma.

Flavor: medium-light sourness, some musty fruit funk followed by the chamomile. Sort of a bubblegum- apricot mixed flavor, somewhat reminiscent of bergamot. Some cheerios flavor present.

Mouthfeel: Very spritzy carbonation, dry as a bone, but has a weird slick mouthfeel near the end.

Overall: The cheerios (THP) flavor should fade with some time in the bottle, but overall I'm happy. Some bottles still seem to have a hint of the rubber flavor, but hopefully that will fade in time as well. The sourness could be a bit more assertive, but at this stage it is very refreshing and pleasantly sour. I probably used a bit too much chamomile but that also should fade in time. The apricot was not super aggressive, but that's not surprising considering this beer is about 7-8 months past the initial fruiting.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Je suis un homme Français - The champagne method for beer

I've had this 2013 pLambic aging on apricots for several months. I wasn't liking the flavor because the wild yeast I picked up seemed to pick up a rubber flavor for a period of time before smoothing out. The crabapple portion of this beer has been great for a few months now, but this one took a long time to get normal again. I originally wanted to pick a bunch of crabapple blossoms to age with this beer, but ended up using chamomille instead. I bottled it up, but to my dismay it had a thick layer of apricot chamomille sludge at the bottom of the bottles. I tried opening one for a sample but it ended up gushing and turning into a smoothie of fruit, yeast and beer.

I am a stubborn man. I didn't want to give up on this beer after this long of waiting on aging, then waiting for it to get past it's pubescent "screw you, I'm going to taste like rubbery butthole" phase, then bottle carbonation. I wanted to get rid of the sediment, and that how I came upon "Le methode champagnoise" (the champagne method).

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Vienna Lager Tasting

I have a confession: I'm loving homebrew lagers.

After much trepidation, anticipation and eagerness, I have finally brewed my first Vienna lager. As I mentioned in my brew-day post here, I have always wanted to try a Vienna lager. The flavor descriptions for this style sound mouth watering: malt-centered, toasty, fairly dry. Brewing this beer also gives me the opportunity to play more with lager yeast and fermentation temperatures. I've really begun to enjoy making lagers due to the fact that they present a difference in techniques, ingredients, and results. I wouldn't say they're that much more complicated than ales as long as you follow the basic guidelines: ferment cold, diacetyl rest as fermentation is dying down, lager until clear and sulfur dissipates, then bottle or keg. The big breath-holder for me about this beer was that the ingredients were expensive this time around. My LHBS charges Vienna and MO as specialty malts instead of base malts, so for MO I usually try to emulate with a bit of amber malt in the grain bill, but for this beer I really wanted to see the difference that Vienna malt makes.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

2013 Spontaneous fermentation aged on Crabapples

This beer has been a bit of an ordeal for me - mostly because of the risks involved with spontaneous fermentation. At first, when this culture started fermenting it threw off more sulfur than I've ever smelt from a beer before. The noxious gas I sniffed from the airlock within the first few weeks had me second guessing my choice in this foray into the great unknown, but I held stubborn to the beer anyways. The thing about sours, and especially sours wherein you forego the commercial cultures, is that you can't tell how the beer will be after 8 months, or a year, or 2 years. This one was an adventure in testing my blood pressure.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Double Brew Day - Spanish Cedar English Pale Ale & Sour Stout

The semester has finally come to a rest, and it tastes of success and good beer. I decided to celebrate by brewing up two batches of beer in a day: an English Pale Ale to be aged on spanish cedar brewed in the morning, and a sour stout with my girlfriend in the evening. I really wanted another go at using spanish cedar, and both my girlfriend and I have really wanted to make a batch of sour stout since we first tried a bottle of Tart of Darkness.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Spanish Cedar IIPA Results & Tasting

I ended up cubing up some of that block of spanish cedar into roughly oak cube sized pieces. I collected about 75 grams of the cubes which is approximately 2.5 oz of the wood. I wasn't really sure how to sanitize the wood, I poured boiling water over them and let them sit for a few minutes before dumping the water down the drain and putting the cubes into the primary. I think that next time I may use vodka to sanitize in order to preserve some of the more delicate flavors of the wood.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Azoth Vienna Lager Brewday

Vienna malt has been a very alien thing to me since I started brewing. The problem is that my local homebrew store sells Vienna (and Marris Otter) as specialty grains instead of base malts so you end up paying out the wazoo if you want to make a beer with them. For Marris Otter, I've been subbing in a small amount of victory or amber malt to get some toasty and malty flavors in my English beers, and it works well enough even if it just isn't the same.

