Friday, June 26, 2009

Batch #6 - American Wheat with Raspberries and Blackberries

Late last night/early this morning, I finished brewing up another batch. Everything went pretty well too. I was aiming for something “light” (and by “light,” I mean “lighter” than what I usually brew) and refreshing for the summer (which actually just started a few days ago). I decided to make an American Wheat and add raspberries and blackberries during the brewing process, much like I did for the banana dunkelweizen a few months ago (I just got my hands on another carboy, so next time I do a similar type of batch, I’ll probably go with a secondary fermentation for the fruit instead).

I still haven’t migrated over into the territory of all-grain brewing (frankly, I don’t think my poor little kitchen could really handle that - so that will definitely be a selling point when we’re in the market for a new place to live, hah), so this was another partial-mash. I used 6.6 lbs. of Light LME, 1/2 lb. of British Crystal malt (60-80 °L), Willamette hop pellets (the current shortage is still preventing me from buying whole hops) for the bittering and finishing, and a basic American Ale yeast strain. I really wanted to use organic, fresh fruit for this batch, but I wasn’t quite ready to sell one of my kidneys yet to pay for it, so I went with frozen (I was going to freeze them beforehand anyway, to rupture the cell walls, so it seemed like the most logical choice). And for those of you who didn’t realize this – myself included – raspberries and blackberries aren’t cheap. Let me just say that this seemingly $40 batch of beer turned into an $80 batch of beer, in a matter of seconds. That said, I expect everyone to at least pretend they like it, if for some reason they do not ;-)

I had read up on using these particular types of berries, and found out that blackberries don’t really add a strong aromatic contribution to the beer when used in small quantities. The advice I had received instructed me to use 1-4 lbs. per gallon brewed; I do 5-gallon batches, so that would have been 5-20 lbs. of blackberries...yeah, not happening in my 5-gallon brewpot. The raspberries required much less (less than half of that suggested for the blackberries). I ended up going with 5 lbs. each (10 lbs. of fruit); this was the first time I used either of these fruits, so I didn’t want to overdo anything (plus, General Mills beat me to “Frankenberry”).

I almost didn’t add any specialty grains to the recipe, because I really didn’t want this one getting too heavy. However, residual sweetness and “body” help compliment the addition of fruit, so it was a toss up between adding a little bit of Crystal malt or Cara-Pils (both of which add some sweeter characteristics, as well as help in “head” retention); I went ahead and gave it a nice little dose of Crystal.

My choice of hops was based on the fact that higher levels of alpha acids, and thus, bitterness, clash with the fruit in these types of beers (something I also had to consider with the banana dunkelweizen). I wanted something aromatic and citrusy, but not too aromatic and citrusy. I also wanted to make sure that the alpha acids were fairly low. So, I took a shot with Willamette hops (4-6% alpha acids), a hybrid of Fuggle, for both the bittering and finishing. We’ll see how it turns out, and I’ll make any necessary adjustments for next time, if need be.

After the boil, I steeped the now, somewhat thawed berries for about twenty minutes, and then strained, sparged (as best I could, given the amount of fruit), and transferred to the carboy. Although, I've got to say, when it came time to add the fruit to the brewpot, I was pretty worried that even 10 lbs. was going to have a hard time fitting. Luckily, it was pretty much a perfect fit. I’ve also been meaning to build an immersion chiller, but still haven’t gotten a chance. Thus, I’ve been forced to put the carboy on an ice bath to cool down the wort. This time, however, the near-frozen fruit did the job for me: immediately after the transfer, the wort reached the proper temperature range for me to pitch the yeast.

I’ve got a good feeling about this batch. My only concern is that the fruit didn’t properly pasteurize in the wort before the transfer. But, I’m far from being neurotic, so I’m sure it’ll actually be okay. Before pitching the yeast, I took a small sip to see how much of the berry flavor had been absorbed. It’s pretty “berry-y,” but I don’t think I overdid it; it’d be a lie to say that I’m not slightly worried that there may be a flavor clash between the two berries, but as usual, Mr. Marley is always right – “time will tell.” I’ll be popping the airlock on in a few days and bottling a week or so thereafter (along with another quick sip). I’m looking forward to seeing how this is going to turn out. If there isn’t much to report until it’s done, keep an eye out for some brief updates via Twitter.

