Thursday, October 1, 2009


Certainly laziness. As stated I planned to only report brews and news I felt significant, unusual, noteworthy in some way. With that thought one would surmise that I have nothing of significance to report since last March! On the contrary! I have been actually quite busy brew wise. Just to lazy to write it down. I knew I would not be very good at this blog thing. Perhaps as the leaves are preparing to fall here I shall turn over a new leaf.

Or not.

Some highlights of what I have been up to since last spring.

Competitions, I have taken ribbons in 3 of them since last Spring. I took a 1st place for my Bitter ol' Woodchuck APA and a 2nd for my Brothers Burly Belgian style Dubbel at the Littleton Homebrew competition in April. I entered the Green Mountain Homebrew comp. for the first time this year and took a 2nd place in the English Brown category for my Quarryman's Mild ale. My latest win was at a brand new competition at the Lancaster fair sponsored by the Granite Cask of Whitefield, NH.. I took home a 1st place for my Fairfax Falls Fog beer (a steam™ beer) in the lager categegory. Another win for my Bitter ol' Woodchuck APA this time bumped to 3rd in the Pale category. Lastly another 1st place in the Harvest cup category for my Ryanna Red. It was a red ale brewed with rye malt and large amounts of my homegrown "wild" hops. An uknown cultivar I have growing from some locally found rhyzomes. The Harvest Cup category is for beers brewed with homegrown ingredients. I had hoped to enter my Gorm Diahbol a traditional Pictish heather ale. Sadly it was not a good year for my heather. I had some dried from last year and a bit of fresh flowers but it was too late by the time they were ready and I really feel fresh is best. Anyhow, the Lancaster fair comp had some really great prizes in addition to the ribbons. Thanks John! The judging sheets were not particularly helpful sadly. Very little commentary mostly just check marks. John reported that some of the judges were perhaps too harsh. I only had one such sheet. The judge slammed my Quarrymans mild a 16/50! The beer that took second at Green Mountain... But no faults were cited?! Oh well. All in all though for the first compitition I think it was really well managed and will certainly enter again. Getting some brews bottled now for the upcoming New England Regional Homebrew comp. in Maine.

Went to the VT. Brewers fest and camped with some friends there. That was a blast. I would say the highlight of the brews there was everything I tasted from Brasserie Dieu du Ciel. FANTASTIC!

Brews. I have kept up brewing, lately not as much as I wanted but I have not been out of beer at least. I attempted meads again this summer. Not very optimistic. Brewed many old favorites and developed some new recipes. Beers of note that I may or may not post about... Smoke in the Sugarhouse! My first smoked ale. I have grown quite fond of smoked beers this summer after trying Schlenkerla Marzen and Urbock. Yum. Mine is a smoked amber ale with a maple flavor. Did my first "wet hop" beer this year. Actually a wet/dry. Wet kettle hops and then dry hops in the keg. I have yet to try it. Another new one for me that is perhaps not noteworthy or unusual is my milk stout. Turned out fantastic though. Barley wine time is coming up and I will certainly update on Mud season Barley wine and soon be dry hopping then tapping the harvest barley wine from last year. That will be on Samhain.

The biggest news (obsession) in my brewing world these days is CIDAH! I took a week long cider making workshop with English cidermaker Peter Mitchell this past August. It was fantastic. Learned a lot and got to meet some great folks in the cider/orchard business in VT. as well as some other homebrewers. I would like to thank Eleanor and Albert Leger of Eden Ice Cider for their work in bringing this workshop here to VT and especially for letting me know about it! There ice cider is superb, definitely check it out if you see it.

I have done a lot of reading and research online about cider and particularly presses and scratters. There is some good info but I feel there is nowhere near as much as there could be. Certainly not the glut of info here is on beer. So I suspect I will put in my 2¢ if I don't flake out again.

Okay, well feast or famine right? Guess I'll leave it at that for now.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Birdseye Barley wine. Mud season.

wow. It sure took a while to write this up. Well, at least I posted the pictures promptly...

Let's see if I can remember what happened!

Okay, here we have some of the partially boiled maple sap. I was a bit negligent in keeping track of the total amount of sap I actually boiled as I was adding it rather haphazrdly as the boil progressed. It was at least 20 gallons. The finished amount was... um, 9.50 gallons (according to my notes.). It tasted wicked good (note the sample glass) maple yes, but more like light caramel/vanilla. Pleasantly light and sweet. I could drink this as is! Thinking about making some maple soda next year...
Here we have the gravity reading for my partially boiled strike/sparge water (sap). It came out to be 8 degrees brix or a specific gravity of 1.028. I had a real brain melt trying to figure out how to account for this initial sugar in my recipe calculations. I ended up plugging 1 lb. 8 oz. pure cane sugar into the recipe to stand in for the sap. Calcs in the program called for 10 gallons of actual water (1/2 gallon more than I had) so I boiled some extra spring water just in case I needed to adjust.
I am now adding to this many months later. I am a bit fuzzy on the details so... I know I have notes somewhere, just have to find my notebook. Perhaps I will update again. Anyway, with the facts I do have from my computer I will sketch out what happened. My preboil gravity target was 1.075. My sugar substitution in the recipe formulation was a bit off the mark in accounting for the sap as my actual preboil gravity was 1.088! I could have diluted at this point but I did not bother.
lots o' hops. Yum. I used both homegrown and some pellet hops I bought. With the higher gravity I probably should have added more. I may have... But I have no record at the moment
Now I ended up with less volume in the end as well. I had 5.88 gallons and was aiming for 6.25 gallons. So, of course my OG ended up also significantly higher at 1.112! Target was only 1.090. Now looking at this photo and seeing I had 5.5 in the fermenter I surely must have diluted? With all that hop matter it is doubtful I could have gotten 5.5 from 5.88. If so, I wonder what the OG was actually?!?! Oh where are my notes!

Anyway, the yeast cake from the altbier did the trick again. Carboy go BOOM! Not sure why I thought I could get away without a blow-off. Or then again, I think I did have a blow-off originally it was just so violent it actually blew off the blow-off tube and carboy cap? Whatever the case it was a MESS!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Birdseye Barley wine Mud Season begins today!

I have collected 18.75 gallons of sap thus far. I have not done any collecting today yet so hopefully I will get my full 20 gallons by the end of the day. For now though the brew is on!

Well, the reduction of the brewing liquor (the sap) is anyway. I have been collecting the sap and storing it in my converted keg and a plastic bucket. I removed a few gallons from the keg and currently have a nice rolling boil going of 12 gallons. I have been skimming the surface every now and again. Seems I read that is the practice of sugar producers. I will have to investigate that later. I plan to add a little more at intervals throughout the afternoon until it is all in the pot. Pot only holds 15.5 gallons so I figured I would keep the volume down to lessen the likelihood of boil overs.

By the end I aim to have 9.5-10 gallons that I will use to mash and sparge my grains tomorrow.

