Tag Archives: Beer

Home Smoked Grains: Comparing Applewood Smoked Rauchbier to Hickory Smoked Rauchbier

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Collaborations can really be the best thing sometimes.

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Besides brewing beer in my Brooklyn apartment, I have also spent the last 15 + years attending underground hardcore shows.  One of the bands that I still get the chance to go see is a Brooklyn based band called Indecision.  Now, this is a band that played my very first local hardcore show and I have had the opportunity of playing alongside of them with various bands.  I have also had the chance to get to know them as individuals.  Bago, the bass player, is a man who also has another fantastic hobby, smoking incredible meats! He has been an avid BBQ man for some time now and has worked his craft to an awesome level. He is currently smoking under the name BAGOCUE and is starting to put out a line of delectable food, though not professionally as of yet.

bagocue

Knowing that he had a substantially sized smoker, it wasn’t long before I asked if he would be willing to help smoke some grains for me to brew a rauchbier.  A kickass perk was his readily accessible access to a variety of different woods to use in smoking.

We began deciding on a day for me to come on over to his place, drink some homebrew, eat some BBQ, and smoke some grains.  Working with someone who already has experience with smoking really made it easy to land on 2 types of wood to use.  First up was Applewood, which is very common when smoking meat, particularly Bacon. Secondly, we decided to go with Hickory, since oak can have a very strong/tannic character.  Both types of wood created beer that is great to drink, but drastically different in flavor and aroma.

Procedure:

Smoking grain really doesn’t seem hard to do, and in many ways it isn’t challenging, however, being that this was my first time going through the process, mistakes were definitely made that impacted the end product of my beer.  But that is what this was all about, learning how to smoke grains myself, instead of relying on pre-smoked grains that I had no control over.  My main mistake was not allowing the grains to completely air dry before storing them for brewing.  I must officially apologize to Brooklyn Homebrew for gumming up their grinder for a good half hour.  I really thought mildly moist grains wouldn’t be a problem, turns out it mushes in a weird dough consistency and sticks to everything. Whoops! Sorry guys!  I ended up grinding about 5 pounds of grain by hand, which absolutely blew and I hope no one has to spend that much time with a rolling-pin, ever.  Girlfriend Karen suffered through it with me, helping along the way  Also, if grains are left wet, in a dark and moist area, mold grows on them.  I lost nearly half of my grains to this problem and felt like a complete waste of life.  That being said, I can only harp on the point more clearly: MAKE SURE YOU LET THE GRAINS DRY COMPLETELY BEFORE STORING!

Here is what we did:

1.  Get a very small, low heat fire started with only about 5- 6 small pieces of wood going in a smoker

2.  Soak all of the grains in water for a least 15 mins.

3.  Lay window screen down on top of the top metal grill. Window screen is very cheap and easy to find at any Home Depot type store.

4.  Pour the now moist grains (ditch the water) directly on top of the screen.

5.  Cover and let smoke for approximately an hour, maintaining a very low but consistent smoke

6.  Remove from the smoke and let completely dry (cough cough)

7.  Let the grains calm down for a week.  This is crucial, because the scent is tremendous when the grain is freshly smoked. My whole apartment smelled like a bacon campfire, which my vegetarian girlfriend really loved, for at least 5 days.

8. Grind up the grains and brew away!

The beer I chose to make is a rauchbier recipe that really lets the smoke shine.  I find it reminiscent of the Aecht Schlenkerla Racubier Marzen.  It’s a pretty straight for smooth rauchbier, with a lovely smoke character that really makes the beer stand out.  I used only 1 type of smoked grain in each version of this beer.

Recipe:

Home Smoked Malt (Applewood or Hickory) 7.00 lb (71.4 %)
German Pilsner Malt 1.00 lb (10.2 %)
German CaraMunich II 1.00 lb (10.2 %)
Belgian Caramel Vienna Malt 0.70 lb (7.1 %)
German Carafa II 0.10 lb (1.0 %)

Mashed at 150 for 60 minutes

Hops
German Tettnang (4.5 % alpha) 2.00 oz Bagged Pellet Hops used 60 Min From End
German Tettnang (4.5 % alpha) 0.30 oz Bagged Pellet Hops used 5 Min From End

Yeast: Wyeast 1728-Scottish Ale

The outcome really blew me away with how drastically different the beers came out.  The Applewood reminded me completely of ham or bacon.  The Hickory really tasted like a campfire (in a good way).

