Tag Archives: Tasting

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!

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

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.

Thai Tea Pale Ale (extract)

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A good friend of mine wanted to get one more batch of brewing in before he moves far far far away to Mississippi and becomes a father.  In a recent adventure, he stumbled upon a thai iced tea that was simply splendid.  He decided to brew an extract pale ale with the thai tea.  A pretty straight forward brew day, with only 1 hop addition of Galaxy at 60 min made this one of the easiest brew days I have had in a very long time.  The tea went directly into the secondary fermentation after we brewed a strong cup of the tea.  We brought it up to a camping trip and the keg went quickly.

Thai tea pale ale

appearance: a light orange brown color that is hazy. poor head

nose: a bunch of esters, but also a lot of tea and mint scents, kind of twangy

flavor: an earthy flavor that is a combination of the full flavored tea and the Galaxy hop bitterness, while dry, it is pleasant.

mouth feel: the tannin pushes the bitterness to a bit of astringency, but is still a very drinkable beer.  medium bodied and needs more carbonation.

overall: not bad for an extract brew. next time, I would like to dry out the beer, ease up on the tea, and hop with an english hop like Willamette. 6.0 / 10

Congratulation Kolsch! a retirement gift for my Dad

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The one on the right is done with work!

My father recently retired from his job of 39 years and a congratulations are in order! As a gift, I brewed up a batch of Kolsch, which was my second, and much improved, stab at this style.  Here are the tasting that my father and I wrote with my muse of a girlfriend.

Kolsch 1.0 on the left, Congratulation Kolsch on the right

kolsch 1.0 (old write up)

Apperance: cloudy and straw yellow

Nose: corn with lemon citrus

Taste: an easy drinker with a lemon taste

Mouthfeel: smooth and low carbed. very light bodied

Overall: much nicer now, the lemon flavor is well muted and very easy to drink

Congratulation Kolsch 2.0

Appearance: Completely clear (I love using Whirfloc) light yellow color

Nose: Very light, with a slight sweetness in the background

Taste: nearly perfectly balanced, an easy round flavor

Mouthfeel: easy drinking summer time light beer

Overall: Really well done, but kinda boring beer.  This beer got it right! 8.9/10

Cheers to my Dad and anyone else who parents worked for too long!

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

Peat Smoked Vienna Lager Tasting

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Peat Smoked Vienna Lager

This is my second time brewing up this beer.  I only use about 3 ounces of peat smoked malt and the rest of the grains is 100% Vienna malt.  The sweetness from the malt and the richness of the smoke go hand in hand very nicely.  I would try to dry this out just a bit more to really feel like this beer is perfect, but a damn good beer already!

Appearance: A yellowish head that hangs around for awhile.  Perfectly clear with an amber copper color.

Nose: A sweet malty nose with only a trace smoke.

Flavor: A malty sweetness comes in the beginning of the taste and stays up front, with the smoke being present but restrained.  A brown sugar taste underneath all the other flavors. Kind of hot from the high alcohol, which was above 8 %

Mouthfeel: A smooth, round flavor that leaves a smoke flavor sitting on the tongue

Overall: This was very nice, I am making this my official Rauch! 8.7/10

Rye Cask Tasting, 1.0 vs 2.0

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When I got my first cask, I quickly put some cheap Canadian rye into it and started aging ASAP. As soon as I could (about 6 weeks), I emptied the cask and put in a cream stout. The cream stout ended up being way over powered by the oak and by the rye, so I stashed away as much as I could and to let them age.

Six months later and there is only 1 bottle left, but a purpose has been found for the last one standing. In an effort to learn from my first attempt, I poured the last stout along side the foreign export stout that I aged in the same cask (which I had since aged with Pendleton Rye for around 5 months). So here is the comparison version 1.0 v 2.0, both were the first beer aged in the cask after the rye was taken out.

My roommates Tom and Justin helped me with this. Justin is cool and Tom is a sommelier

2.0 in the smaller glasses to the left, 1.0 in the taller glasses to the right

Version 1.0 (cream stout, aged 7 months) 5.3 % ABV

APPERANCE: A nice dark brown color that reminds me of raisins

NOSE: Had a big maple syrup and oak nose

TASTE: A sweet bourbon taste (which is weird, this is a rye cask) with a solid oak mid mouth taste. The end gave a faint raspberry with a slight wine character. It seemed like the oak and tannins overpowered this beer, but the age allowed for a real nice mellowing of the flavors

MOUTHFEEL: Good carbonation and a easy initial flavor. The tannins lingered on the back of the tongue

OVERALL: This was a damn good beer, it was a great first attempt at oak aging. Nevertheless, I would beef up the beer in both alcohol and roastiness.

8/10

me and justin, developing our palates

Version 2.0 (foreign export stout, aged about 1 month) 8.0% ABV

APPEARANCE: Completely black, can’t even see light through it.

NOSE: Had an alcohol hot nose, kind of sharp, definitely a roasty scent underneath the hotness.

TASTE: A full bodied stout with a nice light cream flavor. The oak background goes hand in hand with the rye flavor. Underneath is a neutral nutty flavor.

MOUTHFEEL: A wonderful round softness to this beer. Carbonation was perfect and a little higher than normal.

OVERALL: This was a fantastic beer! It will be made again (and already has been)

9/10