Observations from the sugarbush

As I stated earlier this is my first time collecting sap from maple trees. As such I have tried to be as observant and inquistitive as possible so I could learn. I have taken regular hydrometer reading and volumes to get a feel for how things "flow". Thus far everything has been pretty steady sugar content wise with an average of 3.5-4 degrees brix. The volume collected each day has certainly been flucuating though. Very much dependent on the temperatures. Some days I get a almost 2 gallons from my 5 taps. One day where it was nice and bitterly cold at night then up into the forties the next day I got 5 gallons!

These observations are all things that are obviously well documented and I have read about or been told directly. However it really makes more sense and I get a better feel experienceing it first hand. Another such observation is the wisdom of removing the frozen sap when collecting. It made sense to me somewhat but I had to test it out. The idea is that you are concentrating the sap collected because the frozen bits are more water than sugar content as water will freeze before the sugar in solution. Makes sense but I had to test it out a couple of times.

My results lead me to the conclusion that while that may very well be important and useful to those making sugar/syrup it was not that important to me making beer. The first time I collected my sap and removed the ice I found the sap with ice removed was about 4.5 brix. So, yeah it was a bit higher. Once the ice had melted and come up to temperature for an accurate reading on my hydrometer (60°F) I measured that as well. It was not completely negligible in my mind. It was about 1.5 Brix. Yes much lower but not completely water. The second time I got similar results, a bit higher at 2 brix. It amounted to 1 quart. So I reduced it for kicks down to 1 pint resulting in a reading of 4.75 brix or 1.016 SG. I then further reduced it to about, oh, 5 TBS! Resulting in 20 brix (1.078 SG) and it was wonderful! Not quite syrup strength but sweet and tasty!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Latest labels

There is an homebrew competition coming up on April 4th over in Littleton, NH. So in preparation for that I have been making some new labels for the brews I am entering. Plus it was good motivation to start the process of my overall redesigning of my labels. I did not have the time to carve and print new labels. I did not want to rush that this time around as I did for my first set. So as a compromise I drew them with pencil, scanned them and worked with photoshop. I added color in photoshop and used some old (and not so old) family photos as well. Later they will be engravings/woodcuts when I am satisfied with the designs and I have the time to work on them.

The last one there I did my best to make the photo appear old. I am no photoshop whiz by any means so, I know it is not very believable. I am pretty proud of one part of the job though. "Old" Ernest there was not looking spiffy enough dress wise in the original photo so I did a little dress up with him. I "borrowed" an old daguerreotype portrait I found online, more specifically I borrowed the clothes of the person in the image and put them on my bro. So if you recognize the attire as a distant relative of yours, thanks for the loan, very sharp, just what I needed.

I'll post a picture once they are on the bottles. I designed these specifically for the short stubby type bottles that breweries such as Sierra Nevada, North Coast and Boulevard Brewing use as I like those bottles and have a pretty good collection of them. Yes, though I keg I still have a plentiful amount of bottles. These will be going on plain old long necks though for the competition.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Some art...

Since part of this blog is supposed to be about my printmaking as it relates to my homebrewing anyway, it is past due that I post some artwork.

I have sadly not been very productive in the print/art interests in my life lately. I have been working slowly on redesigning my beer label design. I will post my progress, but first I will revisit my first attempts.

The following are my first hand-printed woodcut/engraving labels. The second one was awarded honorable mention in the BYO magazine homebrew label competition in 2006.

These both are printed from multiple blocks to print each individual color. They are a combination of linoleum block, woodcut, and wood engraving. This was only my second serious attempt at wood engraving. The results were a bit wonkier than I would desire. It is not really up to my usual standard. It was a start though.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

0.6 or 6 no big diffeence eh?

Ah man! I was at my local homebrew supply store today. I noticed the Northern Brewer hops were labeled as 10.6% Alpha Acid. I bought some of these a couple of weeks back when they had just came in before he had repacked them in 1 oz. packs. I verified with the owner that this 10.6% batch is indeed the same I had purchased. Problem here is that the 4 oz. package he made for me was labeled as 6%!!!

So, I now have a hop bomb Altbier!

He said he just grabbed an old label at the time and forgot to check it! Man, when will I learn! This is not the first time I have been given the wrong information. Really makes me wonder what the heck I am actually buying sometimes. Their prices are excellent and no shipping but is it worth it...

Well, that is not the only problem with this altbier I guess. I forgot to mention in my previous post how my efficency suddenly crashed on that batch. I went from 80% or above to 69%. Not sure what happened. I am wondering if it had to do with the age of the grains. I ended up with low gravities. Well, I really just wanted the yeast anyway!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

An emergency yeast cake.

So after I tapped my maples in preparation for my next barley wine I realized I was missing something. I do not not have a yeast cake of California ale yeast to pitch onto. I realize I could make a huge starter or several packets of yeast, since I am using SafAle US-05, however I feel like the yeast cake is best. Simply because I had such great success using that method with my first barley wine. So what to do? Well, brew up a batch quick. I have no idea how long it will take me to collect enough sap but I can let the batch sit for my usual 3 weeks, or if per chance I collect enough sap sooner (say a week or week and a half) I can rack it off sooner.

So, last Saturday I brewed up a 5 gallon batch of Altbier. I had been toying with brewing this for a while as a means of using up some grains I had that I did not see using and had been around for a bit too long. Namely some Munich, a lb. of melanoidin, and some Caramunich. All seemed reasonable ingredients if not totally tradtional for an alt. The plan was to use what I had and not buy anything new. So, I used some chocolate for color (rather than a more traditional debittered carafa) and some US-05 as a neutral clean yeast. Most importantly I would have that yeast cake!

I won't go into too much detail as I mainly made this for the yeast to harvest. Also I normally do not brew any German beers and I feel I hardly have anything helpful to offer anyone in that regard.

The recipe for Reste Altbier (remainders altbier)
3 lb. 8 oz. Marris otter (I believe pilsner would have been a more tradtitional choice)
3 lb. Munich malt
1 lb. Melanoidin (makes up somewhat for the fact that I did not decoct?)
12 oz. of Caramunich II
8 oz. of Carared
2 oz. of Chocolate malt (again carafa would have been a more authentic choice)

43 g of Northern brewer (6 %AA) at 60 minutes.
3 g Irish moss at 15 minutes.
Mashed at 150°F for 60 minutes. Boil for 90 minutes.

Ferment at 68F (until the yeast is needed...) Then cold condition for 2 weeks.

Barley wine here I come!

The Wee Heavy Scotch ale.

The final installment in my Scottish ale succession. This will likely take the place of my previous Scotch ale in using the name "Wicked Auld Thistles" ale. It has taken me a while to sit down and right this one up. I brewed it on February 28. Wish I had typed this up while it was still fresh in my mind... Alas, I did not, so here we go.

Was a bit off on this one. As usual with all the different things I have going on I cannot easily pinpoint where things went awry. First things first though. Recipe and procedures.

