Tag Archives: Homebrewing

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.

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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!

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

Building a sleeve to my chest freezer: A. K. A. having the best retired dad ever!

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One of the most challenging aspects of homebrewing is temperature control.  There are many DIY ways to control fermentation temperature, but using a chest freezer with a temperature control themostat is really the best.  Once this system is running, space becomes the limiting factor.  I’ve had this chest freezer for over a year, but finally expanded it to hold 6 kegs.  I really can’t wait to start my lager brew days!  A billion thanks to my  retired father for assembling such an awesome expansion of the freezer.  Here is what he did, in his own words.

Written By John Lovrich (my dad)

    To raise the height of a chest freezer, you basically make a box around the outside diameter of the freezer to reach the desired height. The one I made was made with 1″ by 8″ clear cedar boards cut to the correct lengths. An extra length was cut to connect to the inside of the side in which the freezer hinge was to be attached creating a rabbit joint. This piece is attached to the outside piece with 1″ stainless wood screws making it stronger and permitting the back section to be attached from the back and the side. After the wood has been cut , apply four coats of spar varnish to all sides.
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 Light sanding is required between each coat, but in the end, a well sealed frame has been made protecting against moisture and mold. 2″ stainless steel screws were used to attach all the pieces, but remember to pre-drill the holes so the wood doesn’t split.
Once the wood is thoroughly dried, assemble the frame and be sure it fits properly on the freezer.
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If all is okay, attach Super-Tuff R insulation board to the inside of the item. Be sure that the aluminum vapor barrier is facing into the freezer. Do not glue the insulation board because the varnish prohibits good bonding. Attach the insulation board to the wood by using 1″ #8 stainless pan head screws with the largest stainless washers available. Insert screws at all four corners and across the top and bottom every 10 to 12 inches apart. Once completed, buy a roll of foil tape and seal the top and bottom of pacer by folding the tape and covering the top of the insulation board, extending down the board about a 1/2 inch and stretching across the top and attaching to the wood. This creates a nice seal. But be careful, the tape is very sticky and once it is on, it is on. Do a dry run without removing the backing paper before you assemble. You only get one shot when assembling.
To attach the spacer to the freezer, buy a roll of industrial grade velcro. The freezer door must be disconnected by this time. This material is also extremely sticky. This material is attached to the freezer side as well as to the bottom of the spacer. Again, I advise doing a dry run with the velcro before final assembly. Place the velcro on the freezer first, and then after it is placed on the bottom of the spacer, carefully drop in place a press down for a few seconds. That’s it. The spacer is firmly attached. Place the freezer door on top of the spacer and be sure it is alined. Make sure the hinge is flush to the wood, pre-drill the holes and attach with 1″ #8 pan head screws, or larger or smaller if necessary. Drill any holes for the tubing to be used from the outside toward the inside. Use a thin paint brush to coat the inside of the hole just drilled with spar varnish. The spacer is now complete and ready for use.
WOW! what a guy!

DAD

DAD

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

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.

Citrus IPA: version $#!@

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My.p.a.

This is a style of beer that I have been working on for the majority of this year. I think I am finally honing in on a very smooth IPA that focuses on late hop additions to give wonderful aroma but doesn’t hit very hard with bitterness.  A very hoppy beer that you can also double as a guzzler.  I’ve really fallen in love with using Galaxy hops for bittering hops, then a melody of Citra, Cascade, and Galaxy in the last 15 minutes.  Dry hopped with 2 ounces of Citra to really bring out the citrus, grapefruit, and lemon character.  I used British Ale 1 from Wyeast, which is my preferred yeast for IPA’s, due to its ability to emphasize hop characteristics in a beer.

Citrus IPA Tasting:

Nose:  The scent comes up in the front with Citra characteristic, big lemon and citrus scents with some grapefruit underneath.

Appearance:  Very cloudy with an amber brown color.

Taste: The beer begins with a smooth round bitterness that blends into a lemon/grapefruit flavor.

mouthfeel: medium bodied, more bitter than not, but very easy to drink.

overall: This is the way it should taste.  Easy drinking citrus fruit that is mild enough to drink a few pints.    8.3/10

Brewing with Potassium Metabisulphate and Potassium Sorbate

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Perhaps it was during a Basic Brewing Radio episode,  maybe it was a wine making class I took at Brooklyn Homebrew, or simply having a roommate that is a sommelier, but treating beer like wine is an approach that i have been interested in using for the better part of a year.  In wine production, sometimes after fermentation is complete, chemicals like Potassium Metabisulphate (KMS)(K2S2O5) and Potassium Sorbate (C6H7KO2) are used to not only stabilize wine, but also to slow oxidation.  If anyone that you know is allergic to Sulfites, their trouble with wine is caused from this practice.
The purpose of adding KMS is to add self life to wine, since this treatment kills off lots of microorganisms, but it also slows the process of oxidation, which is tremendously important when aging wine for decades.  Potassium Sorbate stops yeast replication, so even after treatment, fermentation can continue, but the yeast do not reproduce and they eventually die.
For my first step into this technique, I brewed a basic wheat beer.  Once fermentation was done, I then treated 2.5 gallons of the batch with both KMS and Potassium Sorbate.  I made a chunky puree of fresh cherry’s from the corner store with about 2 lbs of Cherries and 2 cups of white sugar.  The puree went into both batches of beer.  The treated beer ended up with a Final Gravity of 1.014, while the untreated beer finished off at 1.011.  To treat the 2.5 gallon batch, I used 3/4 teaspoon of KMS and 2.5 teaspoons of Potassium Sorbate

Untreated (left) vs Treated (right)

Tasting of Treated vs Untreated:

Untreated:

appearance: a hazy pink that has a very white head.  There is almost an orange hue to the pink

nose: A very light scent of wheat with undertones of cherry

flavor: very light in flavor, a slight hop bitterness slips into a dry finish of wheat and cherry.

mouth feel: nice and balanced with a light body, the head does leave quickly but the carbonation is medium

overall: very pleasant summer beer.  The balance of the wheat and cherry works really well and the dry finish.  7.5/ 10

treated:

appearance: the head stays around longer than the untreated beer.  Color is identical

nose: Very similar to the untreated beer, but a very very slight chemical scent is at the end of the nose

Flavor:  that’s definitely sweeter than the untreated. The white sugar sweetness removes the dryness from this beer completely.  The wheat character is also faded.  The Cherry perception is increased.

mouthfeel: a rounder body with that chemical taste that is nearly undetectable. Medium bodied and the carbonation seems higher.

overall:  This worked better than I thought it would, the white sugar and the slight chemical flavor really brought out the carbonation and the cherry flavor.  Next time I will use a different sweetener and less chemicals, but this was a worthwhile endeavor.  This opens up very many possibilities!!!!

This process definitely worked, but it needs a lot of tinkering to make beer that is truly outstanding.  Luckily, I learned a whole lot about this process on my recent visit to Sam Adams. The end product I am hoping to make is a fruit beer that actually tastes sweet enough to be considered a dessert beer, but one that tastes very similar to the fruit used.  This could also really help in my cider, which I have yet to be fully satisfied.  Much more to come.