Archive for the ‘Homebrew’ Category

Grilled Pineapple Wheat Beer

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

So the other day I split the 10 gallon batch of Perle Wheat into two secondary carboys, one to remain a traditional American Wheat and the other to have fruit added to it.

So for this years variation I decided to go with a Grilled Pineapple Wheat Beer. Sounds weird right? Well, I also thought it sounded kind of summery, so I went for it. I really had no idea how much pineapple was going to be necessary, so I guessed at one pound per gallon, or five pounds of pineapple total. Originally I was going to use fresh pineapple, but the ones I was looking at were about $5.00 per pineapple at about 4-ish pounds a piece. I figured I’d probably need two pineapples after they were skinned and cored. So instead I looked at my options for canned pineapple, which happen to be on sale, four 20oz cans for $5.00, nice! So I opted on five cans to go on the safe side, assuming I would loose some weight after the juice was removed. Speaking of which, I meant to pick up all the same style pineapple, preferably whole slices in juice. Some how I grabbed whole slices in juice, in syrup, chunks in juice, and chunks in syrup … I guess I REALLY wasn’t paying attention.

Anyway, I essentially drained the juice/syrup and retained it, not sure at the time if I was going to use it, though I didn’t. I then got the grill nice and hot and scraped down all the chunkies, last think I needed was for a bit of hamburger or something gross to get in my beer. The whole slices were pretty easy to grill and looked (and tasted) pretty good. The chunks were a little bit more of a challenge, trying not to loose them between the grill and to still try and get a nice caramel to them. After they were grilled I chilled them out in the fridge as to not change the beer’s temperature too much. Before adding them to the carboy I also slightly pureed the bits together to help them fit into the fermenter and to increase the surface area.

As I began to add the fruit to the beer I realized how much room there wasn’t going to be in the fermenter. I was using a 5 gallon jug where I really should have been using a 6 gallon or larger, knowing I was adding fruit, plus room for a secondary fermentation of the fruits sugars. After I reapplied the air-lock I hoped that it would still be attached in the morning and not blown across the room with beer and pineapple everywhere. When I came down in the morning to check I was lucky to find the air-lock still in place, but there was sanitizer/beer coming out of the holes on top. I quickly tried to clean things up by removing the airlock and relieving some of the pressure, which turned out to kind of be a bad idea as it released too much pressure and beer and pineapple started splooging all down the sides of the fermenter. I quickly grabbed the fermenter, threw it in a big-ass Rubbermaid-type container, tented the opening with some foil, and gave the beer a little anti-contamination blessing and left for work.

The beer was rolling pretty strong for about 48 hours, then I was able to clean things up proper and apply the air-lock again. Since then the beers been bubbling away. It’s pretty cloudy, I assume from the pectin in the pineapple, hopefully it’ll clear some, if not it’s a wheat beer so it won’t be completely unexpected. I may do a tetrary phase just to help with clarification, we’ll see. With any luck, this will be a lovely summer time sipper, with any bad luck I’ve got the potential for one hell of a drain pour, haha.

BUZZ Off 2010

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Last Saturday May 22, 2010 was the 2010 BUZZ Off homebrew competition held at Iron Hill Brewery’s West Chester location.

For many of the local homebrew competitions I try to judge or enter beers or both. This was one of the examples where I was both able to judge and enter beers. The beers I entered were an American Amber Ale as an American Amber, the FCX as an American IPA, and Vader as an Imperial Stout. I’ll talk about how the beers did and what the judges had to say in second, but for now I’ll talk about my day judging a little bit first.

So a “typical” judging day (is there such a thing?) is suppose to start around 9AM and wrap up around 5PM with the awards to follow. So I drove up to West Chester and got to Iron Hill around 8:45, with judging not starting until almost 9:30. In the morning I was to judge Belgian and French Ales with 36 entries. We were suppose to have six judges, thus three pairs, so 12 beers per pair. That’s a pretty big flight, but not outrageous. Two of the six judges didn’t show … So now we’re at 18 beers per pair, much bigger. In the category fell Witbiers, Saisons, Biere de Gardes, and Belgian Specialty Beers. The Belgian Specialty Beers were over half of the entries, ugh. Basically a Belgian Specialty Beer can REALLY be anything, as long as the brewer feels it has merit to be there. In my opinion, and for what I can remember, the Wits were OK, the Saisons were good, the Biere de Gardes were meh, and the Belgian Specialties were all over the place with the clear winners/favorites being some of the nicer Brett infused beers. I believe 2 out of 3 of the winners were Brett Beers. I must note though, the table next to us had Larry Horowitz the head brewer from that Iron Hill location, and his partner and himself  hopped over and did about 6 beers with us lightening our load, that was cool.