Left: Hickory Smoked Grain Right: Applewood Smoked Grain

Left: Hickory Smoked Grain
Right: Applewood Smoked Grain

Applewood Smoked Rauchbier

Appearance: A light amber brown color with a slight hint of orange.  Clear with very thin layered head

Nose:  A slight metallic hint to the overwhelming ham aroma. No significant hop character, but sometimes hops remind me of metal. A sweeter scent underneath the smoke

Flavor:  A slight bitterness smooths out into a slightly wet grain flavor.  It finishes with a smoke that is very reminiscent of smoked meat.  A bacon vibe but some clinging tannin flavors

Mouthfeel:  Very thin bodied but a smokey dryness that lingers on the tongue.

Overall:  I enjoy the smoke flavor of the beer, but there are some definite flaws coming out in the balance and mouthfeel.  4.5/10

Hickory Smoked Rauchbier:

Appearance:  A very similar clean brown color with moderate low carbonation

Nose:  A pleasantly balanced nose of hickory shines through the beer.  Mild caramel undertones support the smoke with no significant hop aroma

Flavor:  A wonderful blend of Hickory, tannin, smoke, and malt.The smoke lends to a perceived bitterness or sharpness but with no hints of astrigency.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied for a lighter ABV beer. A long lasting flavor stays on the tongue

Overall:  This beer is significantly better that the Applewood, however it is much more reminiscent of a campfire than of smoked food.  This beer rests comfortably in between smoke and smoothness 8/10

 

Big thanks to Bago for taking the time to play with some beer!

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Cherry picking my keepers: A Brown Ale to develop

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A good friend of mine has figured out a great recipe for an American Brown Ale.  Last year we ended up running some of his batch through a barrel and it came out great.  This year I have been brewing it to keep pushing the recipe where it can go.  It’s not there yet, but its a great start.

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American Brown Ale:

Appearance: Very dark brown to black, but a reddish hue when held up to the light

Nose:the initial roastiness is met with dark chocolate.  Mild hop aroma

Flavor: Very balanced chocolate and hop bitterness.  No real roastiness, but a very smooth taste

Mouthfeel: A wonderful creamy body, but a slight bitterness from the dark grains

Overall: This is a delicious brown ale.  The chocolate flavor sends my mind into a head spin. 8.2/ 10

The Final Version: the completion of a session pale ale (recipe include)

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Over the past year, I have been developing an ale that started out as a big, citrus IPA.  Overtime I kept dialing back the amount of bitterness and the IBU’s until I found a really nice balance.  This is my second time brewing this beer exactly the same way, and it has turned out to be a homerun. Easy drinking, and everyone keeps refilling their glasses. Try it out! Cheers

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Here is the review:

Appearance: a clear orange brown with a few hop particles floating around.

nose:  The galaxy citrus aroma shines through with hints of melon and grapefruit.  There is a malt sweetness underneath the floral characteristics that reminds me of biscuits and toasted bread.

Flavor:  A mild but assertive hop bitterness that finishes easily, but with a noticeable hop finish. Very easy to drink

mouth feel: Medium bodied and a very balanced experience

overall:  This tastes like it came from a brewery! looking forward to entering it into a competition in the future. 9/10

Here is the recipe:

10 lbs 2 row

1 lb crystal 40

.3 lb Honey Malt

.3 lb Vienna Malt

.3 lb Caramunich

.3 lb aromatic

stepped at 152 for 60 min.

.8 oz galaxy hop for first wort hop

1 oz cascade with 10 minutes left of boil

.5 ounce galaxy at flame out

.7 ounce galaxy for dry hop

British Ale yeast at 67 degrees

fucking with saison

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Fucking with saison
Using cucumber, banana, white nectarines in saisons

I’ve been a member of the beer of the month club for a few years now.  Every month, two bangers of weird beer show up.  My room-mate and I have had many great unique beers, many of which were weird saisons.  I was able to try a cucumber saison from cigar city and was pleasantly surprised, the flavor of the cucumber went very well with the spicy character of the saison yeast. So I decided to try it for myself, along with some other ideas that I have been waiting to try.

