Thursday, August 1, 2013

San Francisco Conquests

The Whole Foods near my house has an incredible beer selection.  In fact, they have an employee whose only job is to find beers for their beer selection.  He even has his own Facebook page, often updated several times a day with new offerings and the like.

So when I learned that Whole Foods is in California as well, I was very excited--there are lots of beers that just can't be found on the East Coast.  I was a little disappointed in their selection; I think it paled in comparison.  Still, when you've got Pliny the Elder on the shelf it's hard to complain.

Beers I brought back:
  • Firestone Walker's Walker's Reserve
  • Delerium Tremens
  • Weihenstephaner
  • Tripel Karmeliet
  • Russian River's Pliny the Elder (two bottles)
  • Trappistes Rochefort 8 (I can get it here, but it was available)
  • Firestone Walker's Wooky Jack
  • Stone's Imperial Russian Stout
I'm glad to say that they all survived the plane ride intact.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Continuing Education

Every time I brew, I learn a little bit more about brewing and about beer in general.  Same thing every time I try a new beer, and often even when I'm trying something I've had before.  Still, one of my goals in brewing is to make a concerted effort to learn and improve.

I imagine this seems obvious, but I'm not sure it is universal.  My dad, for example, is satisfied with his brewing process and the beers he brews.  I don't mean this as a negative--he knows what he likes and he brews very tasty beers.  Lots of people are not focused on the educational aspect, and that's fine.  That's just not me.

So, my basic plan of education:
  • Read.  Read books on beers and brewing (I'm currently finishing Mosher's Radical Brewing: Recipes, Tales and World-Altering Meditations in a Glass and John Palmer's How to Brew: Everything You Need To Know To Brew Beer Right The First Time).  Next up: Possibly Designing Great Beers and Brewing Classic Styles.  Read forums and articles on brewing.  Read the style guidelines.
  • Brew.  There's no substitute for experience.  I think it's important to try brewing a variety of styles, but I imagine there's value to brewing the same beer multiple times to try to make improvements, too.
  • Evaluate Beers.  I'm trying to gather some great beers to evaluate using the BJCP's style guidelines.  However, I suspect it's just as useful (or more useful) to judge less-than-perfect examples, and even bad examples.  Most importantly, I need to compare my own beers to exemplars of the style.
  • Enter Beer Competitions.  This is an extension of the point above.  The goal is not so much to win awards (which would be nice), but to get feedback from experienced judges and brewers to improve my craft.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Next Up: Mosaic IPA

I've finally decided it's time to try my Mosaic IPA.  This is a beer I've been wanting to try for a while. 

It's inspired by a batch of test IPA's I brewed a while back: five one-gallon batches using a simple grain bill and US Magnum bittering hops (bitters clean and I don't have to worry about the differing levels of alpha acids in the flavor/aroma hops), each featuring a different flavor/aroma hop.  The hops I used were: Cascade, Citra, Falconer's Flight, Mosaic, and Simcoe. 

(The guy at MyLHBS put me on to the Mosaic and Falconer's Flight, btw.  I very much recommend the shop.  My only gripe is that if you need more than five pounds of grain crushed they require a full 24 hours advance notice--and they actually enforce that.  So basically, if you are doing any kind of all-grain batch you need to call them a day before you want to pick them up.  Jay's Brewing is much more laid-back about it--they just want you to call/email if you want something ridiculous like 50 lbs. so they can start grinding it before you get there.)

The idea behind this beer is similar to my hop-test beers: it's designed to be a showcase for a specific hop (in this case, Mosaic).  I've found Mosaic has a beautiful bright, fruity flavor.  Most places seem to describe it as tropical fruit, but it tastes more like pink grapefruit to me--a bright citrus tang, but sweet rather than sour.

I'm not using any bittering hops in this.  Instead, I chose to hopburst, which is a technique where all of the bitterness comes from late additions of flavor/aroma hops.  It takes a lot more hops to do this, but it gives you a crazy amount of flavor and aroma of the hop(s) you're using.

I decided to go with an extract recipe, because I've only made one all-grain (my Centennial Blonde), and I haven't tested it yet.  Given the crazy amount of hops (9 oz!), this would be a really expensive beer to screw up.

BrewSmith says it will look something like this:

which is exactly what I want.  The recipe is as follows:
  • 8.5 oz Crystal malt (20L), steeped for 30 min. at 155.0 F
  • 3 lbs. 3.1 oz Light Dry Extract, added for full boil (60 min)
  • 4 lbs. 4.1 oz Light Dry Extract, added for the last 15 min (late extract additions keep the extract from darkening and caramelizing too much)
  • 0.5 oz Mosaic hops, added for last 15 minutes
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet added for last 15 minutes
  • 1.0 oz Mosaic hops, added for last 10 minutes
  • 1.0 oz Mosaic hops, added for last 5 minutes
  • 2.5 oz Mosaic hops, added at flame-out
Once it's cooled I'll pitch  about a 2L starter of California Ale yeast (White Labs WLP001), and dry-hop with another 4 oz. of Mosaic hops at the end of fermentation for four days, so it has a nice burst of Mosaic aroma when you pour it.  I will probably add gelatin at the same time for fining.