Our table ran late since we had so many beers, so lunch was a little light and a little fast, buffet style with some pizza, pasta, and salad. Not bad, but when we used to be able to get sandwiches that was cooler, but hey lunch is lunch. In the afternoon I judged Wood-Aged and Smoked beer, oh no, the palate destroyer … I was with four people for this one with I believe 20 entries, so 10 per pair. I was paired up with this guy Chris I hadn’t met before, but after we had talked for a while I realized that we had very similar senses of humor and before I knew it we had everyone within earshot baggin up at out shenanigans. The wood and smoked beers were all over the place; from tasting like cookies, to table leg, to vanilla, to camp fire, to bacon … it’s a tough category. And there was at least two beers that basically tasted like bourbon. In the end the afternoon went quicker than the morning, though neither category was easy. After judging I tried to hang for a bit to see how long things were going to go and to grab my score sheets, but it was already about 5PM and they still needed to do the Best of Show round which easily takes an hour. So I tried to get my sheets, but they weren’t ready so I dipped.

But, my score sheets came in the mail yesterday so now I can see how I did, and here’s the breakdown for you too:

  • Amber Ale – American Amber – 31/33 = 32 – Very Good – Judge #1: “Very good beer, but may be oxidized a bit.” Judge #2: “Pretty nice drinking beer. Malty sweetness is prominent, but tempered by a very long bitterness of citrus and resin.”
  • FCX – American IPA – 25/20 = 22.5 – Good – Judge #1: “This is a hop bomb! The high bitterness isn’t supported by the malt, try cutting back on bittering hops.” Judge #2: “Good color, lots of hop flavor and bitterness, though you may want to decrease bitterness.”
  • Vader – Imperial Stout – 43/44 = 43.5 – Excellent- 2nd Place for Stouts Category (30 entries) – Judge #1: “If this was my beer I would horde it to myself without sacrificing bottles to competitions – thanks for sharing this excellent beer.” Judge #2: “Wow!! Awesome beer. Well aged, this tastes like it was conditioned for well over a year. Well done!”

So basic break down: cool, weak, and pretty rad :). The Amber’s scores are kind of what I expected, it’s a decent beer just not a shining example. It’s actually one of my favorite types of beer, slightly sweet with Crystal Malt and still nice and hoppy. The FCX was beat up points-wise a little bit, but the judges comments weren’t very off. So it makes me wonder if it was just a low scoring pair of judges. And finally, Vader, was well recognized for what it was, the judges really liked it which made me happy. Those are actually the last 2 bottles I am going to sacrifice, since I am down to only 4 bottles I think. I suppose it could have been worth the sacrifice. Guess it’s time to brew another Imperial Stout soon!

Capper Style

Monday, May 24th, 2010

As in a little re-cappage for everyone. I know it probably appears I’m asleep at the wheel here, but truth be told, I just haven’t found the time to update the site. SO, here’s five small updates of things I’ve been into. Hope you enjoy.

On April 24th Robert and I ran in the Trail Dawgs Half Marathon. This was our fifth (I think) year participating. This also happened to be my personal best time for the half marathon, finishing up at 2H 12M 36S. I know it’s not fast compared to some other people, but it was fast for me for 13.1 miles. If you look at the picture you can see my number for the race, 420. Ha, it felt like a joke being the guy with dreadlocks wearing the 420 number, haha. After the race we tried a 5 year old Sly Fox Odyssey and a Stone Black IPA (forget the name). Then we made a pit stop at Twin Lakes Brewery to see what was new there. Overall it was a good little morning.

