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2017 HomebrewCon Recap

Another HomebrewCon is in the basket!  I’m the last one to recap so some of this will be redundant, but I’ll shoot for the personal spin. For all the homebrewers reading this, HomebrewCon is the one beer festival not to miss.  Four solid days of brew-talk with some of the best people you’ll ever meet.  This was my third HomebrewCon, and I will say with confidence it was the best one yet.  This post is mostly about one thing: people.  As mentioned in previous posts, the goal of this blog has always been networking with others – and its finally paying off.  This year I hung out with more rad homebrew folks than ever before, and the community is ever growing.  The point of this post is to help encourage others to not only attend HomebrewCon 2018, but to strive to network more with members in the community on both a local and international level.

Beginnings  

My preparations for HomebrewCon the last two years have started in the late fall.  Late fall is when the American Homebrewers Association puts out a call for presentations, and I’ve submitted (and presented!) the last two years.  This past year I submitted two seminar topics, both with other brewers I’d met at HomebrewCon 2016.  I teamed up with Derek Springer of Five Blades Brewing for one and Ed Coffey of Ales of the Riverwards for another.  We all submitted our proposals and waited.

January came around and I received notice that both talks we had submitted were accepted!  Wow!!  Surprised, I spent the next few months mapping out what these talks would look like.  The first talk with Derek ended was called “Lagers to Lambic: Hard Stuff the Easy Way.”  The talk with Ed was “My Milkshake Brings All the Boys to the Yard:  Brewing New England IPAs. ”  [As it turned out, Ed was unable to make the conference so I recruited Malcolm Frazer from Brulosophy and Scott Janish from ScottJanish.com to help out. ]

A week before the conference I decided it was time to get my beers in order.  I really enjoy sharing beer to get feedback and to actually showcase what I brew.  I can write about beer all day long, but at the end of the day the bottle is my resume: pictures can look as sexy – but taste is what it all comes down to.

I had a seminar beer to bottle for the NEIPA talk and my sour beers for the MtF meetup.  In this week leading up to departure I transferred and kegged eleven different beers, a total of around fifty gallons.  I pulled my Blueberry, Peach-Nectarine, and Rhubarb Lambics off fruit, kegged, carbonated, and bottled along with the last of my Framboise and Kriek.  I also bottled my house blend (Starboy), a beer with Funk Weapon 2, and some unblended Lambic.  All in all I packaged about seven gallons that week into plastic seltzer bottles.

The packaging I used is starting to catch on for those travelling long distances to get to HomebrewCon.  While nothing revolutionary, it has worked well for me the last few HBC’s as well as a few vacations I brought some beer on.  Last year I brought two Lambic beers for my seminar, and tried using 2L plastic seltzer bottles.  It seemed to work fine, but I was nervous this year as I was bringing twice as many bottles – and one of them was a beer that supposedly didn’t travel well:  The ever so sensitive NEIPA.

I bottled the sours in two 1L bottles each, so I could share easier.  The NEIPA was for a seminar, so that went in 2L bottles.  The question for me was would the delicate NEIPA make it?  With as little as I had, I wouldn’t know until minutes before the seminar.  I should also add, I was “double stressed” because for whatever reason I forgot to purge my bottles with CO2 before filling them.

Departure & Arrival

I tossed everything in my suitcases and headed for the airport Tuesday evening.  With a few winks and smiles I was able to get two 54lb suitcases on without overweight fees.  Whew!  I boarded the plane and had a rather uneventful nonstop flight to Minneapolis.  A few drinks and a nap later, I arrived.  I Uber’d over to the Hilton Garden Inn, took a longer nap and woke up to my good friend Matthew Brown mid flight with a bear hug.  I hadn’t seen Matthew in almost two years and it was good to see him.

Wednesday

We nabbed lunch at Matt’s Bar, home of the Juicy Lucy.  A few thousand calories later, we met up with Sachin “Chino” and rode back to the hotel.  Just as we were hanging out, Marshall, Malcolm, and Marshall’s neighbor Jersey pulled up in an Uber.  It was great to meet up again – the last time I’d seen any of these guys was HomebrewCon 2016!  After hellos and hugs, Matthew and I went and picked up Derek (FiveBladesBrewing) and went out to Surly for beers and a snack before heading to the Chop and Bru Prefunk party.

Surly has a decent selection, but I wasn’t in love with as many of the beers as I thought I’d be.  The brewery is gorgeous (and gigantic!) and the building as a whole had a great vibe.  Food was tasty and insanely fast service.   I’m a big fan of Darkness and Pentagram, so my expectations were high.  Todd the Axeman was pretty good, but with Furious I wish they hadn’t added so much caramel malt!

We got to the C&B Prefunk and nabbed some beers.  Insight is a solid brewery and their beers really hit the spot.  The Prefunk was full to the brim, yet the bar did a good job of keeping up with smiles all around.  The back room had cornhole boards and buckets of homebrew on ice.  We met up with Marshall, Malcolm, Jersey, Eric (ericbrews.com), Jake (Brulosophy), Chino, Mike Koncel and a few other I’m sure I’m forgetting.  (At this point, lets just call them ‘the Crew’).

There was trivia, karaoke, more beer, and great conversation.  The night went by quicker than I would have liked and suddenly it was last call.  Most of ‘the Crew’ stuck around to help clean up, before catching a ride onward.

We arrived at the Republic a short while later and filled our bellies with more beer and delicious treats.  I hadn’t eaten since the burgers and crushed a plate of Jambalaya, Fish tacos, and french fries.  We chatted until the place was starting to close down and headed back to the hotel to get rest for Thursday.

Thursday

I awoke with my usual chipper-bounce-out-of-bed, showered and headed out to meet Marshall, Jersey & Malcolm for a bagel and beer.  Not wanting to miss a second, we went to a great pub called Brits right when the doors opened to have a few pulls of Fullers to wash down breakfast.

Home canning!

Feeling better after a lox bagel and some Brit Hop, we headed to the Expo to check out whats new and exciting in the world of homebrewing ingredients and equipment.  A few interesting booths were the All American home canning setup, which was right beside Sprout – a home malting system.  It was fun to connect with the fools over at JaDeD brewing and catch up since last year.  They’ve got a few new copper toys for working with various sized kettles and kegs I found enticing.

Charlie P blowing it up!

After the expo, we went to Room 102 and watched “Hold My Beer and Watch Me Science” with Marshall, Malcolm, and the Drew & Denny team from Experimental Brewing.  It was a great panel with a good look into why these guys do what they do – as well as a lengthy Q&A session you can find later on the AHA website.  Entertained until the end, we then headed back over to Brits for dinner (lunch?) and beers.

Full and happy after dinner (lunch?), we then went to the Milk the Funk meetup.  Not quite as many people as last year, but the beers were fantastic.  [Next year I’m going to label my beer better so I can drink more of others rather than having to decipher bottle top letters.]  The 1L bottles were carbonated, without leaks, and really were the perfect size for the share.  The Peach Nectarine Lambic was the bottle that went the fastest, with the Blueberry raising the most eyebrows.  It’s hard to compete with bright purple head.

After Milking some funk, we headed down to the Craft Kickoff night.  Many local breweries were showing off their goods.  Not wanting to overdo it for my talk the next morning, I held back and tried a few beers that seemed interesting.  It wasn’t long before I got the note about karaoke.   We met downstairs several minutes later and hitched an Uber over to the karaoke lounge.

If you’re reading this you probably are a reader of Brulosophy, BrewUnited, or EricBrews.  I don’t think I need to repeat what went on that evening, except it went from “what is this place” to “I’m having the best night of my life” quickly.  We walked in to a deserted sushi bar, and were shown to the back, past other numbered rooms (all for karaoke?) to the VIP lounge.  Song after song, edamame after edamame, we rocked the house.  I departed around 1am so I could get some sleep for my 10:15 talk.

Friday

Once again, I bounced out of bed and did my morning routine.  I met up with Derek and we gave our Lagers to Lambic: Hard Stuff the Easy Way.  It went great.  Having never practiced the talk together, we found it easy to provide background, examples, and some great back and forth.

Crowd for Lagers to Lambic

After the seminar, we hit up the expo, had a beer or two – then found ourselves back at Brits.   Delicious.  Malcolm and I took off to meet up with Scott Janish in the hotel for last minute slide adjustments and a “who’s doing what”.  With ten minutes to spare, we rushed to our talk and checked in on the beer.

I was thrilled (and somewhat surprised) to find the beer was in just as great of shape as when I had bottled it in the 2L seltzer bottles.  While my mind was primarily focused on the talk at hand, a seed had planted has been growing with skepticism blossoms as to how “fragile” the NEIPA really is and whether the “don’t ship” mindset isn’t as real as we think.

The hall for Milkshake. I was told it was for 438 people. Turns out it was more like two thousand!

