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.
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