The day after the Trail Dawgs run on April 25th was the results for the DUH Homebrew Competition. DUH is Delmarva United Homebrewers, and it was only open to homebrewers in the Delmarva area. The cool thing about this competition was the grand prize was Dogfish Head Brewery would brew your beer on the brew pub system, which is an 8 barrel capacity. So the only real criteria was to enter something creative that DFH didn’t already make something similar to it. I entered the Belgian Dubbel infused with Chinese Five Spice, or Dubbel Dragon as Erik started to call it. It didn’t win, but we had a great time sampling all the other homebrews available at Dogfish Head’s upstairs room. I think something with ginger and lemongrass actually won.

The following weekend saw more stoopidity, because on May 2nd was the Sly Fox Goat Races. These are always a ridiculously good time. This year was Sly Fox’s first year at the new location, like seriously open less then a week at this point. The people really showed up in numbers with goats, and kids, and dogs, and beers just about everywhere. This year also saw a first in a back-to-back repeat winner, Dax. So once again we had the Dax Maibock poor at the end of the festivities, and it was delicious. In the bad picture to the left you can see the little goat I wanted to win, her name was Peggy, and she had three legs. Peggy made me smile and I wanted her to win, but alas it wasn’t meant to be.

Another good thing happened later that week, on May 6th I received my first new shipment of ingredients in quite some time. I had already arranged things so that I had around 150 lbs of base malt, and still lots of extra hops from the order that was placed for the 1oth Anniversary Batch, but now I needed more specialty ingredients so that I could make a more diverse line up of beers. So I ordered enough for seven batches plus, and they are: an American Wheat, an American Brown, a Saison, two different Pale Ales, and two different IPAs. All of these will be 10 gallon batches, and realistically all of these should be brewed by the end of the summer. There should be enough “extra” specialty malts to squeeze out one or two hodge-podge beers too afterward, though I will probably need more base malt by then.

And finally on May 15th I brewed my first batch of been since the beginning of March, I think. I started with the American Wheat, all Perle hops, sort of based off of my Cluster Wheat recipe from last year. For this beer I believe I am going to keep 5 gallons traditional and then add fruit to the other 5 gallons. I was trying to think of something different but still appealing to try and then it hit me one morning at work. A Grilled Pineapple Wheat Beer. I know, it sounds funky, but it also sounds summery, and I think it may just have a chance. I think the grilling will add a cool caramel flavor and will mellow out the pineapple bite a bit. The other thought was similar, Toasted Coconut Wheat Beer, but unfortunately I’m not a huge coconut fan and 5 gallons of that could be a little much for me.

So I promise I’ll keep posting if you promise you’ll keep reading, that goes for you all of you: Dave, John, Scott, Erik and Robert 😉

McKenzie’s Results

Monday, March 8th, 2010

So yesterday McKenzie’s Brew House announced the winner to their little homebrew competition they recently had.

The competition was pretty quiet from what I can tell, I can’t even remember where I heard about it. But the entry deadline was February 15th and the only real criteria was the beer had to be described as “Belgian”. “Out of style” Belgian Specialty ales were highly encouraged. From the impression I got there were maybe 20 entries, like I said pretty small.

I decided to enter my Chinese 5-Spice Infused Belgian-style Dubbel, AKA Chinese Dubbel, AKA Dubbel Dragon (thanks Erik). I figured the base beer was good enough to hang, the 5-Spice contribution was definitely “out of style”, and the beer itself is actually pretty good. Now that I’ve had a few to drink it reminds me of a cross between a Winter Warmer and a Belgian Dubbel, makes sense to me. The beer also starts off very well balance, yes spicy but not overwhelming, though as the beer warms the spices do come to the forefront.

So yesterday, Sunday 03.07.10, McKenzie’s had a small get together/thank you for the brewers that entered and they were going to announce the winners. It was suppose to start at 4 and started just after. They had all of the house beers, plus the regular seasonals, plus they had their award winning Saison available plus a barrel-fermented (not barrel aged) version of the Saison too, there had a little bit of Heywood-toe up in that beer ;). On top of that they also put out a spread with appetizers; wings, hummus, bbq beef – it was nice.

So, I’ll say I didn’t place now, though they did announce a top three winners, even though they had only mentioned there was going to be a first place. The winners were a Dubbel, a Tripel, and a Belgian Strong Ale which took first. Not that I’m complaining, I’m just pointing out the lack of “out of style”-ness of the winners. The very cool part was the winning brewer and recipe will get to be brewed on McKenzie’s system, nice.