The talk went great.  It was one part seminar, one part conversation, one part panel, two parts fun.  I was honored both Scott and Malcolm joined me (especially last minute) and greatly appreciated their expertise.  [If you missed the talk, it should be on the AHA website soon!].

Image compliments of Marshall Scott

After the talk, “the Crew” headed back to the hotel to do a Hop Chronicles tasting and an experiment on hop timing with the Basic Brewing podcast.  I hadn’t tried either test, so it was fun to taste.

Brulosophy and Basic Brewing in the house!

After the tastings, we went for a bite at the Butcher and Boar beer garden.  It was packed.  While a fun time, we dodged out pretty quick and headed back to get ready for club night.

Club night is the highlight of HomebrewCon.  Its a huge beer festival, but instead of commercial beer being poured, its ALL homebrew!  I brought the remainder of my Milk-the-Funk share bottles and moseyed around chatting with folks, all the while drinking and sharing homebrew.  I can’t say any one beer captured my mind, however the mead from Matthew Chrispen was fantastic.  I only get to try his meads once a year, and they’re always fantastic.

As club night came to a close, we were kicked out and headed up to meet and mingle in the Hilton with ‘the Crew’ and a bunch of cool other folks.  The fridge was full of New Glarus Spotted Cow, and pizza somehow appeared a few hours later.  The guys from JaDeD, Bootleg Biology and others I’m probably forgetting made the room come alive.  Marshall realized this and stood to give the most epic of toasts – a toast that captured everyone’s hearts and minds – one that I’m sure you’ll want to be a part of next year!

 

Saturday

I woke up, bright and cheerful as always and skipped my way over to Chino’s talk on “Brewing When You have No Time.”  Seeing as how I am the “at home” parent with my two sons, I figured if any, this was the talk for me.  Chino is a great speaker and extremely knowledgeable – his talk demonstrated both.

After his talk I went back to bed for a short nap.  Staying up until 3am, as well as being a few time zones off didn’t really help me out too much.  Rejuvenated, I met up with a few of the guys at the expo before heading to the awards ceremony.  It was fantastic when Malcolm’s name was announced as winning a Bronze medal for his California Common.  Congratulations Malcolm!

Image compliments of AHA & Brulosophy. I had to share this again!

Some of us then ran over to stuff our faces with Chipotle, then return back for the knockout party.  The knockout party is a new idea from the AHA this year.  Instead of the Grand Banquet, it was the entire Con in one room trying beers from the National Competition (beer roulette?) and some of the beer Surly brewed for the Convention.  After a little bit, ‘the Crew’ got together and decided to brewery tour Minneapolis proper.

Part of the Crew out and about!

We went to Fair State, Indeed, Bauhaus, and Town Hall.  All the beers I tried were great, there wasn’t one I was disappointing with.  Interestingly enough, I find myself ordering Pilsner and other lagers more and more.   I’m not quite sure what is happening to me.  I think I’m starting to become obsessed with another style, a style that is much harder to brew than the sour beers and NEIPAs I’ve been working on the last few years.  Granted, those styles take skill, but there isn’t anything to hide behind in a good German lager – and I find myself starting to wonder if I can perfect the craft of lager brewing in the coming year.  To be determined!

After the great brew tour, it was 2AM so I headed to bed – only to find my phone light up just as I was putting on my pajamas.   I went down to share a last beer with Olan, Marshall, Malcolm and a semi-conscious-yet-audible Jersey.  It was great to chat a little about our families and upcoming plans – even a little banter about HomebrewCon 2018.

Sunday 

I hopped back on the plane Sunday afternoon and flew home, quite uneventfully.  However, my mind was racing.  What would I do next year?  Speak?  Drive?  After all, it IS in Portland, OR, and that’s only a 2 day drive from Anchorage!  I hope to see you next year, look me up – I won’t be hard to find.  Cheers!

Flying home over Prince William Sound – our fishing paradise!

1.080 Reasons you need to get to HomebrewCon 2017!

Damn.  It’s been two months since my last post.  No apologies!  I’ve just been busy with lots of things, both brewing and non-brewing so this takes a back seat.  Our family is slowly going through the “buying a house” phase, I’m working on my HombrewCon talks (more later!), brewing lots, and trying to keep up with two fast moving children.  We’re not moving out of Anchorage, just across town to a place that will hopefully allow me to have more projects than this two bedroom apartment has afforded us.  That, and I won’t have an infant sleeping in my room.  I’ve brewed three batches of Alohops since the last update, brewed with Girdwood Brewing Co in a NEIPA collaboration, made a few sours, and a Deal With the Devil inspired barleywine.  So those are my excuses; lets talk about what we’re really here for.

For those homebrewers who have been living in a tub of spent grain for the last decade, HomebrewCon (previously known as the National Homebrewers Conference) is the yearly mega-meetup of all things homebrew.  Its three days of non stop beer tasting, talking, and geeking out.  Still not convinced?  Let me tell you why you need to get a ticket now.

Reason 1.010:  The Beer

Lets start with the obvious:  You’re going to get to taste more different beers in three days than any other festival.  Between kickoff night, social club, and club night, you’re going to get exposed to so much creative commercial and homebrew you won’t know what to do with yourself (although I recommend eating and hydrating.)

Kickoff night is Thursday night, and is a time for commercial breweries to show off their great beers.  Social club is a time where clubs take turns pouring anywhere from 5-15 beers.  This goes from 10am until evening.  Every day.  Club night is Friday and is a beerfest where everyone pouring is a homebrewer.  Saturday night you go out on the town and taste even more.

Reason 1.020:  The Expo

The Expo is a full convention room of brewing equipment and ingredients.  So many great gizmos, gadgets, and toys to make your brewday easier or more fun.  You can tinker, touch, test, and talk about all these products with the people who made them.  Freebies and swag will load your fanny pack as you walk around, glass in hand, and shoot the breeze.  Vendors will also have some beer for you to try to show off ingredients.

Reason 1.030: Milk the Funk Meetup

Yeah, this one needs a whole section for itself.  Milk the Funk is a group of brewers who focus on the wilder and more sour side of fermentation.  They do a meetup (date/time TBD?) that shows off some of the best sour homebrew I’ve ever tasted.   Its quite informal, bottles are passed around and everyone shares and gives feedback on different sour beers.  It’s great to see what comes out of the cellars for this tasting.  It was a highlight for me last year (not only because my seminar was over), but tons of fun to meet up with so many other people I’d chatted with online.  Definitely going this year, and bringing with me 6-8 different beers to share!

Reason 1.040: The Informal Late Night Meetup

Last year I was in my hotel room contemplating bed when I received a text there was a bottle share going on ten floors up.  I put on pants and went up to find myself trying 10-12 remarkable beers (many NEIPAs!) and socialize with some great people, most of whom I’d never met.  I was greeted with open arms and spent the next hour (or two?) talking, tasting, and having a great time.  HBC is a great time to share a beer with anyone.  If someone invites you up to their place for a tasting, take a friend and go!  I hosted two last year.  Its a great way to meet new people and share some of your creations!

Reason 1.050:  The Seminars

The seminars at HomebrewCon are great.  They range from informal to formal, cutting edge to traditional, and are given by homebrew “celebrities” as well as your average brewer.  Topics range from beginner to advanced, and include process, ingredients, community, and sometimes even food!  Seminars will open your eyes to what is going on in the world of hombrew and inspire you to try something new when you get home!

This year I’ll be co-speaking at two different talks.  One is targeted more towards the beginner and is called Lagers to Lambic: Hard Stuff the Easy Way.  The other is called My Milkshake Brings all the Boys to the Yard:  Brewing New England IPAs.  Hope to see you there!

Reason 1.060: The Chop and Bru Party

I’m putting this one pretty high up on the list without ever having done it, purely because I simply know its going to be awesome.  Marshall of Brulosophy and Chip of Chop & Brew are teaming up to put together the mega-ultra-epic unofficial kickoff party for HomebrewCon.  Great news – tickets are on sale NOW!  I just had to rewrite this paragraph because Marhsall just told me the tickets are on sale.  I’m pretty sure I just bought the first one!  You can click on a link to buy your tickets HERE.

Tickets include 3 pints of beer, sampling for homebrew, raffle tickets, and mingling with some of the best in the homebrew world.  (Rumor has it someone is working on getting karaoke going…?)  The prize packages are off the hook, and there will even be food trucks to help keep you fueled.  I’m putting this one towards the top of my list simply on the fact I know its going to be a highlight for me.

Reason 1.070: Getting Out!

That’s right – even with all the official events going on, you’ll still be able to get out and explore the city.  The other HomebrewCons I’ve been to were also in great cities and its fun to explore beer bars, restaurants, and famous landmarks wherever you go.  Last year we went out on the town every night (I think?) and got to meet some locals, shoot the breeze, as well as meet up with other home and professional brewers to chat.  I’ve heard great things about Minneapolis (I’ve only driven through it once) and look forward to exploring what it has to offer.