16 lb. 8 oz. of Marris Otter malt (99%)
2.75 oz. of Roasted barley (1 %)

28 g of Golding hops @ 60 Minutes
7 g of Golding hops @ 45 minutes*

3 g Irish moss @ 15 minutes

Mashed at 158°F for 60 minutes

*a slight deviation from the overall scheme here. It needed more hops obviously to balance the higher gravity. I decided to add some at 45 minutes instead of all at 60 minutes. I figure this will provide some needed hop character without too much flavor. This will be so big, sweet, and chewy that it will need a touch of more hop presence to balance it differently.

Collected 1 gallon of first runnings and reduced it (caramelized) to about 1 quart. Collected an additional 7.25 gallons of wort (which measured 1.055). Boiled total of 7.5 gallons of wort with a preboil gravity of 1.064 (on target) for 120 minutes (2 hours)

Chilled down to about 54° F and pitched onto the yeast cake of my last Scottish ale brewed, Bompa Bristle's 80/- (shilling). Maintained a temp of no higher than 60°F.

Where did things go amiss? Well it was not too bad. Started off with an unwatched pot syndrome on the caramelized wort. It was steadily reducing away. Not too fast. Alas, I learned that when it gets down to the end it is more prone to boil over. I lost an unknown amount. Regardless my preboil gravity was spot on. Though my preboil volume was a quart low. Unfortunately I did not learn my lesson wit the first boil over. The brew kettle then also boiled over at the commence of boil. Again, unknown volume lost, though according to my volume stick it was not too much.

I then apparently missed the pot with my second hop addition. I was late adding these at 39 minutes. Some of the hops remained on the rim of the keggle. I flicked them in when I was adding the Irish moss and chiller at 12 minutes. Yes I was late adding those... So, I may end up with some inappropriate hop flavor/aroma but I think it was small enough that it will not be perceptible. Especially with the aging this will be getting.

Finally, I was off on my OG. I ended up with a gravity of 1.082 instead of 1.090. I guess I waited to post this because I am still scratching my head over some of these variables. I ended up with 5.50 gallons in the kettle as predicted. It appeared? I measure after it was cool. However I only was able to transfer 5 gallons and there was maybe a quart when I scooped out the remainder to try and funnel/strain more in. There was not that much hop or break material, so where did that other quart go? Maybe I need to recalibrate my volume stick. I pitched onto about a ½ gallon of yeast (and trub) from the previous batch. So I have 5.50 gallons in the fermenter in the end.

Other than that things have gone well. Fermentation took of vigorously within a few hours on the cake and I was able to maintain temps better this time. Only slight fluctuations up and down but mostly steady for the first 36 hours or so.

I also attempted to collect a second batch of beer from the grains to make a two penny ale. However I sparged with too much water. I added 5 gallons of 170°F water to the mash after my intial wort collected. I ended up with 4.5 gallons of wort with a SG of 1.012. Way too low to bother with I figured. Perhaps with better planning it could have worked but it was an after thought.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Wow! Chocolatey goodness!

I settled on racking the Mayan Imperial Stout to a keg to age and infuse. I racked it on Sunday (2 days ago) and added the following. 3 oz. of cacao nibs, 1/2 a vanilla bean slit in half, 2 dried ancho peppers, 1 dried pasilla pepper, and for "the kick" half of an habanero (fresh) deseeded and deveined. I put the dry peppers in whole and straight into the beer. The cacao nibs and vanilla bean I placed in a mesh bag to prevent clogging the diptube and the habanero was in a stainless steel "tea ball" so I could remove it separately if things got too hot. I ended up with about what I expected volume wise after transferring, about 2.5 gallons. Well a bit less perhaps... There was probably about 2.25 quarts of trub/cocoa/yeast sludge.

Tasted it today. I was a bit nervous that 1/2 a habanero was perhaps too much to start. So I tasted it so I could remove the pepper. So far, it tastes fantastic! Even better than it did at the gravity check last week. Wicked chocolatey! Not fake sickly chocolate liqueur flavor either. No taste of pepper yet, either heat or flavor. My only concern is that it is not mixed and the pepper heat/flavor did not come through in the sample collected. I used a picnic tap. Time will tell...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

More sappy news.

Well it did not get quite cold enough last night. The sap flow has slowed greatly. However, I managed to collect about 1 gallon total from all. It measures a specific gravity of 1.011 or 3.5 degrees brix. I am not used to using the brix scale but I believe that means it is about 3.5 % sugar by weight? I will figure it out as I go. One gallon (roughly measured) weighs just over 8 pounds. Why does that matter? Well, at this point it does not. When I have collected enough and reduced it then it will. The best way I could determine to figure for the extract contribution of this sap in my barley wine recipe was to take a gravity reading and a sample weight then add it t the ingredients list in my brewing software. The software uses ingredient weight and potential extract (amount of sugars an ingredient will contribute) to determine the amounts of ingredients and the likely outcome based on the efficiency of your brewing setup. Anyway, here it is.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The sap is running!!!

Yeah! I am stoked!

Okay, I am going to totally betray my flatlanderness here. I am really excited about this and I can't pretend that this is not totally cool. I cannot believe I have gone this long without collecting maple sap. A big thanks to my friend Javin for his guidance and for loaning me some equipment to get started. I tapped my two trees today.

Here are the trees.
Here is the equipment. Thanks again to Javin for the collection buckets and the spiles (spouts)

the spiles...
Okay, yes I feel a bit sheepish about purchasing a hand drill for this. I admit the "old fashioned" way did appeal to me but it was not completely impractical. I would have used a cordless drill but I do not own a functioning one. I suppose I could have run extension cords all the way out to the back of the yard but come on. I also could have bought a $200 cordless drill that will probably be useless in a year or so or have obsolete batteries that are no longer available... Alright maybe it was impulsive, but I am not ashamed! Well, maybe a little... However, I like my new hand drill and it performed beautifully!
Note the tape on the bit to mark the depth (1.5")
tapping it in.

It began to drip as soon as I drilled. First hole I was not quite practiced with my new drill and I got the bit stuck in the tree. I was excited though as the sap began dripping down the bit. Tastes good.

Finally put some makeshift lids over the buckets and we are good to go! I may add one more tap to the wider tree tomorrow. I thought I would include my son in the process and let him help with that one. Now it is time to get down to figuring out my barley wine plan! Hooray!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Bompa is in the keg...

So last Saturday saw the brewing of the final Scottish ale in the series, the Scotch or wee heavy ale. Racked ol' bomper, the 80/- to keg and pitched on the yeast cake. Any concerns of the yeast being pooped out where quickly vanquished as only a few hours after pitching it was fermenting away quite vigorously at 60F. Much more active than any of the previous brews have ever been and much quicker. I'll have a new post about that brew day at some point when I get the time.

Xocolatl gravity check

So I checked the gravity and did a bit of tasting yesterday on my Mayan Imperial Stout. It has been in the fermenter about a month as of this coming Friday. So far so good. Gravity is at 1.024 for an attenuation of 73%. Pretty much right on.
Taste wise it is surprisingly drinkable for something so big and still so young. Chocolate flavor was evident especially in the bitter character I was hoping for. There was some flavor present that was not quite desirable but it is young. I could not pinpoint what it was and it was not really bad so I will just consider it to be an age issue, meaning too young... Nice and roasty overall.