I’ll wrap this up with some notes from the judges, honestly only pretty good stuff to say, but anyway here we go:

  • Judge 1 “Alcohol is well hidden and base beer seems beautifully executed, but it’s hard to tell with all of the spice character.”
  • Judge 2 “Great base beer, very well made. Yeast fruit and spice marry well with carmely vanilla like malt character. For me, the spices add great complexity, but tend to dominate a bit too much.”

Kegging & Brewing

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

Sunday was productive enough in my little world of homebrewing; kegged the Pale Ales, did some house-keeping, and brewed an Amber Ale.

So of course the highlight is the Amber Ale. I jokingly called it the Anxious Amber because I am so concerned with running out of beer / not having three beers on tap. What’s the point of having three taps if they’re all not full, right? So this is a pretty straight forward Amber, sort of similar malt bill as my California Red but toned down a notch, and a little wacky-bird hop experiment using only traditional bittering hops throughout, Magnum and Chinook – I bet it’ll be great. The Magnums were some sticky fellows, even after washing my hands there was still some tackiness.

The brew day itself went pretty well, no major hic-cups. Still a little perturbed at the extended mashes and extended cool downs after jumping up to 10 gallon batches, thus extending my day over all. It takes me about 80-90 minutes to heat up all of my sparge and mash-out water, which is about 30 minutes longer than I would care to mash. Though, I must say, the last few batches have crushed the efficiencies, like by more than 0.010 points, so maybe there is at least some benefit to the extended mash. The cooling has and always will drive me nuts. I honestly believe a double cycle through a plate chiller would be the way to go. Maybe even whirlpool back into the kettle while pumping to help the trub collect in the middle, let it settle some, and the crack the valve and syphon clean cool wort … hmmm maybe after I have money to blow on homebrew crap again.

Other than that the day was pretty chilled. Transferred the two Pale Ales to kegs and did a bunch of house-keeping. Cleaned up my general work area, cleaned like five carboys, and like two kegs. Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do to keep the beer flowing for these knuckleheads. Speaking of beer flowing, the Chinese 5-Spice Belgian Dubbel-style beer (thus has been dubbed the Chinese Dubbel) has definitely been a crown-pleaser and I am totally down with that.

War of the Worts XV

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

The War of the Worts (WOTW) XV homebrew competition was yesterday, Saturday 02.20.10, and it was good times indeed.

With 816 entries in this years WOTW competition this was big! You can check out all the results here – RESULTS. It had been quite a while since I judged at a competition, maybe 6-8 months, but I was hyped to get into it. In the morning I was able to judge the Specialty Beer category with 44 entries and 8 judges, so about 11 entries per pair. The Specialty Beer category is kind of the catch-all for beers that don’t fall into other categories: experimental techniques, historical, style-bending, and total odd-balls. I actually really enjoy judging this category, there are a lot of mediocre beers that wind up here, but there are some that are kind of inspirational that help you formulate your own ideas. I believe the top three that moved on were an American Wild Ale (spontaneously fermented in the LeHigh Valley, haha), a Gruit (beer made without hops but with herbs to supply the bitterness), and an Imperial Pilsner. We probably started around 9:00 and wrapped the first round at a little after 12:00, not too bad.

Iron Hill Brewery then generously supplied us with lunch, two different tossed salads and a combo of sicilian-style pizza and wood-oven pizza. I think the IH crew wasn’t anticipating how much judges like to eat free food, they were having a hard time staying on top of our consumption of mass quantities, but it was all good an no one didn’t have enough to eat. After lunch I was able to judge Wood-Aged and Smoked Beers. Sounds like an interesting category, but I’ll tell you what, it is a palate destroyer, I’m not sure I’d want to judge that one again. This time there were 33 entries I think with 8 judges again, so it should have been about 8 beers per pair, my partner and I judge very similarly and we were able to do 13 beers in the afternoon. The best beer we had was a great IPA aged on cedar. I really wish I knew more of what the cedar was suppose to contribute because I’m afraid it didn’t fair as well as it could have if we had a descriptor to reference to see what cedar contributions were suppose to be like. It tasted like an awesome hoppy shortbread cookie or something, I really dug it. I think the top three were an Oaked Old Ale, a Smoked Porter, and a Smoked something-something. The Smoked Porter was bacon-esque while the Smoked something-something was more camp fire-esque, interesting.