Reason 1.080:  The People

This is the strongest reason to go, on my list of reasons.  If you’re as much of a beer nerd as I am, you won’t find a better group of people to hang out with.  You’ll meet writers, nerds, celebrities, geeks, bloggers, inventors, judges, tasters, vendors, and more.  Regardless what kind of brewer you are, there’s someone at HomebrewCon who will share your enthusiasm.  Homebrewing is a great hobby, but the community of people willing to share their expertise, knowledge, and listen are what make the whole experience great.  As sappy as it sounds, this is an event I look forward to all year – not because of the beers, but the people and the stories behind them.

 

Bottom line, if you’re on the fence about going, its decision time.  If you love homebrewing as much as I do, you’ll definitely want to check it out.  You can read my recap from last year here.  Even if you think you’re club fills all your needs – or even if you don’t know anyone else who is going – its really worth the trip.  I guarantee it.  REGISTER NOW!

 

 

 

All images were stolen without asking.  Let me know if you want them down fivebladesbrewing.com, brulosophy.com, antiherobrewing.wordpress.com.  😉

Experiment 2.1: The Age of Lambic

Happy Friday!  Welcome to another Experiment.  This month we look at aging times for lambic and what effect they may or may not have.  I hope you enjoy the article – comment filters still aren’t working for me so if you want to leave a comment I suggest social media or shooting me an email (my address is on the “about” page.)  I’ll try to get back to you – but I’m headed to Maui tomorrow so it could be a while (figured I’d drop a doozy of an article, then leave)  Have a great few weeks!

[A Note About Experimentation (reprint from Exp 1.1):  Its time I started experimenting more scientifically with the process of brewing great beer.  There are many other blogs and websites dedicated to homebrew experimentation – so why contribute? The fame?  The money?  The notoriety? For more data, that’s why.  It takes a lot of work to compile data on beer experimentation.  Most of us know how much time, energy, and resources go into brewing a batch of beer, regardless of its size.  In most experimentation, double it (you need a control!) and then consider the fact that this research you’ve completed is only one trial.  Then think of all the trials it takes for people to accept something to be true and… bam.  You realize you desire more data – no matter how small or inconsequential it seems.  So join me in my experimentation and share your experiences and data.  Its all of us that push this obsession forward.]

 

Experiment 2.1

Abstract:  This beer was brewed twice, once in 2013 and once in 2015.  Both batches were brewed and aged identically, save for the fact that one was brewed before the other.   The beers have been tested in two different groups, both of which have shown tasters cannot distinguish a lambic beer brewed a year apart.

Background Information:  I love a good lambic beer; lambic style, pseudo lambic, whatever you prefer to call it.  When I mean good, I’m referring to a balanced beer with the right levels of acidity and funk – nothing terribly abrasive.  (I don’t believe the quest for the sourest or funkiest beer possible is one worth pursuit; balance is key.)  These beers, what I casually refer to as my “Lawnmower Lambics”, hit the balance just right.

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v1

When I first really got into lambic beers, I decided the price point was far too high and I’d start brewing them myself.  Always one to look into tradition, I read every bit of literature on the subject and decided I could do it.  I sourced wine barrels from a local winery, and ordered a few sacks of raw wheat in our clubs next grain buy.  I read about the turbid mash, and ended up buying a larger 55 galon system so I could fill a barrel in one go – my 15 gallon system became the side kettles for completing the mash.

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v3

Years later, and thousands of miles from the original brew site, I found the beers tasting similar, but not identical.  As I have began to look more at what makes a difference in beer, I found myself asking whether tasters would be able to distinguish the differences in homebrewed lambics of two different ages?

 

Hypothesis:  My hypothesis was that tasters would be able to distinguish a difference between two beers brewed a year apart, all other things being the same.

Procedure:  If you’ve read my other posts on lambic, you’ll know I try to adhere as close to tradition when possible.  The only step I don’t do on the homebrew level for large barrel aged batches is to use a coolship and rely solely on microbes from the terroir.  I used the Wyeast Lambic blend instead, which in my experience yields a lighter flavored beverage.IMG_0411

I followed the turbid mash to the letter, boiled with aged hops for over two hours, and chilled each batch and put into an expired Riesling barrel.  Each batch went into the same barrel, since they were aged so far apart.  I literally pulled one out and put the other one in the same day.  The barrel was cleaned and rinsed with hot water in between.  Each batch received one package of the lambic blend.  Fermentation took a couple days in both instances, becoming very vigorous after four days.  When batch one was kegged (so batch 2 could age) it was stored right beside the barrel to keep temperatures the same.  I refer to them as lambic v1 and v3, v3 being the younger of the two.

In August 2015, both batches were loaded on a trailer, shipped to Anchorage, AK, and stored in a cellar that ranges from the mid 50’s to the low 60’s, undisturbed.  Testing was in January and the end of February 2017.

Results:  I really like both of these beers, and I find both to be different.  I’ve also been tasting them monthly for the last couple years, so I’m pretty tuned in to their differences.  I passed all triangle tests, and can identify which is which without having another present to compare.  All that aside, I was curious how tasters would see the beers.

The first group who got to try was a group of folks I do tastings with, primarily on commercial beers.  They’re quite into beer trading and try as many beers per year as I ever will.  They let me bring these two lambics to the last get together we had and I put them to the test!  Each taster was given two samples of the younger beer (v3) and one sample of the older beer (v1).  Of the ten tasters present (myself excluded) only two were able to identify the different beer (p = 0.896).   Being a smaller sampling pool, I decided to try it on another group with more tasters.

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The second group was my local homebrew club, the Great Northern Brewers Club.  Members were again served two of lambic v3 (younger) and one of lambic v1 (older).  Of the club members present, 18 decided to take the test.  Of those 18, only 3 were able to identify the different beer (p = 0.967).

Discussion:  This was quite a surprise to me, to be honest.  As mentioned, I can peg these beers  no problem, even if you just hand me a glass and say “this is one of your lambics.”  In the first tasting group, the individuals who got it correct mentioned they were able to do so mostly on aroma, rather than flavor.  In the second group, there was mention of less brettanomyces character in the older sample, as well as aroma differences.  However, we must look at these assumptions with caution as our results do not indicate anything significant – its just as probable that those participants guessed and were simply indicating why they guessed the way they did.

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Full disclosure: I’m sure there are other differences in the way these beers were brewed than what I can claim in this article.  Mixed fermentation are tricky, and they each can have a mind of their own.  However, I was struck that despite anything else that may have gone on during the process for either beer, tasters were unable to distinguish the difference!  Does this mean age doesn’t matter at all?  NO!  It just happened to not be noticeable in this particular instance (which is absolutely fascinating to me.)

I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for aged products.  I love the nostalgia of pulling out a dusty bottle from the cellar, looking at the date, and thinking about where I was when that beer or wine was brewed.  I enjoy seeing how beers age, and what sort of flavors fade and are replaced as time goes on.  Or so I thought.  Perhaps my personal bias influences more than I think?  More testing needs to happen, be it with homebrew or commercial beer.  I don’t plan on changing my aging practices just yet, but it has opened my eyes into thinking more critically how my beers change with time.

 

Peach and Nectarine Lambic

My first experience with brewing  lambic style beers actually happened before I’d tried many of the commercial examples on the market today.  The first brew I did was a full-on turbid mash, aged in a wine barrel, fermented with the Wyeast lambic blend.  This batch was a full barrel’s worth of fifty gallons and I wasn’t about to leave that to chance, hence the pitch rather than the capture.  I’m convinced the product was more authentic than if I’d tried my hand with my coolship.  Since this initial brew, I’ve brewed a barrel full of lambic (or in some cases, a style close to it) every year.  These barrels sit for 1-2 years before I keg them and blend or add fruit.  While I love the base flavor the beer has to offer, adding fruit has been one of my favorite things to experiment with over the last few years.  I’ve tried cherries, raspberries, rhubarb, blueberries, and most recently a combination of peaches and nectarines.

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As we speak, I’ve just finished conducting a thorough test of the peaches and nectarines keg.  This keg received both peaches and nectarines for a combined rate of 3lb/gallon this past August.  They have been in the keg since then, which has allowed me to easily rack off a little bit every now and then to see how the flavor is evolving.

A few weeks after the addition of the peaches and nectarines, the fruit flavor was delicious.  Strong, pungent notes of both fruit dominated, and I was tempted to just go for it and kick the keg.  However, after a few sips I came to terms that my sweet tooth was acting out and that the only reason I was interested was due to the rich sweetness of the fruit, and not as much into the beer.  Delicious, but not really something I’d drink a glass of.

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Fast forward to November and some friends and I tried another sample.  The rich fruit flavors had subsided, and the first impression I got was more of a perfume aroma that I associated with being peachy/nectariney.  I was less than thrilled.  Often times I have kicked myself for not racking soon enough, and this was one of those times.