I did a bit of playing with adding some drips of the pepper infused vodka as well and it helped to imagine the character the pepper will add. Again not so much heat but more a fruity rich flavor from the peppers. I am fairly certain now I will add some small amount of fresh scotch bonnet peppers (- the seeds and ribs) for a touch of spice.

So next step is to transfer it to a clean vessel for doing the infusion of chili's, vanilla beans, and cacao nibs. I feel like I did achieve the chocolate flavor I want but I do not think adding some cacao will hurt. I had a new thought about what vessel to transfer to. Since it is only 3 gallons; or probably only 2.5 after racking, I am hesitant to transfer to another 5 gallon simply because it is not producing much CO2 at this point. Therefore there will be potentially a lot of air in the headspace that could oxidize. I am hesitant to transfer to one gallon jugs because I want to keep it all together for infusing. Though it could be good to try different amounts in each... Anyway my thought is to transfer to a corny and then top it off/purge with CO2. Lot's of CO2 used but it is worth it to protect the beer. I don't think it will be a problem as far as it becoming carbonated as it will be stored cool and not cold. I guess I will have to top it up now and then... I don't know. Decisions decisions. Not sure I can spare the corny either as I only have 3 empty at the moment and I have 4 beers in the fermenters including this one. Guess it may be time to do some bottling from some kegs! Man, I have a lot of brew stuff to do! Hey, I ain't complainin'!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

stay on target... Stay on TARGET....

So, the final installment in my Scottish ale series is nearly time. The new revised plan is to pitch the Scotch ale (wee heavy) on the cake of the 80/- which will be ready to keg on Friday. I am feeling some uncertainty at this point thus the following ramblings. Perhaps posting my thoughts will help to solidify my process. Not that anyone will read it, but just the fact that someone could read it will perhaps whip things into a more definite plan.

With the realization that this big brew is looming I have reviewed my progress thus far again. Looking back I realize that I did not pay attention to the grists ratios so much. I started to calculate the wee heavy and I realized I have used 2% roasted barley on each of the earlier brews. What does that mean? Well, I am not sure. I have read that 1% is a good amount when taking this simple grist approach, i.e. pale malt, roast barley and kettle caramelization. My very first brew the 60/- turned out really well with the 2%. Which being a small brew would seem to suggest that it was not too great an amount. I mean, if any of the brews would show too much roast character it would be the lightest I would think. No, what got me thinking was the 70/-. It shows a bit more roast character and has a character that is not quite as appealing as the 60/-. I have yet to determine what. Could merely be age. So I find myself sticking to 1% on this recipe though that will make me deviate from the others in the series.

It is necessary of course to change certain aspects as the gravity rises. I have a bit of trepidation about pitching onto the 80/- cake as well. It should be no problem if all has gone well. It is really only the 3rd generation (I think?) of this yeast (first the 60/- then a starter from washed yeast into the 80/- then this one) and each brew has been relatively small and very low hop rates. I will take a hydrometer reading tomorrow and taste taste of the 80/-. If anything jumps out as being wicked funky I suppose I can always postpone the brew and build a big healthy starter from the remaining washed yeast.

The other change I am thinking of making is in the hopping schedule. I am looking at an OG of around 1.082 or so (still fiddling with the amounts) so I am considering 2 hop additions. I do not really want to add hop flavor per se but perhaps some more hop presence to counter all this malt. So I am thinking 1 oz. of goldings at 60 then a quarter or so at 45 minutes. Should not really add flavor so much but I am hoping add some edge to help balance.

Okay, well, back to the brew preparations for now.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Unseasonable warmth has me thinking... Barley wine?


It has been a rather warm February so far this year. Temperatures have me thinking of the next season usually not due til mid march or so. Yup, you got it. Mud season. Also known as sugaring time up in these parts. So why am I thinking barley wine? Glad you asked, 'cause if you didn't I would tell you anyway.

First I will say that my fondness for barley wine transcends season. Most folks including breweries seem to think it a winter time indulgence only. They seem to think it is only appropriate in cold weather. Not me. I can and do enjoy it all times a year. 'Course, Vermont isn't exactly known for unbearable hot weather, so maybe that is why I like it here so much. So I can always enjoy my barley wine!

It being late winter it is still appropriate to be brewing up some barley wine. It won't really be truly ready until this time next year. But I am not ready to brew it yet. Nope. However this second batch will require some planning and some advice. So I need to start now before the mud and the sap start flowing. The reason is the sap. This second barley wine concoction will utilize, yup, that's right maple sap as the brewing liquor. I have no experience sugaring so I will enlist the advice of a friend in this regard. The plan is to tap the two maples in my yard and collect as much sap as I can. Hopefully at least 20 gallons. The trees I have are either sugar (rock) maple or red maple. Hopefully the former but the latter will suffice for my purposes. I also have a couple silver maples which I may consider in the future. They won't yield nearly as high a sugar content but that is not as important for my purposes.

I plan to collect as much as I can as stated, and then boil it down to the amount required for my liquor for 5 gallons. So about 8-10 gallons or so. I will then take a gravity reading and determine a weight so I can plug it in as an ingredient in Beer Alchemy. Then I will use it for my strike and sparge liquor. Should be an interesting event. I realize it may merely be a novel way of doing things and may not provide any special flavors but I am willing to give it a go for novelty sake if nothing else. I am not the first to do so and I surely won't be the last.

More to come as this plan develops.

Barley wine!

Oh yes. I love Barley wine. Especially the American take on this wonderful style of beer. With its huge malt and explosively bitter, yet balanced, hop abundance. Ah.

I have become quite passionate about the style over the last couple of years. Of the limited number of examples I have had the pleasure to enjoy my current top 3 favorites are Old Ruffian by Great Divide Brewing, Bigfoot by Sierra Nevada (which I am sipping as I type) and yes, the excellent "new" kid, the Vermonster by Rock Art brewing. Anyone think there are better ones out there, please send me some!

I have dreamed of one day being worthy to brew this favorite of mine. I was intimidated to say the least. Yet, it had to be done. I can't really afford not too as much as I enjoy this style! I mean really, I can't afford it! So, I prepared myself as best I could. Read up as many tips and tricks as I could and I did it this past fall.

It went well. How the finshed product will be remains to be tasted. I am going to sit on it until next November. Here is a rundown:

OG was 1.094
Gravity at time of kegging was 1.017
So I got 80.2% attenuation

10.3% ABV
102 IBU's calculated. That may be higher than actual. I used a combination of store bought Magnum and Millenium pellet hops for the bittering charge at 60 minutes. The rest of the flavor and aroma additions were homegrown Cascade and Centennial. I will also be dry hoping with some Amarillo pellets at some point.

Grist was simple. Marris Otter, Crystal 60 and CaraRed. With 1 quart of Grade B maple Syrup added at flameout.