I also had two beers entered in this competition, actually, I had the same beer entered twice, shotgun approach. This was the Fool Circle 10th Anniversary Beer, the Stick-Icky DIPA, which has recently been dubbed the FCX, got all that. Anyway, I entered it as an American IPA and as a Imperial IPA. The theory being I think it is better suited as a DIPA, but sometimes a “big beer” will fair better in a smaller category because it stands out against the other, so I was hoping for the extra pop in the AIPA category. Here’s some of what the judges had to say below:

  • American IPA – Judge 1: 33/50, Judge 2: 37/50, Average: 35 – Very Good
  • Judge 1: Almost flat, sticky resiny pungent hops with some caramel and alcohol, tasted like it really would have “popped” if not for lack of carbonation.
  • Judge 2: Low carbonation, very hoppy – nice balance of citrusy, piney, and grapefruit, good example of an Am IPA on the edge of a IIPA.
  • Imperial IPA – Judge 1: 34/50, Judge 2: 32/50, Average: 33 – Very Good
  • Judge 1: Good Imperial IPA, citrus and pine, almost grape like aroma, plum and stone-fruit in flavor, very good attempt at style.
  • Judge 2: May be too estery for style, hop flavor is definitely present, other flavors include watermelon, grape, and lemon from hops and esters.

So there you go, unbiased “professional” opinions of my beer. I really don’t like arguing with what the judges say because, well, I want to respect their opinions as much as I want mine respected, but I also know how the process works and sometimes a good beer can get brushed to the side just because the judge is trying to judge it <- I don’t even know if that made sense, haha. Looks like there were 41 AIPAs in the competition and 25 English/and Imperial IPAs. I think the one thing that bothers me most is the carbonation comments from the AIPA judges. I know the beer was well carbonated, I actually just had a bottle from the same batch the other day, so it makes me think they received a “bad bottle” for some reason, like perhaps the cap wasn’t set correctly when I bottled it and then through time and shipping the carbonation level dropped, dunno, but it tweaks me a little bit. Really would have liked to place, especially in such a big competition, but alas I didn’t, oh well. Good feedback is always good on it’s own.

Pushing Beer

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

So this evening was spent pushing beer from one container to another.

First, the Twenty Pound Pale Ale had to be moved from the primary fermenter to the secondary and get a dose of dry hops, 1 oz of Centennial to be exact. I also moved the beer from upstairs to downstairs where the warmer temp upstairs is preferable during this time of the year to help with primary fermentation, the cooler temperatures downstairs will benefit the beer clarifying. It weighed in at roughly 5.5% alcohol, and pretty balanced, yet slightly malty as of now, so the dry hops should move it towards very balanced. Most of my pale ales are aggressively hopped, this one, not so much.

Next the Dubbel and the Chinese 5-Spice Dubbel needed to be bottled. I pulled 5 bottles of the Dubbel and 9 bottles of the 5-Spice, kind of weird numbers now that I think of it. I’m going to leave one of these on tap for now, not sure which, but I am leaning toward the traditional Belgian-style Dubbel, and the other I am going to reserve. I was thinking about it earlier, it’s been since like Christmas since I have had 3 beers on tap at once, I need to remedy this. So I’ll reserve one of the Dubbels, then the Pale Ale will be ready to roll in like two weeks, but that’s it. So I guess I’ll need to brew again soon, and often. If things go right I’ll be re-upping on base malt shortly so it’ll be time to get my brew on, anyone have any suggestions, I’m open!

Hop Bomb

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Twelve ounces IPA plus one ounce Hop Vodka equals a HOP BOMB!

So for this example, the first example I am aware of anywhere, we used Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA and the Hop Vodka I created, which was Three Olives plain vodka infused with Cascade hops. Originally we were thinking of drinking it a la Car Bomb style, drop the shot and chug, but we thought otherwise, and probably for the better. So instead, Robert and I drank it more Boiler Maker style, pour the Hop Vodka into the IPA, thus a Hop Vodka Infused IPA. The Hop Vodka definitely brought a new level of hop “freshness” to the beer, slightly like when DFH pours there beer through a Randall but a little more grassy/green in flavor. Overall it was pretty good, and if I try to refine the Hop Vodka like I mentioned it may be really good. I’ll have to experiment with this. But remember, you heard it here first, it’s called a Hop Bomb!