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Fast forward again to January, and I brought the beer to our hombrew club meeting where it was well received.  I mentioned it might have some of those perfumy notes without a lot of fruit flavor… but it was more popular than the Kriek or unblended lambic I had brought.  No one mentioned anything about any off flavors.

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And slow forward to this week and I found myself tasting it again, along with a few other beers (stay tuned).  The perfume notes were gone.  This one is going to get bottled for HomebrewCon this summer, as well as limited distribution to family and friends.  I’m really happy with how this came out and I’m looking forward to sharing it with anyone who wants to try!

Peaches and ‘Rines 

No BeerXML file this time.  Recipe:  66% Pils, 33% Raw Wheat.  Turbid mashed, long boil, 1lb 10 year old hops.  1 pack Wyeast Lambic blend.

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This beer smells great.  Light fruit from both peach and nectarine light up the senses, with mild acidity.  Verrrrry milk funk, which is what I strive for in my sour/wild beers.  Light hay and musty aromas.

The taste is really quite balanced.  Mild funk and fruit up front, fruit lingers, finishes light and dry with medium acidity that lingers well into the finish.  No need to blend this one down at all.

It looks like the color of straw, light haze from the fruit.  I thought about fining it, but decided to keep it the way it is.

Mouthfeel is pleasant and well rounded.  Fruit forward and medium body, this beer shifts gears quickly to a medium light pucker of acidity, then finishing on the back of the palate with a light tingle.

Overall, I’m happy with how this beer turned out.  Using both peaches and nectarines was inspired by tasting “Same Tree” by Monkish brewing.  It was the highlight beer for me at the Culmination festival this past fall in Anchorage.  While mine isn’t quite as complex as the Monkish beer (if I recall correctly) it is a good contender, balancing fruit and acidity with light funk quite nicely.  I’d like to have a little more brettanomyces character, but I’m thrilled with the way its currently tasting.  I get more of the nectarine flavors than I do peaches, and I attribute that to the lack of flavor in the ripened-in-the-trailer peaches we get imported way up here.  Still, really good!

 

Alohops VIII: Sippin’ on Ginger and Juice

I’m not sure it can get much better than this.  I’ve learned a lot over the past year and am really nailing down some tactics and ingredients that make this beer insanely delicious.  This is the eighth “official” iteration of my Alohops recipe, and the best so far.  I’ve made some other IPAs along the way, but often times have tweaked the recipe enough that it doesn’t deserve the title (see Experiment 1.1).  The batch I’m talking about here is one of my top two batches, however hard to compare as this one has many different things, including lactose sugar, candi syrup, and registers at a whopping 8.4% abv.  I’ll admit upfront, I was going for as much of a “milkshake” type IPA as I could (super creamy mouthfeel, etc.)  This one didn’t hit that mark exactly, but the beer itself is exceptionally drinkable.  Here’s what went down.

I have to bring my grain indoors to let it warm up enough so it will crush. Little hands are helping.

I have to bring my grain indoors to let it warm up enough so it will crush. Little hands are helping.

I’m pretty set on the grist, and haven’t had a reason to change it.  I have been using Crisp Clear Choice, since I had bought eight sacks of it, and am really enjoying it a lot.  Earlier I tried using more pilsner malt than the Crisp, but wasn’t as happy with the balance of the beer.  The most I’ll modify these days is to use ~20% pilsner – which is also delightful, but ever so slightly lighter.   Oats range between 20-30%, this last time being 24% of the overall grist.

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When it comes to water the water profile, I’m really happy with a 1:1 chloride to sulfate ratio, both being right around 120ppm.   I’ll continue to play with this as I read about what others have tried.

The biggest change this time around (and most times) is the hopping type and schedule.  I always do a small charge of Magnum to start things out and boost me up to 20-30 IBU.  I’ve tried as high as 40 initially, but found it to be more than I was looking for.  Version VII was a bit stronger than what I had wanted, so for this batch I decided to do a 18IBU addition at 60 minutes.  Sixty minutes later, the fun began.  Just before flameout I added a pound of lactose sugar, in hopes of an even creamier mouthfeel.

An internet acquaintance had sent out a recipe from Craft Beer and Brewing that showed multiple whirlpool additions in a NEIPA.  Having never tried multiple whirlpool additions, and having a buncho of new hops on hand, I decided to try it out.  I “whirlpooled” for 30 minutes, starting a few minutes after flameout.  The temperature had dropped a couple degrees by the time I got the pot over by the sink where I chill.  I did three addition, each one larger than the previous, and 10 minutes apart.  Not really enjoying the Equinox and Centennial I had used during Experiment 1.1, I opted to try out Mandarina Bavaria (MB), a new tangarine-esque hop I hadn’t played around with yet.  Sticking with more of a citrus theme, I decided Citra and Mosiac would accompany well.  The first addition was 0.5oz MB, 0.25 Citra and 0.25 Mosaic.  Ten minutes later, I added 1oz MB, 0.5 Citra, and 0.5 Mosaic.  Ten minutes later, I did 1.5 oz MB, .75oz each of Citra and Mosaic.  Soak for 10 minutes, then everyone into the fermenter.  There went 6oz!  OG was 1.067.  I must note that this was the best wort I’d ever tried pre-ferment (and to think of all the dissolved oxygen that was in there too!)  For what its worth, the wort was crystal clear when it settled, despite the 3 lbs of flaked oats.

I fermented with my 6th generation of London III, grown the day previously, then boosted again with approximately 500ml of wort on brewday.  After pitching, the carboy went to my cellar/garage where it fermented at 66F for the first six days.  Fermentation kicked off after about 18 hours.

All the dry hops really expanded and maxed out my carboy. I ended up pulling off a half gallon for more headspace.... and I was thirsty.

All the dry hops really expanded and maxed out my carboy. I ended up pulling off a half gallon for more headspace…. and I was thirsty.

On day 2, I added the first dry hop.  0.5oz MB, 0.25oz both Citra and Mosaic.  Day 4, I dropped in the same hop addition as before.  Day 6, as fermentation had began to slow down, I added 1oz MB, and 0.5 oz each of Citra and Mosaic.  There’s another 4 oz!  This beer is going to run me out!

Just after adding the last dry hop addition, I brought the beer back upstairs where it sat at 71F for the remainder of fermentation.  In addition, I also tried something new: a grapefruit belgian candi syrup addition from Jesse over at Age Old Brewing Candi.  With an SRM of only 7, I added a pound to see where this could take my beer.  I tasted a bit before throwing it in, and man oh man did this taste like a delicious sugary grapefruit.  I also must confess that I saved just under an ounce to toss on my pancakes!

January 17th rolled around a few days later and it was time to keg.  I wanted to bring this beer to the Alaska Beer Industry party to share with friends and other brewers.  I cooled it down outside, then brought it inside and kegged.  I pulled a small taste as it was going into the keg (who doesn’t?) and it tasted amazing.  It was probably only second to the first pull off the keg a day later.  Carbonation was a little high, so I degassed it for a little while.  Low and behold, it was my favorite version of Alohops.

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Sincere apologies for the screenshot. I’m having trouble uploading my beerXML files.

The aroma screams the aloha spirit to me, I almost want to bring out my ukulele and sing this description.  Super ripe tropcial fruit.  Oranges, some pineapple.  Not sure I’d have said tangerine before reading the hop descriptors, but I can definitely follow that train of thought.  Maybe papaya and light mango.  Very, very light fresh pine notes.  What I repeatedly love about this beer is how I can smell in my apartment if someone is pouring a pint.  No malt aromas.

The taste is all hoppy goodness.  Just enough malt character to balance the hoppiness.  Definitely can smell more of the hops than tastes, either that or I become accustomed to the smell after a few whiffs and my mouth is somewhat desensitized.  Slight bitterness in the finish with a very light touch of sweetness as it warms.

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The mouthfeel is light and creamy.  Not over the top creamy, which is actually what I’d hoped for in this batch by adding the lactose.  While the flavor is great, I do think adding both lactose sugar and candi syrup contributed more dryness than I was looking for.  There is also a very light alcoholic warmth in the finish as the beer warms.  Nothing abrasive, but not exactly what I want.  (I don’t have a problem with perfection.  Nope.)

Overallthis is a great beer.  Its strong enough to get me through cold winter nights with visions of hula girls dancing in my head.  It drinks way to easy for an 8%’er, and begs you to come back for more.  Even people who “aren’t IPA drinkers” (Mom!) are finding this beer easily refreshing.  This batch really nailed the balance of bitterness/creaminess/hoppiness I’ve been looking for in this style, with neither being too forward.

–Aftermath–

First, if you’ve made it this far, there is probably a part of you wondering what the ginger is all about.  A friend of mine (the aforementioned friend of mine, Scott, who I routinely destroy in hands of cribbage) told me he’d visited Bissel Brothers and brought home a hoppy beer with ginger in it.  Not wanting to apply this to a whole batch, I decided to freshly press some ginger root into a pint glass before filling.  I found about 1/2 to 3/4 of a tsp added in before pouring really brought this beer to another level.  Not a better or worse one, but a new one.  It really helps emphasize the freshness and juicyness of the beer, while at the same time providing a zing! at the finish.  Really, really pleasant.  Ginger and Juice.  

