Tag Archives: experiment

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

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Collaborations can really be the best thing sometimes.

smokercloseup

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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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

The Brett Tasting: comparing Brett types, pre/post fermentation additions

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Blind tastings are fun with friends

Here is another section of my journey into souring beers.  For this part, I really wanted to focus on Brettanomyces and the impact it can have on beer.  While Brett is not the main souring organism in sour beers, I have heard far too many different opinions, so I decided the only way to really grasp what this yeast does is to try it myself.  I decided to make 5 one gallon batches (X, Y, 1, 2, 3). Of these 5 batches; Y was the control with only Saccharomyces, X was Brett B added after Saccharomyces fermentation was complete, 1 was only Brett L, 2 was only Brett B, and 3 was both Saccharomyces and Brett B pitched together at the beginning of fermentation.  All Brett was from Wyeast.

tastings:

Y (control): a mild flavor with light chocolate, roast, and fruit flavor. some bread character with a slit astringency. big bodied

X and Y

 

X (Brett B added after Fermentation): a light cherry citrus nose with hints of strawberry, some cardboard in the taste but the flavor stands out more. chocolate in the front and a solid head. mild astringency

1 (Brett L only) Smells like sour strawberry and Worcester sauce.  The taste was reminiscent of ketchup and chocolate. no head retention

2 (Brett B only) An acetic hint in the nose with the same citrus cherry character.  Tasted very chocolate and was mild and balanced. best beer!

1 and 2, 3 was so gross that there is no pic, just bad memories

3 (Brett B and Sacc pitched together) smelled and tasted like vinegar. sharp acetic. ack. vinegar!

These beers were vastly different, more than I would have thought.  I can still run through this experiment two more times, can’t wait to see what changes.

The sour beer experiment cometh..

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Recently I have begun souring beer, which is a simple process of inoculating (infecting) beer with specific micro organisms that like living in beer.  So far, I have soured left over beer that was less than perfect, like my earl wit that had a bit too much gypsum and a poor fermentation. I decided to repurpose this beer into a Lambic.  I have also started souring my casks, starting with quad/ homemade wine into a rye cask with Roeselare Blend from Wyeast.

Now, repurposing beer is cool, and a great way to start souring beers, but I have way too many questions about the variables in souring to just use my leftovers for this.  It was time to brew a 10 gallon batch of Flanders Brown Ale. The brew day was easy for this beer, all until I transferred the cooled wort into all the different fermentors.

So, what am I going to do with all this beer to sour!? that’s right, use up every one gallon jug i can find.  To start off I took 5 gallons and put it into a normal 6 gallon better bottle carboy, which I pitched American Ale  yeast . This 5 gallon fermentor will be inoculated with Roeselare Blend after fermentation is complete.

VARIABLES!

The rest of the batch left plenty of room to play with, so I split up the beer into 1 gallon jugs and labeled them 1,2,3 and X, Y.  Y is the clean fermented beer that will act as the baseline for comparison (control).  1 was only Brett L, 2 was only Brett B, 3 was yeast and Brett B pitched simultaneously, and X will be Brett L added after regular yeast fermentation.  I also used a growler for my wild yeast, which will have US05 added after 3 weeks fermenting.

The beers with only Brett fermentation was very interesting to watch.  Brett L seems to be the same micro that infected my Earl Wit.  The Brett B fermentation looked crazy for about a week, then everything flocculated.

Brett L infection

Brett B infection

1L : brett L 2B: brett B

Now it’s a long wait to start bottling/ blending. which will take about a year!

OH NO! My sour cask wants to be a volcano?!?!

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I’m not sure if it is the teaching, the brewing, or just “grown up” instinct, but I’ve become accustomed to hearing loud noises and running directly toward the sound.  This reaction has proved to be tremendously valuable .  Last week I saved my clothes from a growler that felt like becoming a bottle bomb in my closet. While today, I was lucky enough to be in front of my computer when my recently inoculated (Roeselare Blend from Wyeast) and filled cask started going off like a second grade science project. This makes sense, but I’m surprised at the force that the beer was coming out with.  If you have ever taped a keg of beer, without realizing that the tap was not connected to the disconnect, that’s the pressure I’m talking about. Cask volcano will now be the artwork for this beer!  I fixed the problem by using some duct tape to barely hold the cork in place (I don’t have an airlock that will fit) emptying out some of the beer and putting the whole cask in a styrofoam cooler.  BTW, friends that order Omaha Steaks are great to know if you’re a homebrewer.

RED LAVA IN THE TIP JAR

problem solved! until an airlock comes to me...

brewing on a budget….

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This last year has been a great time for my brewing.  I won my first homebrew competition, which gave me a real kick in the butt to brew more frequently.  Since that competition I have been brewing weekly, sometimes working on beer 3 times a week.  Its been about 5 – 6 months of that schedule and I have spent all my money. As you can tell, slowing down my brewing is an answer to my problem, but I find a great amount of joy playing with my beer, so I’ve decided to knock back the brewing schedule to every other week and start saving money wherever I can.