So far so good. It is sitting in my cool brew room at about 58F in a keg right now. As the basement warms up I may move it to the kegerator if it gets too warm. It can get to be 70-75 in the summer unfortunately.

Trying to keep my posts shorter. I realize they are rather long winded so far. Guess I need to chop them up a bit. I am new to this. It is tough to gauge without feedback. I realize I may not get much if any so... Have to figure out what works best for me I guess.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Flavoring experiment

So as planned I am doing some experiments to determine how to best add the desired amounts of chili and cocoa/cacao flavors to my Mayan Imperial Stout. This past weekend I did my first trial. It is as scientific as I get folks...

So I set out my tools and my first two flavoring agents along with a "sample" beer. I grabbed a 6 pack of Saranac Imperial Stout for my sample beer. It is a fairly decent Imperial Stout and yet economical for my purposes... Usually I have been underwhelmed by Saranac in the past but this one is pretty nice. It will stand in adequately for my base beer. The idea behind this first trial was to make infusions of the flavors by soaking them in vodka. Then determine the amount necessary to add of the vodka infusion on a small scale and then scale it up for the finished amount of beer.
What we have here: The two half pint mason jars have from left to right cocoa and an ancho chili pepper that have been infused in cheap vodka for about a week and a half. Measuring spoons to dole out 1 oz. (2 TBS.) at a time of the base beer. A medicine syringe grabbed for free at the local chain pharmacy. My handy kitchen calculator. A small snifter glass for sampling. A glass of the base beer to serve as the "control beer" and lastly my hand notebook for scrawling down gibberish I will hopefully be able to decipher later!

I started with the ancho. Thinking on it now the cocoa probably would have been the better one to start with... My procedure for all the tasting was to measure out 1 oz. of beer into the snifter and then add measured amounts of the infused vodka from the syringe. Stir. Taste and make notes. Start over with an fresh ounce of beer and additional amounts of the flavoring until I reached a point I thought good.

The results. 1 ml of the Ancho infusion in 1 ounce of beer provided a perceptible flavor of the chili. Nice dark fruitiness, not much heat. I am still considering chili combinations. 1.5 ml gave good flavor as well though the vodka was starting to be noticeable.

The cocoa took a bit more to have an effect. It did not register until 3 ml and then some flavor and a bit of aroma were there, though the vodka was asserting itself as well. At 4 ml it was beginning to taste like I added creme de cacao (think Young's Double Chocolate Stout) and the vodka was certainly noticeable.

My conclusions. I think this helped me to get a little better grasp on what I am going to do. I liked the notion of using spirits (vodka) to make my own flavor infusions or extracts as it were. It seemed to be a good method of controlling the amount of flavoring without as much element of chance. However I have concluded that I do not like the idea of adding vodka into the beer. It is perceptible to me even if it would be a small amount. I want this to bee about the beer. I think there should be enough alcohol in the beer itself to extract the flavors I want. It may take more amount wise and time wise but I do not like the idea of "fortifying" my beer with cheap liquor. I have had beers flavored with extracts/liqueurs and could tell they were there. I think this is a good way to play with flavorings though and it will help me to get closer to deciding what amounts to add. I believe I will infuse some more things in the manner and do similar taste trials. The other thought that occurs to me is to infuse small amounts in some of the Saranac IS in a jar. It will be flat after sitting but it will give me a better idea of how soaking the ingredients in actual beer will play out.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Bompa Bristles' 80/- (export)

This is the third installment and the last of the regular Scottish shilling ales. This one's named for me Da. My son calls his granddad's bompa...

27, January, 2009

I got a starter going today from the harvested yeast! Pitched some yeast I washed from the 60/- into a pint of wort that I thawed. I will add another pint later to step it up. This will be for Bompa Bristle's 80/- ale. I'll try and get the grains weighed today and other stuff set up. Perhaps I will do a 10 gallon batch this time... Hmmmm. Maybe not though, that would throw off the project some. I suppose it is better to keep the variables the same for comparisons sake. I will post the recipe when I am closer to brew time. Should be the same mostly. Just more MO and maybe a touch more roasted barley for some deeper color. I did bump it a touch in the last one.

8, February, 2009

Okay. So life happens and I did not get to it when planned. Had to chill the starter down. Decanted and added another pint to get it going again before actually brewing.

Bompa Bristle's 80/- ale is happily chugging away at 60F in the basement. Got to brew it on Friday (plus 13 gallons of other beers last week!!). Went much smoother this time around. With 9 lb. 2.5 oz. grain bill, the floating lid, a higher water to grist ration and a much higher strike water temp I actually had to cool it down a few degrees this time. I am thinking the grain weight was probably the biggest factor in having an easier time. It must be at the lower threshold of weight my system can take.

So. Recipe and changes this time around.

9 lb. of Marris Otter
2.5 oz. of roasted barley.

28 g of Golding hops.

Mash temp I went for 158F this time to give it lots of chewiness. I actually ended up with 61F after using a strike temp of 182. So I poured some cool water in and stirred until it cooled. Ended up with 159. Left it there as I figured it would drop some and it did. Was reading 156F to 158F at the end of the hour depending on the part of the tun I took the temp from.

Caramelized again as usual. Cold temps outside (single digits I did not write down the exact temp) made the reduction happen much quicker. I ended up reducing to 1.125 quarts. Had one nasty boil over too as I got a bit impatient at the end and messed with the nice boil i had going. Then left it... Not sure how much was lost there but I achieved my preboil gravity and was not over as I had been in the past. OG ended up being

Volumes were all spot on and transfer was much smoother with the auto siphon.

Got a bit of good reading material as I gear up for the final installment. Scotch Ale #8 in the Classic Beer Style Series by Greg Noonan. I highly recommend it.

Here is the book with a recent glass acquisition
Okay so it is my 70/- and not a wee heavy...

Charles 70/- (Heavy)

That brings us to the second installment of the succession of Scottish ales.

12 December, 2008

I will be shooting for 1 point higher on temp this time @ 156F. I figure I will want some slight changes other than gravity so I am adding a tiny tiny bit more roast barley for a little more color. Like a 1/4 oz. Also, I will attempt to reduce the first runnings this time on the propane burner still using the heavier bottomed pot. Hopefully that will reduce the time it takes without scorching it.

Other than that process should all be same.

Charles' 70/-

80% brewhouse efficiency (fairly certain it is this high now. Hard to tell with these batches but others have bared that out.)

7 lb. Marris Otter
2.25 oz. Roasted barley

.23 g Kent Goldings @ 60 minutes
3 g Irish moss @ 15 minutes.

Single step mash @ 156F for 60 minutes.

Collect one gallon of first runnings. Boil to carmelize down to one quart.

Collect 7.50 gallons of additional wort.

Boil for 120 minutes (2 hours)

Chill to low 60's and pitch a quart of Wyeast 1728 starter from yeast harvested from initial batch of 60/-

Ferment @ 60F for 2.5-3 weeks. Crash and cold condition for a further 2 weeks.