Secondly, and almost just as awesome, I brought some of this beer to the Beer Industry party and shared it during the social time.  Gabe from Anchorage Brewing Co came by, tried some, and told me we needed to brew it up sometime in his brewery.  Yes. Please.

 

Side note:  I appreciate all the comments on the blog.  I’m in the process of figuring out how to get rid of all the spam I’m getting on the site.  If you’re leaving comments and I don’t get back to you, please know it wasn’t a lack of effort.  Thanks!

Experiment 1.1: No Oats vs. Oats Gone Wrong.

A Note About Experimentation:  Its time I started experimenting more scientifically with the process of brewing great beer.  There are many other blogs and websites dedicated to homebrew experimentation – so why contribute? The fame?  The money?  The notoriety? For more data, that’s why.  It takes a lot of work to compile data on beer experimentation.  Most of us know how much time, energy, and resources go into brewing a batch of beer, regardless of its size.  In most experimentation, double it (you need a control!) and then consider the fact that this research you’ve completed is only one trial.  Then think of all the trials it takes for people to accept something to be true and… bam.  You realize you desire more data – no matter how small or inconsequential it seems.  So join me in my experimentation and share your experiences and data.  Its all of us that push this obsession forward.

 

Experiment 1.1

Abstract:  This was supposed to be an article about an experiment I did comparing two batches of Alohops;  one with oats, one without, same initial gravity.  Both beers were brewed on the same late evening, one immediately after the other; however in my sleepiness I overlooked the cereal mash for steel cut oats: consequently, the second beer had a lower gravity.  Only one taster in three has been able to establish the unique beer in a triangle test, despite a difference in gravity of almost 0.010 points.

Background Information:  I love using oats in my NEIPAs these days and recently read an article stating that tasters were unable to establish a difference in two beers, one with oats and one without.  I sought to test it myself.  I chose to use a recipe I love, however, I also thought it would be fun to try some new whirlpool methods and hop choices (on both batches, of course).  I chose to use a method of whirlpooling where I would lower the temperature slowly over the course of 25 minutes from 212 to 185F.  Hops included equal parts Centennial, Equinox (now Ekuanot), and Citra.

Hypothesis:  My original hypothesis was that tasters would be able to identify a beer brewed with 20% oats when compared to a beer with similar starting gravity brewed without oats.

Procedure:  Both beers were brewed using a variant of my Alohops recipe.  I mashed at 152F, and used all my brewing water at once to complete a BIAB style brew.  Water was adjusted pre-mash, and a small amount of lactic acid was added to bring the mash pH to acceptable levels.  I’m currently shopping for a new pH monitor, so there was no verification done as to the acid’s effectiveness.   On the second batch I made my big mistake.  I had bought steel cut oats, which need a cereal mash prior to being used in the main mash.  I tossed them in, not thinking twice about it.  I generally buy flaked oats for my beers, so this was an oddity for me. It’s not the first time I’ve screwed up oats.  (It’s actually the third time.  The beer I most recently brewed I put up a big sign saying “OATS” so I wouldn’t forget.  I store them in the pantry since we eat them for breakfast too, so they are often a last minute addition or forgotten…)

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A small charge (30 IBU) of Magnum hops was added as the wort was coming to a boil in both brews.  No hops were added during the boil.  [Side note: During the last few minutes of the boil on the second batch, my heat stick arc’d a brilliant yellow light and fizzled out.  I no longer recommend the cheap $10 Amazon heat stick.]

Heatstick's last ride.

Heatstick’s last ride.

Next, 1.5oz each of Centennial, Equinox (now Ekuanot), and Citra were added for flameout and allowed to steep for 25 minutes.  (This is where the slightly excessive bitterness comes from.)

Frankenchillers last ride.

Frankenchillers last ride.

Worts were chilled with my frankenchiller (it was his last brew! – I’m on to the Hydra now!) to pitching temperature in about ten minutes.  A 2L vitality starter of London III was split between both batches and they were put in the cellar at 62F.

Starter!

Starter!

As expected, since I didn’t do the cereal mash, the all-barley beer was higher at 1.066, while the steel cut beer was 1.057.

And, they're off!

And, they’re off!

Temps rose to 66F as fermentation started the next day.  Dry hops were added on day 5 of fermentation.  Temperatures were raised to 70F to finish fermentation, peaking at 71F.  Beers continued to ferment into day nine, and were chilled and kegged on Day 12.  Beers were carbonated in a few hours using a pair of carbonation stones.

Results: Testing began immediately (surprise!) and both beers tasted over-bitter to the point of being almost astringent.  Oddly enough, it was a very “smooth” over-bitterness, if that makes sense.  I tasted each day and found the astringency/bitterness fade by the fourth day after kegging.  I failed every triangle test I attempted.  When tasting without my blindfold, I thought the batch brewed without oats tasted smoother, creamier.  Alas, I couldn’t identify them after 3 rounds.  My wife nailed the difference on the first try, she was able to pick up a difference in aroma.  Four out of six tasters weren’t able to identify the different beer in the lineup either.

Snow cave and beers. I'm set.

Snow cave and beers. I’m set.

Discussion:  What can be gained from this experiment?  Not too much, sadly.  With two variables present (change in gravity and oats v. no oats) it’s hard to tell who to blame if there are any difference in these beers.  Despite failing all triangle tests, I felt that when I tasted them on tap a few weeks later, there was a slight but noticeable difference.  One taster who got it right described the non-oat beer as being crisper and more refreshing.  Interestingly enough, these beers are about 1% different in ABV – which makes me wonder at what point our palates can detect a change in ABV.  Or perhaps enough of the crushed oat “meal” contributed just enough body that we think we have a slightly bigger beer on our tongues than we really do?  As always, the fun of experimentation is that we are left with more questions than answers.  Especially since this trial didn’t lend us any answers.

The reader will probably notice that there were only 6 tasters.  I only included people who took the test in a controlled environment.  One other flaw in my system was having the beer in its prime during the third week of December.  By the time I was able to rally enough people into trying the beer, it had peaked and gone.  Our local homebrew club doesn’t do formal meetings Dec/Jan.  Not that extra time would have changed the variable too much (or would it?), but someone in our house seems to drink me out of anything close to a NEIPA quite often.  (Looking at you, honey.)  Next time I plan to bring the experiment to our homebrew club for maximum tasters.

Thinking about the beer itself, it was quite drinkable, yet didn’t have the same smoothness and “juice”-factor that my other batches have had.  I’m blaming that on the Equinox and Centennial instead of my usual Mosaic/Galaxy additions.  I also didn’t really care for the strong bitterness – something that came from a 4.5oz addition of high AA hops at flameout.  [This part I’ve already changed.  My most recent NEIPA batch utilized a 3 part addition to the whirlpool and is fan-tas-tic.]  The harsh bitterness faded in the month or so this beer was on tap, but sadly so did the hop punch.

If you’re looking to use oats in a beer, might I recommend to you the flaked variety.  Using steel cut?  Don’t forget your cereal mash.  And if you experiment with your brewing – share it.

Parting Shot

Parting Shot

The Problem with NEIPA

Looking back at the last several posts I’ve done, it seems like I do have a problem with New England style IPAs (NEIPAs).  Over the holiday break we drank some of what I’m calling Alohops VII: The Source Awakens.  As if this post wasn’t clickbaity enough… I’ll explain all of it in a moment.  Why am I obsessed with this style?  If you haven’t read the previous posts, I’ll fill you in now:  flavor and extreme drinkability.  I can’t recall any other beer being so fresh-hop-flavor-forward, while at the same time being exceptionally fast and easy to brew.

Each time I brew a batch of Alohops I tweak a variable here or there, just to see how it changes the final product.  I’ve adjusted my water profile, hop profile, and recently even tweaked the ever-so-simplistic grain bill.  However, the one thing I hadn’t done before was leave out what is considered a huge contributor to NEIPAs:  the oats.  Since I don’t run the oats through my mill, I simply got caught up in the moment and forgot to add them in when mashing.  Realizing this as my brew bag drained rather effortlessly, I knew there was no going back.  (Oats do not have the enzymes for breakdown we find in malted barley so they need to be mashed together.)  I hit the burner to high and went forward.  In my head, I was starting to think this might be a good (albeit not scientific) search for the source of what makes the NEIPA so incredible.

This batch also differed in the hop additions as well.  I included some 007 in the last 10 minutes of the boil, as well as Denali, Citra, Galaxy, and Mosaic in both the whirlpool and the dry hopping. Not entirely pleased with the last time I did keg hopping, I decided to omit it this time.   The goal was an ever so slightly more bitter NEIPA than what I had previously brewed.  At this point, I started to wonder whether I had anything even resembling a New England IPA or whether I was just brewing a standard IPA. I’m not really sure how to categorize the beer, so I’ll try to describe it for you and you can decide for yourself.