All the additions were put into 1 gallon of beer after fermentation.  Usually they were only aged for 10 days before being kegged and conditioned. For the cucumber saison, I used one large cucumber that was a few days past ripe. I froze it then thawed it before i chopped it up, skin and all, and placed it into one gallon of saison.  The banana saison got 6 overly ripe bananas that I did the same thing as the cucumber.  For the white nectarine, I used 2 lbs of fresh, chopped, frozen then thawed nectarines for 2 gallons of saison.

Base Saison

Tastings for all three:

White Nectarines

white nectarine saison:
I made this beer twice, once was way to fruity, the other was way to wacky (I used a fermentor that had some lingering Brett in it).  It won’t be till next year, but somewhere in the middle is what I am shooting for

 

Cucumber saison:


Appearance:light orange brown color with some haze, but mostly clear
Nose: pickles, cucumbers rinds, and spice
Flavor: The saison is overpowered by the cucumber rind flavor, but still acts as a compliment
Mouthfeel: big bodied and clawing chlorophyll flavor
Overall: eh, awesome idea, but under achieved. 4.5/10 more to come

Banana saison:
Appearance: A bit more cloudy than the Cucumber
Nose: Pretty bad smelling, phenolic but a little banana undertone
Flavor: This was surprisingly nice, the banana gave a weird flavor to the saison, making it a much more round flavor
Mouthfeel: pretty thick and full bodied.
Overall: Cool, but wrong style, I would like to try this in an English Brown Ale or a porter real soon

A trip to the Hop Farm: Brewing “Wet Hopped American Summer”

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Harvesting hops and brewing up an all grain all wet hopped pale ale

SPACE OUTSIDE!!!!

About half way through September, I took a trip to visit my friend Dave’s uncle’s James farm where he had been growing 20 hop plants.  Of the hops that were planted, only the Zues and Cascade hops had any significant harvest.
Harvesting the hops was fun, but the vines caused a mild reaction with my skin.  Next time I wont treat the vines like a necklace.

Fashion week!

From this harvest, we had enough hops to brew a 10 gallon batch of pale ale.  The Zeus was used for the bittereing, cascade for the flavor, and a blend for aroma.  Zues was also used for dry hopping.

Here is the tasting of my Wet Hopped American Summer:

Wet Hopped Pale Ale

Appearance: Amber to orange and clear enough to see through it.
Nose: A lovely biscuit bread malt sweetness with a calm citrus hope aroma.
Flavor:A medium bitterness with a sweet malt backbone holding the pale together. A bit too estery in the mid mouth. But an easy finish makes this beer a real easy drinker.
Mouthful: Medium bodied with a long lasting thick head
Overall: This is a damn good pale ale. I really love it.  8.5/10

Oktoberfest Again!

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It was the fall of 2005 when I first walked into a beer tent in Munich.  It was an experience of excess and awesomeness.  People were everywhere and absolutely everyone was drinking copious amounts of delicious beer.  Oktoberfest is much like a carnival for adults, and I was lucky enough see it.
Later that year, I began home brewing, with a goal being to recreate the beers that I drank at the festival.  This has been a very frustrating process.  When I first began brewing, I was like every other home brewer out there, not very familiar with proper sanitation practices and lacked any form of temperature control.  I also didn’t understand the basics of pitching rate.  Needless to say, I have made many Oktoberfests that have tasted like absolute crap.
Last year I put a lot of time working with this beer style.  I made 3 batches of Oktoberfest, each through a different process.  The first was a triple decoction, which is a very long process of taking some of the mash, boiling it, then throwing it back into the mash tun, which raises the mash temperature.  Just add 3 hours to your brew day and you can do a decoction. The next approach was single infusion, using only 1 water addition to reach mash temp, and the last was extract.  I found that a triple decoction made the best beer, but took forever for a very minimal gain. The single infusion brew was the smoothest with a very light malt character. Of course the extract example tasted the worse.
This year, I attempted to fuse the successes from the past. Instead of the triple decoction approach, I did a double step infusion, holding the grain bill at 146 for 60 minutes, then raising the mash to 158 for 20 before sparging at 160.  Next time I plan on a double decoction, with a more diverse grain bill.