16 December, 2008

Took me a few days to "recover" before posting this next installment. it was another LONG brew day.

Alright as stated I attempted to compensate for the small amount of grist in my tun this time around. I used a floating top made from a scrap of 2" extruded foam insulation left over from my fermentation chiller wrapped in aluminum foil. I also used a higher water to grist ratio this time going with 1.40 quarts per lb rather than 1.25 like i did last time. I also preheated the tun with boiling water bringing the temp to 90F (let it cool a bit) and plugged that number into my software for the room temp. I then used 2.50 gallons of water @ 170F.

The result? I still missed by 6 degrees.

Using the step mash calculator on the Green Bay Rackers site to determine how to raise it.
I added 1 qt. of boiling water and it raised the temp to 153F

I added .60 qt. of boiling water and got NO CHANGE!

Then I got frustrated and pulled 1 qt. of wort off and boiled that. Rose to 154.5

Boiled another 2 Qt.s and it shot up to 162F!!!

Added one ice cube and stirred. FINALLY stabilized at 156!


Thinking a smaller tun might be worth it for these smaller beers.

Now for the caramelizing. It took an hour last time to caramelize the first gallon so it held up the whole show.

I decided to use the same heavy bottom pot this time but on the propane burner instead. It seemed to go faster (sadly I was distracted and did not time it) however I had lots of boil overs.

For sh!ts and giggles I took a gravity reading of both the caramelized wort and the wort collected after to see.

Regular wort was 1.021. Caramelized wort was off the hydrometer. OVER 1.170! Basically I made my own LME it was so thick.

Combinded they gave me a preboil gravity of 1.029. Should have been 1.026!

Like I said earlier, flying by the seat of my pants here.

The boil was fairly uneventful. I did not boil too vigorously considering how high I already was gravity wise.

Chilled it down nice and quick. Was helpful that it was in the single digits outside.

Still trying to work out the numbers here. I was left with 5.25 gallons so a quart short. I put one quart in the fermenter of boiled and chilled water as my gravity was @ 1.042.

I had WICKED siphon problems. Thinkin' I may get over my fear of plastic and buy an auto siphon! Eventually I will get a weldless spigot for my keggle but the autosiphon is looking good right now.

I added at least a quart of water trying to start/restart the siphon!

Twas fine as my OG ended up being only one point high at 1.039, but man what a mess.

I poured the whole quart of starter (approx. a quart I do not have an exact measure on that) and I ended up with 5.25 gallons in the fermenter?!

Still trying to figure it all out. I measured the amount left in the kettle and it was about a half gallon along with trub and hops.

Fermenting slowly again but surely. Temp is a bit lower at 57F. I tried to keep it down so it did not take off again like last time but it has made it a bit slower and cooler. All Sunday I had mostly just a slowly forming layer of yeast then slowly the kraeusen builds. Bubbling nicely.

No hydro sample ferment this time

17 December, 2008
Temp got a bit away from me yesterday morning (day 3) up to 64F. Temperature here has been unseasonably warm but it is back to normal now. Anyway, I corrected it with some ice in the water bath. It is now steady at 60F

27 January, 2009
Charles's 70/- was racked to keg on the 11th. I just put it in the kegerator last night and put on the gas. Prior to that it has been sitting in my cold room in the low to mid forties F. I temporarily took the gas off the 60/- to do this. I am trying not to drink any more 60/- until I bottle some to save. It is hard because it is really tasty.

Ernests' 60/- ale (light)

The first brew was Ernests' 60/- ale (light). Here is the rundown and the notes of how it went as it happened.

Measuring efficiency on this series is beyond my mental capacity it seems. I am generally getting an 80% and up efficiency these days. However with this series I am unsure how to accurately measure due to the fact that I am caramelizing the first gallon of runnings down to 1 quart. Essentially making my own LME! I took a gravity reading of it on the second brew and it was off the scale on my hydrometer!

6 lb. 4 oz. of Marris Otter
2 oz. roasted barley

Mash at 155F for 60 minutes

Collect one gallon and boil down to 1 quart in a separate pot. Collect rest of run-off and sparge.

Boil for 2 hours (120 minutes) adding 21 g (.75 oz) of Golding pellet hops at 60 minutes.

3 g Irish moss at 15 minutes.

Cool to the mid 60's and pitch decanted starter.

Ferment at (hopefully) 62F for 3 weeks. Rack to keg and condition cold (low 50's or maybe in the kegerator) for 2-3 more weeks. Force carb for a week at 1 volume to start. Maybe raise it higher to taste. I am still trying to work out the "perfect" carbonation for these styles that is close to authentic.

That was the plan. Here was the reality:
Brew day 22 November, 2008

Had some trouble hitting my mash temp with this small grain bill. My mashtun is a 48 qt. "ice cube" cooler. Next time I will try preheating, using a "floating top" to reduce dead space, and using a slightly higher water to grist ratio. I used my usual 1.25 qt./lb. this time.

I wanted a mash temp of 155 and I got 149. I won't go into the details but I tried unsuccessfully to correct it. May be a bit thin in the end. (It was, but still highly drinkable)

Here it is 1 gallon of first runnings boiling on the stove. I decide to boil on the stove and use a smaller heavy bottomed pot (SS with encapsulated AL) so it would no be too hot and not scorch. I have tried this technique with my propane burner in a thinner pot before and had some wicked scorching.
Here it is about an hour later (okay maybe I will use the heavier pot on the propane burner next time!) reduced to about 1 quart.

and here we have a little over quart of thick syrup wort. yum.

My preboil gravity was a bit high at 1.026 (should have been 1.023.) and I am not sure if that is to do with the caramelization which the brew software does not allow for or my ever increasing efficiency. Perhaps a combination of the 2 as I have been seeing my efficiency climb the last few brews.

I collected 7.50 gallons (least I thought I did???) after the intial first runnings so I would have a grand total of 7.75 to get me through the 2 hour boil. I started the boil as I was waiting for the caramelization to finish. When I measured after adding the quart I had 7.50??? I do not think I evaporated a quart in the time it was coming up to boil but who knows.

I boiled for 2 hours as planned, but tried to maintain a fairly easy boil/simmer so as not to end up too high of a SG. I was pretty much on target volume wise and about 4 points too high @ 1.036. Slightly over the mark for a Scottish light. So I added 1 qt. of boiled/cooled water I had waiting knowing I may be high. OG ended up being 1.033. Not too bad. Should have been 1.032.

I had crash cooled the starter and decanted about 1 qt. off. I poured some into the brew pot right before racking and then dumped the thick slurry into the carboy. It was cooled to 64F. Set it down in the brew room in a tub of water and closed the door. Closing the door will make the ambient about mid 50's which will hopefully maintain a nice cool 62F Ferment. Then when initial ferment cools down it will bring it down in the mid fifties for a nice cool malty conditioning.