I added my dry hops toward the tail end of fermentation and let them sit for 4 days before crashing and carbonating using my carb stone. That evening, I sipped on a fresh pint that was delicious, however, a bit different then the Alohops I’ve brewed in the past.

Who's it gonna be...?

Who’s it gonna be…?

For those of you that want to get as close to the New England-style as possible without having to deal with haze, this beer is probably for you. With a low charge of bittering hops and large late hop additions this beer is exceptionally smooth and extremely hop fresh, while having a pleasant and well rounded bitterness.   Nothing like three quarters of a pound of cheater hops to make a beer taste fantastic.  While recently there has been some discussion regarding what oats contribute to the mix, this beer had quite the different mouthfeel compared to the Alohops brewed in the past (a more scientific test is currently underway).  The beer had what I consider adequate mouth feel and was quite smooth, however, the silky smoothness I crave in the “NE style” was lacking.  It was still a delicious beer but not quite what I envision in the style.  Clarity, however, was on point after 3 days of being in the fridge.

Frankenchiller doing his thing. 212F to 70F in 8 minutes.

Frankenchiller doing his thing. 212F to 70F in 8 minutes.

So that brings us to the clickbait title of this article: the problem with NEIPA. The problem is, I’m writing about this beer without having one in my hand. The keg kicked after 13 days. That’s five gallons of 7% beer gone in less than 2 weeks. The problem with this style is it’s insanely drinkable to almost everybody and the beer disappears faster than you know it.  From hop lovers to self-proclaimed IPA haters; everybody can’t seem to get enough of it.  And they can’t get enough of it very quickly.  People are shocked when I tell them the beer they just had was 7 %. (Comments received from competitions tell me that this beer would often do better in a session category and that it needs to be stronger!)  Some batches I have brewed even reach closer to 9% with the same drinkability.  It’s a crazy, borderline real problem: how do I keep this amazing beer on tap?

If you’re still skeptical  about brewing a beer like this,  I’d encourage you just to try it out once (especially with the oats!).  There are many people that were skeptical based on some of the hazy photos people have posted online, but when brewed properly the style is just fantastic.  It’s pretty much become our flagship house beer and I hope someday it is a regular in your house as well. That is the point of these posts, after all.  So what is the Source of the deliciousness of a New England Style IPA?  For the best experience: late hop additions, huge dry hop additions, a higher chloride:sulfate ratio, and of course, oats.

Alohops VII:  The Source Awakens.

Recipe Details

Batch Size Boil Time IBU SRM Est. OG Est. FG ABV
5 gal 60 min 98.7 IBUs 6.1 SRM 1.073 1.017 7.5 %

Style Details

Name Cat. OG Range FG Range IBU SRM Carb ABV
Imperial IPA 14 C 1.07 - 1.09 1.01 - 1.02 60 - 120 8 - 15 2.2 - 2.7 7.5 - 10 %

Fermentables

Name Amount %
Pale Malt, Maris Otter 11 lbs 84.62
Vienna Malt 2 lbs 15.38

Hops

Name Amount Time Use Form Alpha %
Magnum 0.5 oz 60 min First Wort Pellet 14
Idaho #7 2 oz 5 min Boil Pellet 13
Citra 1.5 oz 20 min Aroma Pellet 12
Galaxy 1.5 oz 20 min Aroma Pellet 14
Mosaic (HBC 369) 1.5 oz 20 min Aroma Pellet 12.3
Citra 1.5 oz 4 days Dry Hop Pellet 12
Galaxy 1.5 oz 4 days Dry Hop Pellet 14
Mosaic (HBC 369) 1.5 oz 4 days Dry Hop Pellet 12.3

Yeast

Name Lab Attenuation Temperature
London Ale III (1318) Wyeast Labs 73% 64°F - 74°F

Mash

Step Temperature Time
Mash In 150°F 75 min

 

Water profile: Ca 115 | Mg 11 | Na 9 | Cl 120 | SO4 124

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The aroma of the beer is fantastic. Just like all the other batches I get tropical fruit, citrus, and a very light pine.  I love how the apartment smells whenever anybody pours a pint of this, (especially me).

Flavor is great.  I’m glad to be back at full strength Crisp Clear Choice malt.  I find it supports the hop profile perfectly.  Hops shine everywhere.   This batch has a slightly fruitier profile than the ones where I have tried Falconer’s Flight 7Cs has a small flavor addition towards the end of the boil.  No resiny notes.  Lots of tropical fruit and light citrus.   I’m almost tempted to say something about juiciness.

Mouthfeel is good, as I mentioned earlier it’s not exactly what I wanted it to be. There is a slight higher bitterness with an edge that prevents the beer from being consumed too quickly. Probably a good thing but I’m looking for exceptional drinkability in this style, as mentioned earlier.  Next time I won’t forget the oats.

Overall, it’s a great beer.  It was well received at both a dinner party we hosted as well as during Thanksgiving dinner.  Was it a New England IPA?  I’m going with a definite maybe.  With the exception of the oat addition it was spot on – which begs the question of where a “traditional” IPA ends and where the NEIPA begins: the line is hazy.

 

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The Gift Guide is back!

Temperatures are falling and the frost is getting thick outside.  Here in Anchorage we haven’t gotten our promised load of snow yet – but that doesn’t mean for a second that the holiday season is holding off.  I tried to ignore the decorated trees and twinkle lights lining the store shelves just behind the Halloween candy this year.   However, with both the Day of the Dead and the Thanks of Giving behind us, its safe to start singing your favorite holiday tunes and lighting the centerpiece for the upcoming festive season.

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It’s been a couple years since I put out a gift guide.  I’m not a huge “you need this equipment” kind of person, but I do think there are things that make great gifts for the brewer or baker in your life.  Some of them are obvious, others not so much.  I try to purchase things that are utilitarian, with a semblance of class.  Objects that work in both the brewery and kitchen are a bonus.  While brewing buckets and airlocks are helpful, here are a few items (in no particular order) that are a little more exciting and (in my opinion) helpful for the brewer or baker in your life:

Brewing

Anova Sous Vide Precision Cooker – On sale now for $99, this is the best bang for your buck when it comes to immersion heating.  Precision to a degree, this heater can warm up to 8+ gallons of water (or more!) to a specific temperature.  Perfect for exceptional steak or a kettle sour (or both at the same time!).  I’ve used my Anova the last three years for doing both.  I’ve made chashu, steak, fish, chicken, pork, and half dozen sour beers all with the press of a button.  While a vacuum packer is a snazzy way to cook, a ziplock back works great for cooking as well – so pull the trigger and find out what you’ve been missing out on.

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Thermapen – Of all the brewing/cooking related products I own, my Thermapen gets used the most.  I use to check everything from food doneness to mash temp to my baby’s bath water.  While its not needed, I like having the 2-3 second response time; I get almost instant updates as I stir my mash or check multiple things on the grill.

thermapen-mk4_red

A Brew Bag.  – I’m not really sure everyone understands how useful a brew bag can be.  I have both a bag for my 5 gallon system, as well as the “big” bag for my 55 gallon system.  Whether you can lift the bag out or not, whether you BIAB (Brew in a Bag) or not, it makes cleaning a BREEZE.  For the ease of cleaning alone, I recommend buying one.  You simply empty most of your grain using your method of choice, then pull out the bag and all the grain is out of your mash tun.  Spray it down, and you’re good to go.  If you do BIAB, then this is the bag you need to get (for whoever you’re buying gifts for, of course.)

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A chiller with copper coils in parallel. – If you haven’t chilled in parallel yet, you don’t know what you’re missing out on.  If you don’t know what “in parallel” means, then know that we’re talking the same amount of copper tubing, but assembled in such a way that the chilling time is half what it used to be.  While I don’t own a branded one (yet), the best place I’ve heard to buy one is from JaDeD Brewing.  I’ve looked over their units and spoke with the owners – they know what’s up when it comes to chilling time.  The only reason I don’t currently own one is because I built one myself.  Which you can do as well, but I assure you the JaDeD ones will look much better.  I’m not aware of anyone else making chillers like this currently.

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A heat stick – Kind of an odd thing to have on the list, but one that has changed the speed in which I brew immensely.  Heat sticks are all over the place and you can find one that will suit your needs.  I bought the cheap $10 one from Amazon and its helped me get to a boil faster, as well as boil more vigorously.

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A microscope –  No hyperlink.  I want you to look at the one that will work best for you.  They’re spendy tools and you want to make sure what you’re getting will be what you want.  My Amscope works great, but really you should look for the one that will best suit your needs.  A microscope is really a fun toy to check out your yeast numbers and viability.  Its nothing you “need” to have, but is a fun item to nerd out on.  I recommend getting one connects to your computer via USB, its that much easier to see and take photos.  Plus, you can say its a learning tool for your children.  You’ll need a lot of accesssories for this.  (Do your research.  If I hadn’t had four beers by now I would have done it for you.)

