Sunday, August 29, 2010

Autumn Delight

A couple months ago, I was trying to think of a good beer to brew for the upcoming fall season (fall? Florida? Yeah...I know, but humor me). I didn't get much of a chance to brew last fall (the oatmeal stout was about it between August and November, I believe), and the fall before that I tried my hand in a "pumpkin" spiced brown ale ("A Holerin' Brown Ale").  Well, instead of trying another pumpkin beer (the previous one was a bit too heavy on the clove to really be much of a pumpkin beer), I figured it'd be nice to try some other Autumn-esque flavors.  Sticking with a brown ale base again, I planned to brew with maple syrup and oak chips.

While brainstorming some ideas, a homebrew buddy of mine from the club, Dave, mentioned he had used maple in the past and was never really satisfied.  He like my idea, though, so I asked him if he'd be interested in collaborating on a batch.  We planned on doing a 10-gallon batch, splitting it in half, and doing the maple/oak additions at different intervals.  This would allow us to see which one did better, in terms of the final flavor profile, and allow us to adjust as needed for future brews.

We arranged a day and time for the brew session (a few days before the semester was starting up again, so it was a great way to end the summer), and got to work on the ingredients and recipe.  Dave's setup is quite awesome (see pictures below), and brewing all-grain for once was a really nice treat.  From milling the grains to transferring the wort into two different fermenters, we spent the good portion of an entire afternoon and late morning brewing this bad boy.  Dave's 5-gallons were to see a maple and oak addition a few days after fermentation had started (to give the yeast some time to work on the more complex sugars), while mine was to wait until racking to the secondary.

Dave's setup
Chilling the wort
It's been just over a week since we brewed, and I actually just racked yesterday; fermentation had slowed down quite a bit, so this naturally kicked things up again (pure maple syrup is essentially the equivalent of a yeasty dose of steroids).  The plan is for me to bottle as I usually do, and for Dave to keg (with a possible mini-cask set aside as well).  We're both really looking forward to the final results.  Our taste tests from the gravity readings point towards a nice, malty English southern brown ale - I can only imagine how tasty the maple and french oak are going to make it!  Before my addition yesterday, my wife said it smelled like a fresh loaf of bread... Now, that's what I'm talking about! ;-)

Siphoning Dave's 5-gallons
Siphoning my 5-gallons
In other news, the saison is tasting great, the dubbel is currently bulk aging in the secondary, and the braggot is still fermenting.  My wife and I are going to be brewing an espresso stout later this fall - possibly in time for our club's competition (mentioned in previous posts) - and I'll be sure to post the outcome of our lovely little maple/oak in the near future.

Peace and Love!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sassy Saison, Wittlebit 'a' Braggot, and Dylan Dubbel!

Well, I've done it...I've managed to cram three carboys into our guest bathroom's shower. Actually, it's just two until tomorrow, so I'm a bit ahead of myself, but still. The saison I mentioned in the previous post is now drinkable, and, I feel, quite marvelous. It's got that "spritz" you look for in a saison, with a nice herbal/spicy flavor. I don't think I'm going to enter it into Commander SAAZ this October, but I'll make sure I save some of these for Sunshine Challenge. So here's what we're looking at:

OG: 1.008
ABV: 5%
HBUs/IBUs: 13.3/25.38
Calories: 150 per 12oz. bottle

All in all, a nice refreshing beverage to enjoy throughout the remainder of the summer.

I also recently brewed my first braggot (traditional mead made with grains). My base recipe was set up for a Belgian witbier. I figured orange blossom honey would go perfectly with this, along with a witbier yeast strain (kept warm enough to produce some interesting esters). It had been in the primary for two weeks until last night (I racked it to a secondary). Fermentation has been pretty slow, so I'm really not sure how long until I bottle it. I've sort of wanted to keep it "still," but my wife really likes her meads sparkling, so the plan is to carb half and leave the other half alone. This was my first mead, so I decided to keep it small and only do a 3 gallon batch. Of course, after tasting it last night, I wish I did the whole 5 gallons instead. This baby is nice and semi-sweet. The alcohol content is about 7% (ABV) right now. It started with an OG of 1.097, and as of last night it was down to 1.038, so I suspect this will dry out a bit more, raising that percentage along with it.

Now, the dubbel. I love abbey ales. I love Trappist ales even more. And you know what? La Trappe Quadrupel is borderline the best beer I've ever had (right up there with a 2008 Westvleteren 12). So, this winter, I felt, needed a nice little "nightcap" beer to accompany it - specifically, one of these complex, delightful brews. I brewed an abbey dubbel this past Saturday using Wyeast's 1214 (the "Chimay" strain from what I understand). I knew the gravity was going to be up there, so I prepared my first yeast starter for this batch too (essentially turning a 50ml pouch of liquid yeast into about 600ml of liquid yeast), and I must say...I'm doing that for every batch from now on. Fermentation visibly started in under 8 hours (compared to my typical 20 or so). I did hold off on adding the dark Belgian candi sugar, though. From what I had read, it's best to let the yeast work at the more complex sugars from the malt before giving them a large dose of simple sugars. I also used the syrup instead of the rocks; I discovered, through my research, that the syrup would add much more flavor. Fermentation had surprisingly slowed down a bit, but last night I added the candi sugar and it became pretty active again. I felt like I was filling the trough for a pen of hungry pigs. Don't you just love those little microorganisms?

But anyway, sorry to keep things brief, but work starts back up on Monday and I have much to do. I'm collaborating with a homebrew buddy of mine tomorrow afternoon to brew an English brown ale with maple syrup and oak chips. I'll try to find the time to post how it goes before the end of the weekend.

Oh, and by the way, how do you like the names for these three? I know. Genius.

Peace and Love!