Also, yesterday I transferred the Dubbel and the Chinese 5-Spice Dubbel to kegs and started carbonating them. The Dubbel tasted fine, which is good, but what I was really interested in was trying the 5-Spice Dubbel. You could definitely pick-up on the spice aspect in the nose, in particularly the cinnamon, which had me concerned. I’ve used cinnamon in batches before where it just blew out everything else. Also in the blend that I used was: cinnamon, anise, fennel, ginger, clove, and licorice root. Yes, I know there are six spices listed, my guess is the manufacturer used both anise and licorice root to compliment the same flavor and give it depth at the same time. Upon first taste I was pleasantly surprised; the spices weren’t too overwhelming, but you could tell they were there. It was sort of like a cross between a mellow not-to-boozy Winter Warmer and Belgian-style Dubbel. There was a cool dessert note to it too, I think accentuated by the ginger and clove, kind of like a ginger snap, made me wish I used molasses in the batch. So, first impressions I wasn’t disappointed at all, can’t wait to have a full glass of this puppy when it’s fully carbonated and chilled out.

Hop Vodka

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Sometimes things that seem like a good idea really aren’t, and sometimes things that seem like a bad idea really aren’t either. I haven’t decided if this is a good idea or a bad idea yet, or even if it was successful or unsuccessful.

So while creating the Chinese 5 Spice infused vodka for the Chinese 5 Spice Belgian Dubbel I decided I was going to mess around with making a Hop Vodka also. Originally I had contacted the distiller at Dogfish Head Brewery to get her advice on what kind of proportions were necessary, how to filter, and if they had ever tried it. She responded that they have never tried a Chinese 5 Spice vodka, but had tried a Hop Vodka without too much success. Her advice was two handfuls (she guessed 2oz) of whole leaf hops to 750ml of vodka. Let soak for 48 hours then strain, then filter through charcoal (like a Brita filter). She said with their experiment it was still too strong and they then cut the infused vodka with 750ml of plain vodka, so really 1oz to 750ml.

So for my experiment I used 1oz of Cascade whole leaf hops to 375ml of vodka. I let this soak for 48 hours giving it a shake whenever I happened to walk by. I then inverted the jar and strained the hops out through the vodka for 24 hours. After that time there was just over 200ml of hop infused vodka, where’d the other 150ml go, I’m not sure I guess the hops drank it. The Hop Vodka is a bizarre bright yellow/orange and smells very much of hops, but also with a grassy tone to it. The flavor is, … intense! It covers all aspects of the hop, bitterness, flavor, and aroma, plus the grassy/green/flowery type thing. And of course it’s vodka, so it’s hot, well, at least to me.

So far now I’m not sure if I like it, it’s big. I think if (when) I do it again I’ll use a higher vodka to hops ratio, like 1oz to 750ml, and/or let the hops sit on the vodka for a shorter time frame, like 24 hours instead. So what’s next? I think Hop Bombs are next, think a Boiler Maker but with Hop Vodka and DFH 60 Minute IPA! I think I just made myself a little excited 🙂

Twenty Pound Pale Ale

Monday, February 1st, 2010

I am in desperate need to buy more ingredients, so in the mean time, I’ll improvised!

So this is it … until I buy more ingredients no more beer will be made, it’s a sad day indeed. So basically I was down to twenty pounds of base malt, an ass ton of American hops, and some dry English yeast. So what did I make? Hell if I know, a Twenty Pound Pale Ale, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. It’ll be good, and you’ll like it, trust me. So basically I took all the base malt and mashed real low to make it nice and fermentable, dropped three hop additions with a fourth reserved for dry hopping, and set the little English buggers loose on it. That was yesterday. Cold as hell, but at least the snow had stopped. That was pretty much the second day in a row of spending too much time outside when it is way too cold, I couldn’t get warm last night, suckage.

Oh BTW, the last half a keg of the Fool Circle 10th Anniversary Ale is now on tap, ask nicely and I might share. Might.

Also, watch out for Hop Vodka. Yup.