Sunday, November 10, 2013

Let it Bee Honey Ale

My friend and neighbor keeps a hive of honey bees and posed this question a few months ago.

Can you make a beer using lots of honey and heather?

And of course I said yes. I do love an experiment in Beer.

Previously, I had made a few brews using honey. But even Indie's Honey Mutt Brown Ale was limited to a single pound of store bought clover honey. And I never used heather. So, when trying to figure out what to do with Ryan's honey and heather, I decided I would head towards a strong scottish ale. Heather was used in scottish brewing before hops became the bittering preservative of choice. Plus, I also had the remains of a 55# bag of Maris Otter Malt (from the UK) and some other random specialty malts (my recipes are always driven from a practical point of view).

Anyway, here's what I came up with:

12# of Maris Otter Base Malt
1# of local honey added during boil
2.25# of honey added as Wort was cooling (at 150 degrees)
1# Dark Wheat Malt
1# of Crystal 60
12 oz Carapils
8 oz of Aromatic Malt
2 oz homegrown heather
1.5 oz of Roasted Barley

And homegrow Nugget (bittering) and Cascade hops (aroma).

Originally, I had planned to Use Mangrove Jack's West Coast Ale Yeast, but my slurry had sat dormant for too long. So I ended up using dry English Ale yeast since it was the only backup yeast I had.

Anyway, this is a great beer. Very smooth, aromatic, and dry. And did I mention strong.

Let it Bee!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Untitled Beer. Please help with a name.

This week, I was finally able to sample one of me latest beers - an Imperial Stout that I began in January, 2013. I'm not sure if I'll ever make this again, but it sure was a great experiment in brewing chemistry.

But what to call it? Some initial ideas:

  1. Holy S#*t, that's a strong Beer.
  2. Beano Beer (or anything with the word Beano in it.
  3. Anything with the word Dark in it (Preferably with a song reference)
  4. Are you Experimental?
  5. Ninja Warrior

What is the Beano reference you ask? Well, keep reading. Please be advised that the following notes are from my brewing log and include lots of beer geek speak.

January 13. Brew day. Opps mash temp is too high! 170 degrees. (I quickly dumped cold water in there to bring the Mash to 153 degrees). I think I should not be trying to shoot a video as I make a beer with 20# of grain. Oh, did I mention I was shooting footage for a video about brewing and fatherhood? My Mash water temp. got away from me as I was setting up the tripod. Duh. Anyway, everything else goes smoothly.


The specific  gravity of my wort at the end of the process was 1.089  and this was just a little lower than my target of 1.092, so no worries yet. I pitch the yeast.

BTW, for non-beer nerds, the specific gravity (SG) is an indication of how sweet the beer is - the higher the number, the more sugars in the beer. As the number drops, sugars are being converted into alcohol through the action of the yeast.

January 26. Almost two weeks have passed and my gravity seems to be stuck at 1.038. I take readings over a few days and agitate carboy. I also move the carboy to a warmer spot.

February 2. Specific Gravity is 1.036 and not budging. I try to restart the stuck fermentation by making a huge starter of US-05 and pitching while it bubbles away. This seems to get things going for a few days.

February 15. Specific Gravity has only moved 2 points, to 1.034. Doh! ( I actually have that written in my notes). I should mention that I've been tasting the beer as I go and it tastes damn fine, just a bit sweet. However, it's so roasted because of the pound+ of roasted barley that it's balanced. I think to myself  - I should stop messing with it. But then I think that I sure wish it was stronger. At this point it would be an Imperial Stout that's only about 7.2% ABV so it's really just a strong stout. What to do? I go to the Internet. I find out that I am probably lacking the enzyme needed to break down my sugars as I mashed to high. I find a fairly controlled experiment using Beano. The idea is that Beano will break down the unfermentable dextrins into sugars that the yeast can eat. Hmm...

February 17. I crush up two tablets of Beano and toss them in the fermenter. Seems harmless enough. Nothing seems to happen.

February 22. Something is happening. I see signs of fermentation. I decide to rack beer to a glass carboy hoping to spur things onward and it works.

March 5. SG = 1.025 and Beer tastes great. You can stop fermenting now!  

March 20. SG = 1.016. hmm. Still tasty. And strong too. but seriously - stop fermenting.

And so it goes through April and May. I take readings and taste samples.

June 19. SG = 1.004. This beer is so strong now that I think maybe I should dump it.

Are you kidding me? I'm not dumping anything. 

I think about adding vanilla beans or even splenda (a non-fermentable sweetner)
Instead,  I decide to dry hop with 1 oz. Warrior hops (this explains the Ninja Warrior name possibility). I hope the hop aroma will help mask the smell of alcohol.