Peace and Love!

So far:

6/09 - Minglin’ Berries (Yeah, I don’t know, someone help me with a name)
*Original Gravity: 1.053
*Potential Alcohol: 6.5%

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Welcome to Wu Wei Brewing!

I brew my own beer. I do this, mind you, in a ten-foot by two-foot kitchen, and subsequently ferment it in a guest bathroom's walk-in shower roughly twenty feet away. I began doing so because of my love for craft beer, fascination with the process, and inclination towards creativity. The process is cathartic for me; the formulation of the recipe, the preparation and sanitization, the brewing process, the monitoring of yeast populations miraculously turning my unfermented wort into consumable beer. It'd be wrong of me to fail to mention, however, that one of the most rewarding parts of the process is sharing this final product with those closest to me. Brewing beer has become much more than about brewing beer.

As a result of what was fermenting deep down inside (pun intended), a few months ago, I came up with the idea of labeling my little homebrew operation - hoping to capture its essence. I envisioned a particular descriptive name and logo, reflecting the manner in which I brew. After deciding how I wanted to represent this conception, one of my best friends dedicated much of his free time to its design. Thus, Wu Wei Brewing was officially born. I like to refer to it as "a philosophy to brew by." The circular formation (two beer bottles) represents an ancient Chinese symbol depicting the principles of "yin" and "yang." The Chinese characters stand for "wu" and "wei," respectively.

In brief, allow me to explain:

Certain trends in Philosophical Taoism regard the Chinese concept of "wu-wei" (simplified, in a manner of speaking, to mean "effortless action," which is itself a reduction of "wei-wu-wei," or "the action of nonaction") as being seemingly paradoxical; actions presuppose an effort to act on part of the actor. However, a particular interpretation that I find enlightening relates this concept to the deeper, more general understanding of Philosophical Taoism: when one becomes one with the Tao, the dichotomization between the two ceases to be. In the context of "wu-wei," this indicates that there is no longer a distinction between the actor and the action; when one completely becomes an action, the sense that it is an action is lost. Thus, an "effortless action" is truly no action at all - there is no longer a duality dividing the two. In the context of brewing, the distinction between brewer and brewing ceases to exist; the ritual becomes an inner and outer expression of one's being as well. But perhaps we should delve more into this another time...

After much deliberation, I'm getting ready to brew another batch to kick off the summer; if everything pans out correctly, it will be an American Wheat with organic raspberries and blackberries. I have also started researching some ancient ("sacred") and indigenous recipes and ingredients from the "pre-hop" days in brewing; a multitude of various herbs and spices have been used throughout history to make remarkable beers and herbal remedies (the use of hops, as a standard in brewing, is really a much more modern regulation).

Organic ingredients for brewing are still pretty marginal, and hard for me to come by, but I plan on only brewing with 100% organic, and as local as possible, ingredients in the near future.

But anyway, I'm now going to keep a running tab on all things Wu Wei Brewing. So, if you're interested in keeping up with what I've got going on, go ahead and subscribe to this feed (either RSS or email, via the form near the top, right-hand corner of this page), or bookmark it and check back often.

Here's to the next batch!

Peace and Love!

A brief run-down of what I've done so far:

6/08 - American Wheat

*American Wheat

*Specific Gravity: 1.008

*ABV: 4.73%

8/08 - Dry Stout

*Dry Stout

*Specific Gravity: 1.024

*ABV: 3.15%

10/08 - A Holer-in' Brown Ale

*Brown Ale, spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and ginger

*Specific Gravity: 1.015

*ABV: 4.73%

1/09 - Dirty Banana

*Dunkelweizen, brewed with five pounds of ripe banana

*Specific Gravity: 1.013

*ABV: 4.99%

4/09 - Serrapale Ale

*American Pale Ale, brewed with twelve serrano peppers

*Specific Gravity: 1.012

*ABV: 6.43%