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).