July 5. SG = 1.004. I bottle this beer using very little priming sugar (1/3 cup). But I also only have about 4 gallons of beer now as I've been drinking it, err, sampling it all along. The ABV should be about 11.25%

This beer is carbonating in the garage as I read that the possibility of bottle bombs is high. But, I think I have been patient, so I don't see this happening. It did sit in the carboy for 7 months!

July 26. Taste test! After three weeks in a hot garage, the beer is carbonated perfectly. It's dark and thick and smells like roasted barley and alcohol. In fact, it reminds me of bourbon. I preffered the taste when it was sweeter, but my wife likes it (even though she drinks small quantities from a 4 oz tasting glass). I think the alcohol is going to fade a bit with age and hell yeah, this will be a great, festive holiday beer.

And yes, I have already brewed another Imperial Stout. I've already given this one a name - it's Jinx Removing ( classic Jawbreaker song). I know it's coming out perfect (and there will be no Beano). 


Monday, December 17, 2012

Otto's Baltic (Barktic?) Porter

Though it's not quite ready yet, My first attempt at a Baltic Porter taste pretty good. It will be the first of many batches.

Otto beer label

When I racked the beer into the secondary fermenter, it tasted pretty alcoholic (it's about 8% ABV) and I was worried the roasted character wouldn't be strong enough. So...I threw in more hops. I'm pretty sure your not supposed to dry hop a Baltic Porter, so I only added a half once of Glacier and a half once of Cascade (homegrown!) hops. I think it was a good call. This beer has a unique spiciness, almost like liquorice that I've never had in any of the other brews. I'm not sure where this came from (Saaz hops?), but I like it.

Prost, Otto dog!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Mesmerized by a big lumpy guy

A conversation with my 4 year old just before bed.
Quinn, please put your jammies on
Quinn picks up some lego characters.
Quinn, put your jammies on and we will have time to read a story
Quinn picks up plastic bat, shoves lego character in mouth.
Quinn, listen. Your teacher says we need to work on focus. We need to teach you to pay attention and listen to what we are saying
Quinn: But daddy, sometimes i'm memorized.
Quinn: Sometimes i see things and I'm memorized and can't quit.
Do you mean mesmerized?
Quinn: Yes, mesmerized - I can't stop looking. Like that one time we saw the big lumpy guy, and we followed him.
At this point I'm confused. Then I remember an incident in Poland while we were out taking a walk.
You mean the big lumpy guy we saw in Poland?
Quinn: Yes, We saw him and we followed him and he led us to the dragon parade.
And it's all true. We were out on our way to the castle on a Sunday afternoon in Krakow, Poland when we saw a the oddly dressed creature above just walking buy. Mesmerized by the odd attire we followed him until we lost him in the crowds. At this point we started to notice all the folks just standing about and I realized they were all waiting. So we stopped and waited too. A while later the big lumpy guy returned with a few other characters. He led an entire parade of dragon floats. It was one of the unplanned occurances that was so unexpected and perfect.

The big lumpy guy had memorized us right into a dragon parade.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Adobe Bridge Overview

I use Adobe Bridge to transfer, batch rename, keyword, and organize my files. In this tutorial, I show some of these basic uses for Bridge.

Back to the Dark Side.

I did it. I purchased a point and shoot camera. And I think I like it.

My DSLR will still be my camera, but this little thing will be with me always. And it's shockproof, waterproof to 16 feet, and just to reiterate - SHOCKPROOF. And no, I am not the klutziest person in the world, but I do have a four year old (Just turned four today!) and he likes to shoot pictures too. So now, when daddy is shooting pictures and he asks to use my camera, we can shoot pictures together.

What kind of camera is it? How are the images? Here is an image from day 1:

Quinn at Taco Mac

Not so bad for low light and a moving subject. I was actually hoping for some blur (so I killed the flash) and it captures Quinn's Taco Mac craziness. The noise would show up in any low-light situation.

I'm pretty happy with the camera so far. The camera is a 16 megapixel Panasonic Lumix TS20. The lens isn't great, but some sacrifices had to be made to keep the body watertight. In fact, there is a very similar Lumix with a Leica lens that has a much better zoom (and was selling for less - only $140.00) but the real reason I bought the THIS camera was for it's (presumed) durability. But another advantage was the 25mm wide angle lens. Most point and shoots seem to stop at about 28mm if your lucky. This gives the user some great depth and a pretty awesomely wide angle of view.

This camera is definitely coming with us to Europe this summer.