Tag Archives: oak

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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New members to the family

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MORE CASKS!!!!

I must thank my friend’s Tom and Simon for these new friends.  Tom picked me up a virgin 2.5 cask with a really gnarly design on it

Dr. Deacon Brody

A mad scientist cask…. that’s gonna be something someday.  I’m planning on making some homemade wine to age this with. should be great!

I also picked up a 5 gallon bourbon cask from Kings Distillery with the help of my friend Simon. Its really surprising how much heavier a 5 gallon cask is when compared to a 2.5 gallon cask.

volume step up #1

This makes my total casks now 6, with two souring beers and four for straight (ish) beer.  The sour beers are in a rye cask and a bourbon cask.  The straight beers will go into a 5 gallon bourbon cask, 2.5 gallon scotch cask, and the hopeful red wine cask.

Peat Smoked Vienna Lager aged in a Scotch Cask

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This was my first attempt at making a smokey scotch influence lager.  It was bottled October 16, 2011 and has aged wonderfully.

Scotch Cask Aged Peat Smoked Vienna Lager

Appearance: A honey brown color with a light tan head.  It is cloudy, but It seems that the cask aging does this to every beer.

Nose: A slight smoke and malt nose.  Very light and pleasant

Taste:  A bread/malty beginning fading into smoke and malt.  A very crisp finish with a smooth and distinct flavor.  At about 6% ABV, this is a beer that can be easily drunk and well as sipped

Mouthfeel: High carbonation but very smooth

Overall: A great balanced beer with a very nice light body and just the right amount of smoke

8.9/10

Blanton’s Cask Brown Ale

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I knew this day would come…..

Blanton’s Brown Ale

After the better part of a year dealing/working with casks, I think I finally made a great beer.  Everything seemed to work just right with this batch.  The brew was a collaboration with my friend Simon, the cask was finally calming down with flavor profile, and it was January and Feb, perfect months for barrel aging in a Brooklyn apartment.

Here it goes, one of my favorite beers to date, even had a  hard time bottling it up to save for aging.

Appearance:  a huge thick tan head.  The color is completely black with a dark brown hue

Nose: A pleasant blend of oak, vanilla, and roastiness. A full dark chocolate flavor undertone

Flavor:  a smooth rise of chocolate with a complex creaminess, it all tasted kinda like a chocolate bourbon oak milkshake, but still had a brown ale taste.  Just a tad sharp from carbonation. totally nice beer to drink

mouthfeel: a big but balanced beer with a complicated mouth, finishes nicely with an oak and chocolate memory

overall: yeessss. make. this. again. but….. WHAT IS THE RECIPE?! time to dig up my brew log

9.4/ 10 : best beer so far on the blog

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...

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!