In this case, I decided to just go for it and get the expensive Vienna malt. I've always thought the flavor description sounds great, and I love a beer with some toasty flavor. Couple that with the clean profile of a lager, and the opportunity to use my lagering fridge, and I'm driving home with a heavy bill and a grin on my face.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Tonka Bean Stout Tasting Notes

I bottled this beer just over two weeks ago. While I had done one other tonka bean beer, this one was without any other spice additions. It seems like each bottle gets better, and I'll have to check the flavor after a few more weeks of aging.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

No Sparge, No Hops, No Boil Berliner Ryesse ( A very short brew day)

To ferment a beer using the bacteria naturally present on the grain that you'll use to make the beer is awesome. It's self-sufficient, au naturel, and nerdilicous for a microbio geek like myself. I've wanted to brew a berliner weisse for ages, but it's been put on the back burner over and over again while I've been doing any other beer. I decided to finally just do it, but true to my style I had to make it different by substituting the wheat in the recipe for malted rye.

I've done research over and over again, I've probably read Bear-flavored's entry on brewing berliner weisse a few dozen times before trying his method out for myself. Basically it's this: make a starter with no hops, add some whole malted grain, and top it off with some soda water to purge the oxygen and make a CO2 blanket. The reason being that some aerobic bacteria can make butyric acid and other nasty compounds that taste like feces, diapers, garbage or vomit. If all goes well, it should taste grainy, lemony and refreshing though.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Solera Top-off Wort

Next week is my solera's birthday, and I'm looking forward to it! With my sour beers it's like I get to celebrate my (beer) child's 1st birthday every year! It's funny to think that I have some beers that are older than my friend's children.. I guess it's kind of morbid to think of it this way since I consume them for my enjoyment, but I digress..

I know very well that you can make a pretty damn good sour beer without using traditional methods, but I like the romanticism of doing "Ye olde brooing" once or twice a year. I typically do one in October for my yearly spontaneous fermentation, and the second in April for my solera (of course last year that meant "ye olde brooing" 3 days in a row (60L)). I've found that after enough time doing brewing, the brew days can seem a little repetitive, so it's nice to refresh the joy in brewing by playing with new ingredients or new techniques. 

Friday, 20 March 2015

Oude Bruin (Roeselare) Microscopy

I've brewed a lot of lighter sour beers, and I have a 60L carboy with a lambic-style solera, so I wanted some sours with...moooore... I wanted toast, roast even, and caramel, and malt behind the sour and funk characters! I found La Folie from New Belgium brewing to be a little ridiculous sour with not enough funk or malt flavor getting past that puckering. I will release the recipe and full tasting notes probably much later this year after bottling, but when I took a sample it was deliciously toasty and had a decent tartness for the fact that it's only 5 months old, but I can tell you for sure that it is fermented with Roeselare, as well as Tart of Darkness dregs from The Bruery (Fucking amazing beer, so sour!). 

So, through my forgetfulness I let the airlock on the oude bruin dry out a bit too much and I think that a bit too much oxygen got in because the pellicle was starting to get pretty thick even after just 5 months. I was really paranoid about acetobacter, so I took the sample to taste (no vinegar), and took a sample into the lab to take some images.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Brettanomyces and Oak Old Ale Brewday

I've been wanting to brew this beer for a really long time. Now that I have a nice pipeline of sours lined up for every few months, I wanted to make something funky but not so sour. As much as I like Orval, I find the belgian yeast character kind of distracting, so I would like to make an English stock ale with some brettanomyces character and some oak. The grainbill for this beer is very simple with just some base malt and a bit of crystal malts thrown in for colour and complexity. I'll be doing primary fermentation with Wyeast Scottish ale, but adding a few bottles worth of Orval dregs once the primary is slowing a bit.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Tonka Bean Beer II - Tonka Bean Stout

I am admittedly irresponsible. In the middle of the crunchiest of crunch times for the semester with midterms looming over me I decide it's a good time to plan to brew every week. I have the Spanish Cedar IIPA aging on 2.5 oz of cubed wood, but after 2 weeks of aging I'm still not getting any flavors from the wood. That beer is an experiment though, so I'll let it age up to 6 weeks before really deciding how to proceed with the next spanish cedar beer.