The beer ended up being a damn good lager, even though I am still working on the balance between Vienna malt and Munich malt. This style is finally being made well in my brewery, just a few more tweaks until I get to a finished beer!

Oktoberfest Bier

Appearance:Perfectly clear with an amber brown color
Nose: sweet caramel nose with a slight toasted quality
Flavor: Smooth and sweet, big Munich malt flavor with a late noble hop finish
Mouthfeel: medium bodied and wonderfully carbonated
Overall: This is the first time I can even come close to being satisfied with my Oktoberfest, I give it a 7.5 / 10

Visiting Belgium: Cantillon, Hoegaarden and a night in Brussels

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To celebrate turning 30 this year, my family and I decided to take a vacation to see some breweries in Belgium.  Now, traveling with the family to visit breweries can be a bit challenging, since neither of my folks are “beer drinkers”.  They aren’t allergic, but the wonder of beerdom have yet to find its way into my parent’s life, so a week in Belgium might have been a bit much for them to take on.  My girl also came along, but she is well versed in awesomeness and has already taken a liking to Belgian beers.

C’est bon

We flew into Brussels and we were at our first brewery within hours. Cantillon is a brewery that is only about a mile out of the city center and located in a more industrial side of town.  Cantillon is known for using spontaneous fermentation to make their world renown lambic and gueuze beers. The brewery is set up like a museum with and some very old tools set up for display right alongside oak barrels that are aging beer in them.

nice barrels

I’ve done a good amount of reading on this brewery and being able to see this place in person was a real treat, but the tasting was really the best part.

time does not respect that which is done without him

After the tour, everyone gets to taste some unblended lambic, followed by a choice of 1 blended lambic beer.  Luckily being 4 people, we were able to try all the styles.

here are the tastings we tried:

left to right
Faro, Rose Gambrinus, Gueuze, Kriek

unblended lambic: served warm and flat, this is a tough one to drink.  A sharp flavor hits the tongue and lasts for awhile. This was the second time I’ve tried one of these and honestly, I am done with it.

Gueuze (blended lambic): Through combine different years of lambic, this style has more depth and a smoother experience.  Signs of the spontaneous fermentation are still present, but muted compared to the unblended version.  This beer was also carbonated, which helped with the body significantly.

Faro:  This is a lambic back sweetened with brown sugar. This style surprised me with its drinkablity. Very good beer that I plan on replicating in the future

Kriek: A lambic with sour cherries. A style done commonly around the world, and in many ways, I feel done better.  Still the most drinkable beer of the tasting, mom actually got through it

Rose Gambrinus: Lambic and Raspberry.  don’t really remember it.

St. Lambicus: a lambic aged on wine grapes, this was by far the best beer that we tasted. They only sold it by the bottle and it needed to be consumed on premise.  This approach beyond baffles me, but my cranial implosions won’t sway tradition.

The following day we took a 45 min train ride to visit the brewery/museum at Hoegaarden.  This was meant to be an easy day for the rest of the group, since Cantillon was a bit of a nose dive into Belgian beers.  A quick cab from the train station allowed us to see the country side and make it to the brewery/restaurant/museum within 5 minutes.

a great place for the afternoon

The museum was a pretty straight forward walk-through media experience, obviously InBev put a few bucks into it, but nothing outstanding.  I did learn that Hoegaarden is the name of the town that made wits, not just an individual brewery. In the courtyard, there is a lovely restaurant that serves all the varietals of Hoegaarden, including the raspberry infused Rose, which was an instant success with my mother.

Grand Cru, Rose, Julius Cesar, Wit

This visit was meant to be easy and relaxing for everyone involved, and it met expectations.  Hoegarden was a fun day trip that went very smoothly. The beer was good, the museum was thoughtful, and the restaurant  owned pretty hard.

That evening my lady and I went out on our own to discover some of the finer parts of Brussels.  A great dinner conversation slowly evolved into a local walking to one of the best beer bars that he knew of in town.  “Au Bon Vieux Temps” has a great atmosphere, but the walk down the scary alley was kind of tough to pull off.  For the second time in my life, I was able to try a Westvleteren 12, which was ranked the best beer in the world a few years ago.  The night ended with us making some new friends and enjoying Brussels, next up was the Trappists and Bruge