24 November , 2008

This is certainly going to be a learning experience. I am finding that I am "flying by the seat of my pants" in many regards. Brewing software can not help me. I realized the color would be darker than anticipated by the software, so I shot for the low end of SRM for style. The result from the caramelization was a nice bronze to chestnut color. Actually more what I was hoping for.

Gravity is another area that I am finding I will have to make changes on the fly. Pre-boil I think will always be a bit off due to to heavy concentration of the caramelizing. Not a good time to try and get a handle on efficiency! Plus the long 2 hour boil is another factor I am not used to.

Perhaps too many new variables... Ah well, so far so good.

Fermentation is going alright if a bit slow. It is rather cool after all. It was spot on temp wise but I kept fiddling with it last night. The ambient temp was about 54F with the door closed on the brew room. Tub of water had the aquarium heater in it and was reading 58F. Fermenter itself was at 60F. I opened the door at about 11 pm and fiddled with the heater. Should have left it alone. It was 66 on the fermenter this morning. 70F in the water bath. Added some ice, closed the door. Will watch closely.

Still not a very active fermentation. Minimal to no airlock activity. A few bubbles yesterday. None today and actually pressure has reversed. A 1/2" thick crust of yeast floating on top formed yesterday afternoon. Has not really increased too much. Pretty much just yeast and break, no foam or bubbles Not much motion inside. Patience.

It is not a great shot. My camera is suckin' harder all the time! Especially batteries. It would appear that it has already reached high krauesen but the residue on the glass is just from getting rocked. As I said, it is just a crust of yeast/break and not really any bubble/foam action. I have managed to bring the temp back down to about 63F. Still watching it. Ambient temp and water bath temp are now 55F with the door closed. I unplugged the heater for the time being. Hopefully it does not drop...

On another note...

The hydro sample I neglected to dump is fermenting nicely

26 November, 2008

Ferment is going nicely. I missed the exact time it "took off" but I estimate it was somewhere between hour 28-35. It was pretty nice and active all yesterday churning and frothing and bubbling vigorously. I am glad now that I made a starter despite its low SG. I think considering the cool ferment temp it was a wise idea. Have been able to maintain about 61F after my initial slip-up the first 12 hours or so where it got up to 66F.

It is slowing back down today. The temp is starting to slide down as the vigorous activity is declining. I am taking steps to maintain it at 61F or so. The ambient temp is 54F the water bath is 58F which is where the fermenter is headed towards. I opened the door to the room as it was at 62F ambient when I checked it last week with the door open. I will nudge the aquarium heater up a bit at a time if necessary too.

Then it is just waiting. After about 3 weeks I will rack to keg, purge air and then keep it in the brew room with the door closed to condition in the mid 50's. Wash the yeast and then it is 70/- time...

12 December, 2008
Took a reading today and Ernest's' 60/- is done at 1.010. Have been dropping the temp slowly over the last few days by closing up the room. It has been at about 56F.

Sample was nice and clean and clear. Nice auburn to amber color. Smooth and very drinkable. Does not stand out in any way in particular. Malty but not sweet. Balanced and kind of unremarkable at this point.

Going to keg and wash the yeast in the next day or so. Not exactly 3 weeks but I am going by "feel" here. It seems done. Then I will let it cold condition for a few more weeks. Then the hard part. Finding time to brew the next round of Charles' 70/-

This project is going to take me a while. Kind of want to brew some Bitter ol' Woodchuck APA right now too. Very doubtful I will get a double brew day. I suppose this project takes priority so the yeast does not sit too long.

December 13, 2008
Where things stand. Ernest's 60/- has been kegged and is sitting in a cool room in the low 50's. Yeast has been washed and I repitched some of it into a new starter which is currently on the stir plate.

Reviewing my process to try and improve somethings that did not go quite right last time. Like not being able to achieve my mash temp...

17 December, 2008

Unfortunate news for my 60/-. Sadly, do to my consumption out pacing my production, my 60/- won't be getting as long a cold conditioning as I had planned. Put it on gas yesterday as I am running dangerously low on beer.

I will let it carb at serving temp at least so as not to rush it too much.

25 December, 2008

I did tap the 60/- before I had hoped to.

Tastes great. It is still not quite fully carbed has no head and is a bit cloudy since it did not get its full cold conditioning. Other than that it is smooth and malty and very clean. I have heard that the kettle caramelization can be perceived as diacetyl but I do not taste it. I am extremely sensitive to diacetyl I will mention and not at all fond of it. I think the key here is a slow cool ferment. I am guessing that people get that perception when the Scottish yeast ( or others) are fermented warmer (normal ale temps) along with the kettle caramelization. Purely speculation I suppose, but that is my theory.

Once it gets where I want it I will be sure to post a pic of a pint.

I am really looking forward to, and hope that I have the self control to, have all the series available to do side by side comparisons at some point. I suppose I will have to bottle a few of each from the keg and set them aside so I do not drink it all up.

27 January, 2009

Oh, and here it is. Not the best shot but here ya go. The first of the series. Ernest's 60/-

It has cleared greatly since I first tapped it (prematurely). It is really tasty. Very nice and malty. Slightly sweet and toasty. Kind of like my favorite cereal (since I was a kid) grapenuts. Or like chewing on malt.

I am really pleased with this. It is a really easy drinking pint. I will certainly do 10 gallons at a time in the future as it is a bit more work with all the time and the caramelization process. Could use a bit more body but as mentioned earlier I did have trouble achieving and maintaining the mash temp I was aiming for.

A Succession of Scottish ales

This is a project I started back in November of 2008. I am 3 brews in currently with the final installment of a Scotch ale (wee heavy) soon to be brewed.

So I began with one propagator pack of Wyeast 1728 Scottish ale, Marris Otter malt and roasted barley. The idea was to use the one pack of yeast for all brews. I made a starter for the 60/- which at the time I thought may be unnecessary do to the low gravity of such an ale. I later realized this was in fact a good idea due to the low fermentation temp (starting at 55F at pitching) it gave the yeast a head start and resulted in a nice cool clean ferment. Then I washed the yeast cake from that initial brew and stored the resulting "slurries" in 4 mason jars. With each new brew I pitched the contents of one jar into a new starter.

I have done an 80/- and a Scotch ale but never a full procession. For this one I am going to scrap the previous recipes I made and try the most simple "allegedly" traditional method. That being simply to use Marris Otter and a bit of roasted barley for color. Caramelizing the first gallon of runnings then a 120 minute boil for a malty thick brew. Then just a bit of Goldings for balance. Ferment her cool in my basement at about 60-62F then condition cold as I can (hopefully low 50's) for a few weeks.

I will repost my notes from the "experiment" as they were originally written in following posts.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Xocolatl -Mayan Imperial Stout

So I debated posting this as my first content simply because it is not something I typically brew. I am not your "kitchen sink" gonzo homebrewer type. I like brewing beers that have at least some tradition to them. Whether it be very traditional English and Scottish ales or more recent American craft brew inventions. Also, lately I have been very interested and enjoyed many low gravity "session" type ales. Seeing as how it was my most recent brew (brewed last Friday) and it fits my criteria of unusual or noteworthy here we go.

