Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Sampler

I compiled a sampler pack for my dad and sister to be taken over the border (hoping there is no problems with that!?). 8 bers in total, all hand-crafted. I like this photo, even though its not the greatest quality, it shows the variance in color (though the brown and green bottles don't help) between the styles that are present. 2 pale ales, 3 brown ales, 1 stout, 1 wheat ale, 1 belgian ale.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Vagabond Gingered Ale

After having a bad result with Spruce some eight batches ago, i thought it was time to get back to the weird stuff. Also, after having brewed several pale and brown ales, i needed a dark companion for my Oatmeal Stout that could be opted for by the time winter rolls around. Ginger was the decided ingredient and Dried Malt Extract was the selected coloring agent. At this point I hadn't tasted any of my previous batches that had been either all-grain or brewed with the well water, so i went back to an extract batch and culligan distilled water. Shaved two average size ginger roots, more or less, and hoped for the best.

Not being a huge ginger root fan, I tried to be as conservative as i could in the boil by adding the hops at the appropriate schedule so that hops would temper the harsh taste of ginger. I allowed the American Ale yeast packet to fully swell before pitching it as I have had mixed fermentation results with the culligan water (definitely doesn't have the kick that the well water does). However as can be seen at the right a very nice kreusen line can be seen in the carboy. Foamy goodness on top of a yeasty-frappe that will hopefully smack you in the mouth when it passes your lips.

Everything went swell with this batch, from the brew day, to the pitching of the yeast, to the fermentation, to the... Bottling. This was the only monumentally foreseeable problem which was completely avoidable had proper planning been carried out. But no, things have to be done precariously by the seat-of-my-pants. So I needed bottles in a hurry in order to prepare my first 8-pack sampler for the fam. This arriving at the tail end of two previous weekends in which bottling was undergone both times. Leaving me with brew and nothing to secure it in for transnational migration. 24-grolsch were purchased (because the price of buying empties through EZ cap was way more expensive). I enlisted the help of a fellow beer drinker, we had three days to get through them and whatever else we could find to come close to a grand total of 36 swing-top bottles. Over the course of a beautiful weekend with full sunshine, barbecuing, soccer golf, and magic the gathering: we endured and came out victorious. The final product is this take no prisoners wanderlust oddity, now you taste it, now you don't.

Fat'n Tire'd

What to say about this hot mess? The original recipe was to be a clone of a favorite beer of mine brewed in Fort Collins, Colorado at the New Belgium Brewery called Fat Tire. A remarkable display of what an Amber Ale should be, and thus my hopes to re-create such a Belgian beer. However, something about me and this recipe just didn't jive. Try as I might, this brew day was as near a nightmare as i have had. Above is a photo of me milling my grain, a tasty chocolate malt is currently pouring out the bottom of the mill. Suffice it to say, I had gathered all the proper ingredients and things were going well until the hops hit the boiling wort, MASSIVE BOIL OVER. I have learned from that experience (and a few times in the past, but nothing that stuck with me like this), I now know to add the hops after i have turned the heat down or taken the brew pot right off the element. At the right hand image, you can see the resin of the hops around the rim which overflowed. When this happens, you take the risk of allowing the wort to cool down while taking the mess to task, which could provide ample time for bacterial contamination. However, there was still about 50 minutes of boil time left, which nullifies any unwanted critters to survive in the molten sweetness. Still makes ya paranoid! I lost about a quart of precious wort. Second problem was that I added the Willamette hops as the boiling hops (60 minute) rather than the more bitter Northern Brewer hops. This means that the flavors are all mixed up because less bitter but more aromatic hops were used earlier therefore losing a large majority of their unique character. Big sigh at this point. So I marched on, but I didn't take the time to photograph anything else from the disastrous brew day.
A more appealing side to this addition of the basement ber brewery is that I found a gnarly label maker online that allows you to make up a seal and then save the image in fairly high quality for free. Changing the aspect ratio to fit about 40 on a sheet of paper is a bit trickier. The above image was the label I had made in anticipation of the possibilities of a great clone, but after all was said and done, it did not reflect the full context of the situation.
Since I fully concede to a d'oh moment, Homer got the nod from the bench to take the heat. Thus the name was altered to Fat'n Tire'd because all i could do was wallow spinelessly and try and shut the world out. This batch was bottled after 6 weeks in various stages of fermentation. Will be ready to surprise me in a few more.