The numbers for the beer are:
  • Original Gravity: 1.066 (style guidelines: 1.056-1.075)
  • Final Gravity: 1.015
  • Bitterness: 45.0 IBU (style: 40.0-70.0 IBU) (I wanted to stay on the less-bitter end; my goal isn't to make you pucker, like so many IPA's, but to give you that great fruity flavor I like about Mosaic)
  • Color: 9.1 SRM (style: 6.0-15.0 SRM)
  • ABV: 6.7% (style: 5.50-7.50%)
Once it's ready I'll post my tasting notes, but here are my goals/expectations:

Aroma: The dominant aroma should be an intense citrus/tropical fruit notes from the hops, likely with some piney/resinous notes beneath.  Possible grassy aroma from the dry-hopping.  Some sweet malt or caramel notes possible but unlikely.

Appearance:   Light copper color.  Probably somewhat hazy due to dry-hopping.  Large off-white head that persists with good lacing.

Flavor: Hop flavor should be extremely high, with the dominant flavor being citrus and tropical fruit, with additional piney and resinous notes as well.  Medium-high hop bitterness.  Sweet malt backbone should support bitterness nicely.  Low malty sweetness with potential caramel notes.  No diacetyl.  Finish likely bitter, lingering into aftertaste.  Finish medium-dry.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, medium-bodied mouthfeel with no hop astringency.  Malt sweetness likely to be counteracted by moderately-high carbonation, making mouthfeel somewhat dry.

Overall: This should be a showcase for the incredible aroma and flavor of the Mosaic hop.  Drinkers should get a burst of hoppy aroma right from the get-go, and that flavor and aroma should dominate the beer from start to finish.

Saturday, June 29, 2013


The recarbonation of the hefeweisen went well.  Although for scientific purposes I should have cracked all fifteen beers and measured them, my goal is to maximize my enjoyment of the beers--which meant one of each of the samples.

I did, however, bow to the dictates of science and try to collect some objective data.  My methodology was to take one of each beer, crack them, and pour them aggressively into a 22 oz. wheat beer glass, aiming for maximum head.

Results are as follows:

  • 1/8 tsp priming sugar: 1/2" head
  • 1/4 tsp priming sugar: 1 1/2" head
  • 1/2 tsp priming sugar: 3" head (couldn't pour it all in right away)
Realistically, a 1 1/2" head is probably about what I'm aiming for, especially since they won't generally be served in a wheat beer glass.  However,  I was pouring very aggressively, and I felt that under normal conditions (and will cold-conditioned bottles) the 1/2 tsp would probably suit best.

Tomorrow morning, I plan to re-prime the rest of the hefes with 1/2 tsp priming sugar.  Prost!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Brewing Bucket List

A few beers from Radical Brewing I really want to try:

  • Two Bits Abbey Dubbel (p. 124)
  • Three-Nipple Tripel (p. 125)
  • Roggenbier (p. 149), possibly with add some grains of paradise, or scaled up to a bock
  • Oatmeal Cookie Ale (p. 149).  I want to redeem myself on this one.
  • Witbier with chamomile and grains of paradise, and possibly orange blossoms.
  • Caramel Quadrupel (p. 166)
  • Spiced Cherry Dubbel (p. 166)
  • Spiced Bourbon Stout (p. 169)
  • Gordon Strong's Chai Brown Ale (p. 170)
  • Mister Boing Boing Cherry Barley Wine (p. 178)
  • Black Ship Pirate Stout (p. 200)
  • Sahti (p. 244).  I'll have to find a source for fresh juniper branches.

DC a Beer Destination?

Interesting article in The Examiner on DC as a beer destination.  The article promises a follow-on about Virginia beer as well.  Likely to be Charlottesville-heavy, although I developed a public Google map of breweries in Virginia that shows them clustered in Northern Virginia, down 95 to Richmond then 64 east to Tidewater; and another stretch down the Blue Ridge (including Charlottesville).

Monday, June 24, 2013

Stand Back, I'm Trying Science

After consulting with wiser heads on HomeBrewTalk, I've decided that the only thing to do is to try and add some more priming sugar to my flat beers--I don't want to pour out ten gallons of beer, but I don't want ten gallons of flat beer, either.

John Palmer says in How to Brew: Everything You Need To Know To Brew Beer Right The First Time that if you're priming per bottle with corn sugar you should use a teaspoon of corn sugar per bottle.  I figure that the beers are at least partially carbonated, so I want to use less than a teaspoon.

After consulting with Melanie (the house scientist), I decided to go with five trials at three different concentrations: 1/2 tsp, 1/4 tsp, and 1/8 tsp.  Unfortunately, the sugar gives the existing carbonation something to bind to, which means as soon as I add the sugar it foams over.  Ultimately I had to have Melanie add the sugar while I stood over the bottle with the capper ready to go.

Game plan now: give them about a week to carb up, then stick them in the fridge for a few days and test least whichever ones don't blow up on me.