I've already done one other tonka bean beer, but it was also coupled with a bunch of spice additions and I overdid the cinnamon in that recipe which made it tiresome to drink. I still had my jar of tonka beans about 3/4 full after that batch and I wasn't using it for anything else so I decided to do another beer with tonka beans. This recipe uses my base oatmeal stout recipe which I call "Gato muy negro". As seen in the picture above, I took 15 tonka beans and crushed them well with the mortar and pestle before transferring them to a jar with some whiskey to pull the flavors out of the beans.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

White Labs Brett Trois Microscopy Pictures

Being a microbiology student has its perks. I've been taking samples of yeast into the lab for a series of pictures in my free time, and with the uproar about Brett Trois I figured I would take some pictures for fun. In the next month I'll be growing up some wild yeast samples that I collected from crab apples, so I figure it would be neat to micrograph those as well, especially because they all seem to form some nice pellicles in the test tube.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Sour Beer on Concord Grapes

A more picture heavy post this time around, there's just so much more of a story to tell when it comes to sour beers. This beer started as a sour red ale, and I wanted to ferment it with just Wyeast Roeselare blend because I wanted to get an idea of the flavor that roeselare has. It was lack-luster, and definitely not sour enough. That's what most people say about it, but I guess I just wanted to have that experience for myself. I like the fruity flavors that come through from the yeast blend, and I figured I could rack it onto some fruit and let it rip to see if anything better comes from it.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Spanish Cedar Aged IIPA

This is a block of Spanish Cedar, but Spanish Cedar is neither Spanish, nor Cedar. I mean, it's not even a soft wood related to cedar. Spanish Cedar is a mahogany from South America. This lignin-laden piece of goodness is the same wood that cigar humidors are made from. Aging beers on Spanish Cedar is not a new thing; in fact Cigar City Brewing does a lot of it. From what I've had of Spanish Cedar aged beers, the wood imparts a peppery flavor with citrus notes that goes really well with IPA's. The main issue that I am facing with this beer is not knowing exactly how much wood to use. I will probably chop off about a third of this block and cube it, weigh it and see what kind of flavor I get from it.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Chthonian Dubbel

I've recently had an overcarbonation problem, as you may be able to tell. The other beer affected is the 100% "Brett" trois wit (the problem being, as many in the homebrew community now know, White labs Brettanomyces bruxellensis "Trois" is likely a Saccharomyces strain). The other thing I'm blaming is this Duvel glass, which has a laser etched "D" at the bottom of the glass that serves as a nucleation site to release the carbonation and get more foaming. I personally don't like the laser etched glasses because it drives too much carbonation out of solution which leads to an explosively foamy beer at first that then dies into a sad, flat excuse for the belgian it once was.

Back to the beer: I brewed this beer around October of 2014 when I first started this blog. I wanted it to be ready by about Christmas time as a winter warmer beer. Many people recommend aging belgian beers for 6 months or so, but I figured I would just allow it to age in the bottle instead of the carboy. I feel that the 3 months of aging would be more than sufficient to turn out a tasty beer that I could share with my family.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Sumpsimus Bohemian Pilsner - First Lager, First Water Tweaking

Oh, lagers, the strawman nemesis of the de novo beer snob; the dearest compadre to the uninitiated dark-beer-fearer. As homebrewers, I'm sure that most of us know at least 3 or 4 people who insist that they "can't drink ales", or only drink lagers, which is generally a way of saying that they don't like anything but Budweiser, Coors, or Molson. I've heard the opposite from newer beer-enthusiasts because they choose it as a form of rebellion against the majority lite lager drinking herd. In my opinion, both of these crowds are missing out. While it seems obvious that the BMC crowd may be missing out (in our opinion) on IPA, Stout, Barleywine, Belgian ales, Sours etc, the newer craft drinkers who think that lagers are boring, or that lagers are nothing but the lite corn beer are also missing out. Lagers can have so much flavor!

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Scottish 80 - My first temperature controlled fermentation

When I was a beginner brewer, after I had learned the ingredients, the mash information and learned how to all-grain, after I had done a few all-grain brews and gotten my system down to repetition where each brew day went smoothly and I could churn out beers relatively easily, I thought that beer brewing was simple. Granted, it's easy to make drinkable beer, and not that difficult to make pretty good beer, but I never really admitted to myself that I wasn't making great beer. Sure, my stouts and IPAs were really quite good, but I chalk that up to having such strong flavored ingredients that they cover up many of the flaws of the brew. I still hesitate to say that I make great beer, but I truly think that as many have said before: controlling fermentation temperature brings your beer up by a big notch, and I am that much closer to making great beer.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Tasting - 12/12/12 Barleywine

I took a little break from writing for the winter break while I decompress from the last semester at university, but I'm back to writing for the blog now!

This beer had its genesis over 2 years ago now. I brewed it on 12/12/2012 as my last chance at brewing a beer for the line up of years and dates. It ended up being 12% ABV, and I bottled it a month prior to 12/12/13 so that I could drink the first bottle 12 months after making it. I didn't go overboard and make it with 12 malts or 12 hops.. I'm not that crazy, that's just poor craftsmanship for the sake of novelty.
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