With my science background, I’m planning on saving yeast and making slides, but I’m broke enough that an autoclave (pressure cooker!) is out of the question right now. This leads me to the cheapest/easiest way to save money on brewing, reusing yeast.  All I do is put the newly made beer directly on top of an old batches yeast cake.  I always make sure that the cake is as fresh as possible and never leave the yeast without beer in it for more than an hour or so.  I know this is tremendously over pitching the yeast… but whatever, its easy and the fast fermentation is wonderful!

I have also been reading/listening up a lot on no sparge brewing (video link).  No sparge brewing is a process commonly used for lower ABV beers that could use a better malt backbone.  In this process, you use all the water you need for your brew day in the mash tun, vorloft it well, and drain the entire mash tun into a brew kettle.  You lose some efficiency, but it makes for a wonderful beer (which I will soon find out!)

While I was listening to this method, I thought of a way to still use the extra sugars in the mash tun, make a partygyle brewday out of this process.  After I brew a no sparge batch, I simply add another 3 -4 lbs of grain (sometimes specialty grains) to the mash tun at the mashing temp and let it go through another conversion.  This second mash usually lasts about 2 hours, since I have been only using my 7.5 gallon kettle for inside brews and i have to wait to get the first beer out of the brew kettle.

The results of this process have been promising.  After 2 brew days, I have been able to get 4 different 5 gallon batches for the grain normally used to make 2 gallon batches.  Is the original gravity lower on all 4? sure! But with OG’s in the 1.040 range, i am more than content with having a few 4 – 5 % ABV beers coming down the pipeline.

This leads me to my last option to save money. STOP BREWING BIG BEERS.  Usually my beer all hover in between 6 and 10 % ABV.  ya know, I make strong beer! But with my goal being lower ABV beer, my bills are remarkably smaller, usually walking out of the homebrew store with a bill for less than $40.  That means I making beer at about 40 cents a beer.  Its weird, but it seems that I can finally make great beer that is cheaper than buying commercial beers! It only took about 6 years of brewing to do it, but my original goal was to make good beer cheaply. and now I have.

More on these beers to come!

the purrfect ipa

The Souring of a Cask

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Which one shall I choose?

One of the most fantastic rewards of having casks to play with is the ability to make sour beers.  A cask is the perfect vessel to keep micro organism cultures happy.  There is always a little oxygen sneaking into casks and our friends Lactobacillus and Peddiococcus love that.  In many ways, preventing them from developing in casks can be an exercise in futility, but I am taking steps in three casks (Scotch Casks, Blaton’s Bourbon cask, and Evan Williams bourbon cask) which will be a future post.  One of my casks, the rye cask, has been giving off some winey characteristics in the beers aging and I felt like it was about time to push this one over the edge.

A while back, I made a beer based off of a Westvelren 12 Quad.  I have 5 gallons currently lagering for eternity… planning on waiting until December (12 months old) to pull it out at taste it. I also had 1.5 extra gallons of the base quad that was fermented separately from the other 5 gallons using Chardonnay yeast.  Both beers clock in around 11.5 % ABV.  I wasn’t planning on souring this beer, but i am finished looking at this beer sitting, I MADE IT TO EXPERIMENT DAMMIT!

The next part of this cask souring experience comes from an endeavor that was way to long in the making.  The Homemade wine, Pony Vino, that my room-mate Tom and I made about a year ago was finally bottled a few weeks ago.  The wine is okay, kinda like a sweet red, but drinkable.

Wait....How many ml are in 5 gallons?

Unfortunately, when we bottled the wine, my math was stupid and I ran out of wine bottles with about a gallon left over…

Then my worlds came together in a fantastic moment of clarity. The wine went right into the Quad, followed with a good 3 ounces of Fantome De Noel

yum yum yum

a splendid beer that was a gift my friend Degal gifted me.

The fermentor bubbled for two weeks before I got around to playing with the casks, so I’m counting on micro’s munching away in there.  I’m planning on pitching a commercial bought micro blend within the week to throw into the cask as well.

So far, things are pretty crazy on this beer, but was I done? no way!  Every summer, there is this totally awesome fig tree that grows in my neighbor’s backyard, and no one EVER picks the figs.  This last summer I felt like it was a duty of mine to do something more with those lovely fruits than simply feed the birds, so I picked about a pound and froze them.  I had planned to put them into the Quad when it was done fermenting, but I left in the freezer until now.  I also had 2 packages of Blackberries frozen, so I just put them all together into this project.

I defrosted the fruit, cooked them for about 15 min, mushing them up the whole time, and then blended them in my blender.  Once they cooled, I tossed the puree into the cask after the beer.

messy messy messy

I think I have been reading the madfermentationist way to much lately, but I’m very excited about where this beer will go.  Updates to come!