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A membership to the American Homebrewers Association – Regardless of whether the AHA has local deals for you, or whether you’re trying to figure out whether you’ll break even on a membership, you should join simply to promote their mission.  They fight for homebrewing rights across all states, support the hobby through education, and runs some pretty great festivals/competitions.  Its a great gift for yourself or the brewer in your life (and supports a good cause!)

Books – There are countless great books out there on homebrewing.  A few great ones are How to BrewAmerican Sour Beers, The Brewing Elements Series, Wild Brews, and so on.  If you’re really looking for a specific book, let me know and I’ll give you the review on any of them I’ve read.

Temperature Control in some form is a must.  I’ve done everything from swamp coolers to thermostat changes for different rooms.  The easiest thing I’ve found is to use an old fridge or freezer and an Inkbird temperature controller.  Its the best product I’ve used yet, and they’re extremely affordable.  Just find one with all the functions you or the brewer in your life needs.  Its also more fun to open up than a craigslist freezer you traded for in the “barter” section.

Hops.  Who wouldn’t want to open a bag with a few pounds of hops?  There are many sales going on right now.  My current favorites are Yakima Valley and Nikobrew. Yakima Valley‘s shipping is reasonable, customer service is great, and you know exactly what harvest year you’re getting.  To top that off, they even have specials right now for hops that are $5/lb.  Nikobrew has a great selection and $5 shipping anywhere in the U.S.!  Really important for AK or HI brewers.  Customer service is also fantastic and Niko is a really cool dude.  With all the sales going on, I just bought 7lbs more hops the day before last, I couldn’t resist!

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Yeast.  Everyone loves opening a package that says “perishable” on it.  Yeast is available at almost any brew shop (online or brick), but you can go a step further and get a really unique yeast from The Yeast Bay, Bootleg Biology, or check the East Coast Yeast selection from Love2Brew.  Just type “Brettanomyces” into the search bar and click away!

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A scale.  This is the scale I have.  Its cheap, weighs up to 55lb, the front part detaches so I can put a bucket on it.  What else do you need to know?  For weighing small things (water additions, small hop amounts, etc) I use this one.

A scrubber.  Wait, a scrubber?  Yeah, a scrubber.  For scrubbing my brew kettle, or almost anything in the house, I’ve previously recommended a twisted tawashi scrubber.  When they were out of stock, I tried a few of the scrubbers on Amazon.  I was happy when one came and it was much larger than the other ones I’ve used.  Its my go-to when it comes to brew pot scrubbing without a scratch.  At $9, its a steal and I recommend buying two.  I also bought the smaller one, it works well and is slightly rougher.

Baking.

For the Baker in your life, I recommend getting the following setup (or any portion he/she may be missing):  A danish dough whisk, for easy mixing of the dough.  A scale (see above) for weighing ingredients, a lame for scoring marks, baskets for proofing, and Clay bakers for baking the bread.  If you can find the bakers somewhere else they may be cheaper (when I got mine they were $49!).   Breadtopia is also a great resource.

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If you’re looking to make at home pizza (and naan) you’d also do well to look into a baking steel.  I’ve got a homemade one and it works great.  You can either make your own, or check out the folks at baking steel.  I’ve heard good things (but don’t have their specific product.)

 

Hope this has helped lighten your wallet.  Happy Holidays!

Hazeas Corpus: Iteration six of my NEIPA obsession.

The New England Style pale ales and IPAs are becoming an obsession of mine, in case it isn’t obvious.  If you haven’t tried the style I’ll be honest: you’re missing out on a huge punch of hop flavor and aroma unlike anything else.  My first real experience came to me from my wife (the beer, not the punches) in the form of two cases of Heady Topper one summer.  They said to “drink fresh” and oh boy did I ever.  A month later I was hooked on the style, and had pleeeeenty of dregs to start brewing my own up.

Why brew your own New England style pale/IPA?  Freshness and accessibility.  Even if you do live where there is a supply of this style, the lines and release times can make it prohibitive.  I was lucky enough to be in New England during the surge of this style and drank my fair share of Bissel Brothers, The Alchemist, Fiddlehead, and others.  I was instantly hooked.

The term Hazeas Corpus came to me during a witty drinking session the other night.  Habeas Corpus, as I’m sure you know, means “you may have the body.”  Corpus meaning “body.”  I was staring at this hazy beer trying to think of a title for this post and it came to me.  Hazeas has no meaning, but implies hazy.  Corpus means body.  Hazeas corpus?  Hazy body, which is what this beer definitely has.

As we’ve discussed earlier, there is some controversy to the haze imparted in this brewing style.  Some have critiqued it harshly, implying that the beer was brewed using poor practices.  Others are simply just turned off by the hazy appearance.  Other than fining with gelatin, this beer received the same treatment all my other beers have.  Ferment at 66F, raise to 70F after a few days, then crash and keg.  The only reason I don’t fine with gelatin is that past attempts have not proven successful.  I’m not convinced “poor practices” is the reason for the haze – I think the oats combined with a quick turnaround are to blame.  All the beers I make with larger amounts of oats stay hazy for a longer amount of time.  The first NEIPA style I made did clear up eventually, but that was only because it lasted over a month before the keg kicked.  (I made 10 gallons.  It lost some of its fresh flavor after that month.  I now only make 5 gallons of it at a time and drink it fresh!)

The Monster Mash!

The Monster Mash!

I don’t have a problem with haze.  I don’t have a problem with “pretty darn hazy.”  As long as the beer is drinkable, its fine by me.  I can’t see to the other side of a porter/stout/barleywine, so why would it bother me if I can’t on an IPA?  The problem for me is when we approach murky.  When I can taste the beer and say, “that’s got some sediment in it” then I’m no longer interested.  If it was easy to make this beer clear, I’d do it.  I’m not sure whether flavor is sacrificed when the beer is filtered or fined; I’m sure there are some people out there who will test it eventually.  I do NOT try to intentionally get my beer hazy.  Recently I’ve read where this is the goal by some people – and I urge you NOT to try for haze.  If you end up with a small amount, thats fine, but DO NOT try to make your beer look hazy.

For this iteration of what I’m continuing to call “Alohops”, I chose to use 6 lb Pils, 4lb Maris Otter, 2lb vienna, and 2 lbs of oats.  Not too unlike my other versions, save for using more pilsner than I’m used to.  For the hops, I went with my very small 20IBU Magnum, then followed by loads of the cheater hops: Galaxy, Citra, & Mosaic.  4.5 oz at flameout, 4.5 oz on day 3 of fermentation, and 3 oz in the keg.  The nose on this beer is insane!

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I’ve had this recent batch kegged for the last five days.  It was a 12 day turnaround from grain to glass, fermented at 66F with London III from WYeast.  I also changed things up with adding the last 3 oz of hops to the keg; something I’m not entirely in love with.  Its still a great beer, and maybe needs another few days in the keg, but the keg hops are adding an ever so slightly pithy character to the final product.  One final note, I’m really enjoying this beer with lower volumes of CO2.  I carbonated it in a day with my carb stone up to almost 3.5 volumes, and found that as I let it bleed off over a few days (without adding any more CO2), it really shines around what I’m guessing is about 2 volumes of CO2.

If you haven’t brewed a “New England” style IPA or Pale Ale using mostly ‘late hops’, oats, and high chloride water, I highly recommend giving it a try.  I’d rank this as my second favorite beer overall, but probably the best aroma I’ve had on a NEIPA.  Try experimenting yourself, its hard to go wrong with this style.  There are many great examples out there (if you can get your hands on them) – although the best ones will probably come out of your own carboy!  Happy Brewing!

 

Alohops v6.

Bringin' all the boys to the yard.

Bringin’ all the boys to the yard.

The appearance is much lighter than previous batches.  I blame Dan for mentioning to me I should try lower amounts of MO in my grist.  The sunlight catches the beer with more orangish glow than it actually has.  It’s not murky, just slightly hazy.  A nice head lingers for about 5 minutes.

The aroma is nuts.  I can tell when someone has poured one of these when I’m sitting in my living room.  Choose any of the tropical fruit hop descriptors and this beer has all of them.

The flavor is great.  Loads of great hop flavors, all quite smooth.  I did my hopstand without chilling to 185F, since my 60 min magnum charge was a little less than normal – the hop bitterness is smooth but more than I’ve had in the past.  Again, all the big tropical fruit notes, citrus, and a really lovely smooth bitterness.  Moreso than I’ve had in previous batches.

The mouthfeel is slightly off on this batch in terms of smoothness.  I think part of it has to do with the pithyness I’m getting from the keg hops, or something else happened I’m not aware of… perhaps my water calculations were off?  I love everything about this beer but the mouthfeel isn’t quite as smooth as I’d like.  I think I’m going to go back to more of the Crisp MO and maybe increase the oats or try a new water addition next time.