It is hardly an original idea on my part. This is just my interpretation. I have never thought the idea of using chili peppers in beer sounded like a good one. Despite the fact that I really enjoy spicy foods and peppers. However this concept tickled my fancy enough that I had to give it a go. So, what is it that I am brewing here and what do I envision it being? Well, I am basing it on the alleged Mayan drink concoction known as Xocolatl. A drink made from roasted cacao beans, chili peppers, maize, and vanilla among other ingredients. It was supposedly quite bitter and spicy and not really a sweet treat as we enjoy chocolate today.

So then, my vision of what this beer would be, since all brewers should have a flavor goal in mind when formulating a new recipe. I want this to be at heart a big boozy imperial stout. To achieve the unique character I envisioned a brew that utilized cocoa and cacao as bittering agents and not merely hops. I want it to have some heat but still be enjoyable and "refreshing". A sipping beer yes, but one you would be able to at least drink a whole glass of and enjoy. I do not envision it being chocolatey like a chocolate bar. I want it to taste of roasty chocolate. Dark and bittersweet but not too sweet. Complex and subtle characters without any one flavor dominating and knocking you over the head.

So I had my flavor profile. On to ingredients. I decided to use some adjuncts in this that hail from the southern hemisphere of the Americas. Namely maize and quinoa. Maize as it made up a part of the original drink and quinoa because it has a nice nutty taste which I realize may not come through at all but it intrigued me. Okay, so as far as I know quinoa is a food of the Incas and not the Mayans but hey, they did not drink stout either so... For the cacao character I used cocoa in the boil. I just purchased 6 oz. of roasted cacao nibs yesterday and will perhaps add those to the fermenter at some point if I deem it needs some more depth in that regard. I am still deciding on the peppers to use as I plan to infuse them at a later date. So far I enjoy the flavors of Ancho peppers but they do not provide enough of a heat impact. I am going to do some taste experiments with pasilla peppers as well, but again they are low in heat. I may end up making a mix of the aforementioned peppers for flavor and perhaps a very small portion of habenero or Scotch Bonnet peppers for a bit of heat. I decided to go with a clean neutral yeast to allow the other flavors to be apparent.

Though the brew is in the fermenter this is very much a work in progress. Though the base beer is there i will be monkeying with it as it ages.

So on to the recipe. I created this recipe as a 5 gallon batch just because I am most used to working in such amounts. I then scaled it down to 3 gallons though as I frankly felt a little more comfort going smaller with a project that is so unusual for me. A couple of notes first. I have a brewhouse efficiency of about 80% or better (and yes, i do use a corona mill!) however that would not necessarily apply this time as this is rather large gravity wise. Also I was uncertain of the extract potential I would get using whole quinoa. I guessed and plug 72% into my software (I use Beer alchemy, did I mention I am a mac user?)

For 3 finished gallons
A target OG of 1.096 and 3.30 gallons postboil
Preboil gravity 1.075 and 4.20 gallons
Target attenuation 75%
IBU 73.6

8 lb. Marris Otter
1 lb. Flaked maize
9 oz. of Whole quinoa (I used 50/50 red and white organic quinoa)
7.35 oz CaraAroma
7.20 oz. Chocolate
7.20 oz. Roasted barley

1 oz. Millennium hops at 15% AA (60 minutes)

136 g of Cocoa powder (10 minutes)
3 g Irish Moss (10 minutes)
2 packs of SafAle US-05

In the fermenter
Vanilla beans (amount yet to be determined)
Chili peppers (amount yet to be determined)

First step was to wash the quinoa to rinse off any saponin a bitter residue on quinoa. Next I cooked the quinoa (cereal mash) on the stovetop in 3 cups of water for 25 minutes.

Then after letting the quinoa cool a bit (so I could determine the proper strike temperature) I added it to my grist and doughed in. Mashed at 153F for 1 hour. Batch sparged to collect 4.20 gallons (actually closer to 4.25)

Boiled for 90 minutes. Added bittering hops at 60 minutes and the cocoa powder and Irish moss at 10 minutes.

I was a bit low on my preboil gravity ending up with 1.067 but fairly right on with volume. I suspect it was in part do to the unkown of the quinoa extract and part do to this being a big beer and not collecting more runoff. I ended up spot on with an OG of 1.096 but only had about 3 gallons left in the kettle. So, in the end I am estimating I will only have 2.5 gallons of finished beer. There is quite a lot of trub especially the cocoa that is settling out.

It has fermented at 66-68 for about a week now. In another 3 weeks I will rack it into either 1 5 gallon carboy or several 1 gallons. Then let it age. Have not decided when to apply the peppers and vanilla beans yet and possibly the cacao nibs.

Time and taste will tell.

About Bristle Bros. Brewing

So, why the name? Well, Bristle Bros. Brewing got its name when I started brewing back in Autumn of 2004. The person responsible for this new hobby, later to become obsession, was my younger brother Jeff (brother Ernest). He had brewed while in college and showed me the basics that got me started. So thanks to him here I am, seemed only natural to name my endeavors with a nod to our relationship. Bristle is a family joke for me and my siblings (last name Brush and we kids are the bristles. groan...)

So voila! Bristle Bros. Brewing. So it became a "family thing" as well. At about the same time I began brewing, I began taking a greater interest in my family history. I had recently moved to Vermont the state where my ancestors had lived. So that became part and parcel of the whole "company image" as I looked to family and places for names of brews and imagery. In addition to brewing I am an artist/printmaker. I enjoy creating hand printed woodblock/engraving labels for my beers as time allows. I plan to share those here as well as my brewing endeavors.

Okay, so there you go.

So now I ask myself, what is the raison d'ĂȘtre (ooh lala!) for this here blog. Will I post every little brain dropping I have about beer and brewing?


Will it detail every single brew session with twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each is...

Nah. But I am a visual person and think photos are important so I hope to include many. Sadly I am not the greatest photographer nor do I always think to take photos when I am in the middle of things.

What then will I post about? Well, not completely sure yet, but I have some framework.

I will post about things I feel are not already overly covered already. Brews that include ingredients, techniques or some other thing that has not been posted about ad infinitum. Basically anything I found meager information about when I was researching an idea! I will post about projects that are in some way exciting to me personally or I view as monumental, noteworthy or just darn interesting. I decide what that is of course so it may be completely lame! I don't plan on revisiting all my past endeavours save for a few projects that are ongoing which I will retrace and then update as they progress. Instead I will just go from this moment forward and post about things as they unfold.

Guess that sets the scene for now...

A beginning for a new beer brewing blog

Well here we go. I am a rather reluctant blogger. Not sure about all this or if I will have the time. So why do it? Well, often when I am searching for information on beer brewing (or cooking, baking...) I find what I am looking for in other folks blogs. So, hopefully my experiences will too be of some benefit to other brewers out there. Of course it is also a way to share my obsession with any family and folks I know who I have not already bored to tears with my constant beer related ramblings! Maybe it will be a less intense way to check in on me.