 

 

Alohops “Hazeas Corpus” edition
Grain:
6lb Crisp Maris Otter
4 lb Canada Malting Pilsner
2lb Vienna Malt
2lb Flake oats

Hops:
First Wort Hop – 25 IBU Magnum
20 Minute Whirlpool 210f – 1.5 oz Citra
20 Minute Whirlpool 210f – 1.5 oz Mosaic
20 Minute Whirlpool 210f – 1.5 oz Galaxy
Dry Hop: 5 days – 1.5 oz Citra
Dry Hop: 5 days – 1.5 oz Mosaic
Dry Hop: 5 days – 1.5 oz Galaxy
Keg Hop: 5 days – 1 oz Citra
Keg Hop: 5 days – 1 oz Mosaic
Keg Hop: 5 days – 1 oz Galaxy
Yeast:
Mash:
Sacch rest – 60 min @ 152.0 FMisc:   Water Profile ( 119ppm Ca, 11ppm Mg, 9ppm Na, 144ppm Cl, 104ppm SO4). Some  Lactic acid was used to lower the mash pH, your water profile may vary.

Notes: Fermentation temp was 66f for 5 days, raised to 70F for two days, then kegged and dry hopped in the keg for 5 days. Tapped 12 days from brewday.

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Vienna Lager Train! Woot! All Aboard!

Wait, what?

Slow down there mister.  Vienna Lager?  Aren’t you Mr. Look-at-all-the-barrels-I-have?  Mr. Sours?  Mr. “Infection is Sacch in Your Beer”?  What is going on? 

I’ll tell you what’s going on, and that is the Vienna Lager train.  All aboard this choo-choo as we head to crushable flavortown.  I’ve jumped on and so should you.  Here’s why.

Vienna Lager is a really delightful style of beer whose origins are somewhat all over the place, although there are clues here and there that eventually take us back to Austria.  Before we dive in though, the question that needs to be answered is why are we looking at this kind of beer?  First and foremost is flavor.  Vienna Lager is a well balanced, crisp, clean, easy drinking beer that almost anyone will enjoy.  More complex than a Pilsner, without the over-malted tones of an Oktoberfest/Märzen.  Most of us have had an Oktoberfest beer, think of Vienna as being along the same track, but with much more hop-balanced, subtle flavors.  I’m not the first to mention that this is NOT a mini-Märzen.   It is a lower strength beverage, but the malt/hop profile is different than an Oktoberfest – which makes it an even easier beer to sip.  Your Budweiser drinking buddies will think they’re having some succulent craft beverage.  Hipsters will love it because most have never heard of it.

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Why else would a sour-beer loving soul such as myself recommend a Vienna Lager?  Its palate cleansing goodness.  As much as I love sour and wild beer, sometimes its nice to have a break to refresh.  Whether it’s enjoying a clean Vienna between sampling sour brews (and Zantac), or even taking a few weeks between some low pH pounders, it’s great to give your mouth a chance to relax and establish a baseline.  I find that even though I’m drinking lots of sour beer, my in-between go-tos are Vienna Lagers and fresh IPAs.  I’m no expert in Vienna Lagers, but here’s what I’ve learned over the last year or so.

A traditional Vienna Lager would have been made in Vienna almost exclusively with Vienna malt.  Nowadays they are slowly working back to this tradition, but for a while were influenced by beers of a similar name coming out of Mexico.  Back in the early 19th century, malt was kilned using direct fire.  This is akin to putting your meat on the grill directly over the coals: the malt (just like the meat) became a dark color very quickly.  It was the travels of Munich Brewer Gabriel Sedlmayr (Spaten Brewery) and Vienna Brewer Anton Dreher (Dreher Brewery) that shed some light on another method of kilning malt: indirect fire.  Think putting the coals on one side and meat on the other.  Result?  Lighter, brown coloring and less char.  Enter lightly toasted malts.

Sedlmayr and Dreher brought this malting technology back to their hometowns (along with a few stolen samples.  Yes, they actually had a cane made for their journey fashioned with a metal tube designed for stealing wort and yeast.  Sedlmaryr is often quoted as saying, “It always surprises me that we can get away with these thefts without being beaten up.”).  Dreher kilned his malt in Vienna to a similar toast we are familiar with, and Sedlmayer toasted his at a slightly higher temperature and for a bit longer, hence the Munich malt having stronger flavors.

It was in 1841 that Dreher showcased his new beer in Vienna.  Much of the research about color and flavors are somewhat unclear, but one thing is for certain: Dreher wanted his beer to be bright.  From all accounts I have read, many of the beers of that time were darker: brown and red.  The impression I get is that a Vienna lager in Dreher’s day is much lighter than the commercial examples we’ve come to know.

So… Mexico?  Quick version: Mexico stopped paying money to Europe, Napoleon III invades, and an Austrian was declared Emperor of Mexico.  Enter German immigrants and all sorts of tradespeople, including brewers – one Santiago Graf – and the delicious Vienna elixirs.  Slowly though, Vienna lager begins to fade from the scene, being replaced by darker lagers – some even still identifying as the  Vienna style.

I jumped on the Vienna Train when my blogging internet friends started talking shit about how good their Vienna Lagers were.  Like me, your first step is disbelief.  Suuuurre Captain Pedio, those beers are probably “okay”, but don’t stand up to other, more “complex beers.”  Wrong.  The second step is to playfully start talking shit back about how good of a Vienna Lager you’re going to brew.  Third, frantically research what a Vienna Lager is (I’m helping you out on this one).  Fourth, brew it.  Try some commercial examples (I drank a lot of Devils Backbone at HomebrewCon this last year).  Drink your brew, and try again.  This is my fifth batch of Vienna so far and it’s definitely a contender for the best one.  I’ve tried this recipe, one from Derek over at Five Blades Brewing, a triple decoction 100% Vienna malt, and a few variations on going as close to all Vienna as I can.

I opted for using Tettanager instead of Hallertau or Saaz, and only added dashes of melanoiden and carafa II (for a slight color change).  I wanted it to be as close to 100% Vienna as I could, but found in a previous batch that a little color and melanoiden was pleasant.  I chose to do a faster lager fermentation.  I pitched at 50F, held for a couple days, then ramped it up a couple degrees per day until I hit the mid 60s.  After five days at 66F, I lowered it to 33F, kegged, fined, and served.  What a gorgeous beer this turned out to be.  Not as dark as some commercial examples that use darker malts (Backbone!  Ahem!), but really a pleasant beer.

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Other than brewing Viennas, I’ve been working on my NEIPAs and blending/fruiting lambic beers from 2013/2014.  If you follow my homebrewery regularly, you’ll find there has been more action on the ‘social media’ websites than the blog.  Part of that is the simplicity of posting a photo with a tagline, part of it is the lack of time I have for articles now with an additional child in the house.  I’m working on getting a few more articles ready, including more NEIPA thoughts, a few foodie recipes, more bread, eventually some “Milk the Funk” wiki writing, and tentatively a few short webisodes showing “how-to’s” and other fun stuff.  In addition to all that, I’m brewing beers for discussion here for our local brew club meetings, getting ready for winter, and parenting to the maximum.  If you want to follow along more with what happens, I’m pretty sure the social media buttons work.  Contact me here or there!  Cheers!

Hollow Cane

Recipe Details

Batch Size Boil Time IBU SRM Est. OG Est. FG ABV
5.5 gal 60 min 23.8 IBUs 8.9 SRM 1.050 1.011 5.1 %

Style Details

Name Cat. OG Range FG Range IBU SRM Carb ABV
Vienna Lager 7 A 1.048 - 1.055 1.01 - 1.014 18 - 30 9 - 15 2.5 - 3 4.7 - 5.5 %

Fermentables

Name Amount %
Vienna Malt 10 lbs 98.04
Carafa II 1.6 oz 0.98
Melanoiden Malt 1.6 oz 0.98

Hops

Name Amount Time Use Form Alpha %
Tettnang 1 oz 60 min Boil Pellet 5.5
Tettnang 0.5 oz 15 min Boil Pellet 5.5

Yeast

Name Lab Attenuation Temperature
Mexican Lager (WLP940) White Labs 74% 50°F - 55°F

Mash

Step Temperature Time
Mash In 150°F 75 min

Aroma is light and malty, less so than the Paulaner Oktoberfest I drank earlier.  Light hop spiciness.  Clean, no off flavors.

Appearance is crystal clear.  Not as dark as many commercial examples, but still lovely looking.

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When it comes to flavor, this beer is on the lighter scale of commercial Viennas I’ve tried… it’s an edge above the widespread pale lagers, with medium maltiness.  A light toastiness follows the malt character, then a balanced hop flavor and clean lager finish.  No caramel, no roast.   Finishes dry.  More body than a Pilsner.  Exceptionally easy to drink.

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