Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hot Stuff! Chili Beer

I had heard of people making chili pepper beer before and thought it would be fun just to say I've done it and to grasp what that flavor would impart to beer. My local liquor stores are quite bad when it comes to getting a diverse range of craft brews, particularly those that are common place throughout the US. Only this summer did they receive Rogue's Chipotle Ale

However what I was going for was not just to impart the roasty quality of that particularly daring ale, but to also see what sort of firepower I could add. My recipe research said that Serrano peppers or small chili peppers would be best. However, as mentioned elsewhere - I will take what I can get - my local organic grocer only had Anaheim peppers. Honkin huge ones!

The brew itself was a recipe for an Extra Special Bitter as something about a good English hop with dry bitterness combined with a subtle heat seemed to make sense for my brain and palate. The peppers were added to the secondary fermentation after about 5 days of rigorous primary fermentation. As shown above, I took 5 large Anaheim peppers and removed the stems. I roasted them in the toaster oven for 12 minutes until the kitchen started to smell roasty. The skin was soft and starting to brown slightly. The purpose of the baking is to both kill any unwanted organism that could be on them as well as to impart that roasted flavor. Once cooled I cut them in half and dropped them into the carboy. Racking on top was the easy part, racking off after 9 days however was very hard as seeds and skin had come off and were sticking to the siphon.

As expected, I had to hold the carboy upside down while cleaning it and use a knife to try and spear the peppers individually to then pull them through the opening. It was...a lot of work.

This beer is quite good actually just as a beer. But like many of my beers that have an unusual theme to them, you wouldn't want to drink Hot Stuff back to back. It is a nice sipping ale that has an obvious burn to it on the way down, and for those who suffer from heartburn, I wouldn't greet pint after pint with anything other than milk of magnesia.

115th Dream Hopbursted

Eventually, my addiction to hops comes back around. I went with a more hop heavy kit than I have brewed before, 115th dream hopbursted IPA from Northern Brewer. The name for the kit comes from the amount of time to boil and the use of a technique that ensures extreme Flavor/Aroma presence from your hops, known as hopbursting. For a good little explanation of why hopbursting is an effective method to imbue this quality to the wort, see this fellows blog.

Pictured above is that addition of dextrose which came with the kit and was added after the boil was complete. The additions of soluble sugars for this recipe were intended to create and Imperial style which has higher alcohol levels as well as just more of everything. The 1 pound of hops should be the dead giveaway. My major complaint, as with most homebrew supply stores and their kits, they don't always give you all the ingredients so you don't really know what it is your tasting. In this case, the massive amount of hops for bursting were called "hop blend".

Yeast starter was applied as instructed, because of the massive amount of sugars which didn't dissolve properly due to the large blanket of boiled hops that laid on the surface of the wort. For this reason, my gravity was a bit under weight, but the yeast tore right through it all. Just take a look at that bunghole! Primary is oh so messy.

On the whole, the kit was just so-so. Very heavy hitting ingredients bill, but taste and aroma wise it could have been much simpler and more effective, as well as cost efficient. But we aren't in it for that, are we.

Lemon Coriander Weiss and Keg Time

I had been wanting to make a batch that was going to be refreshing and light in honor of summer's arrival. I also wanted something that would be quaff-able enough to put into my kegerator and have a picnic outside with. This was the beer I chose - a Lemon Coriander Weiss. The kit was from Midwest, and it offered a twist with the additions of coriander in the boil and lemon zest in the secondary. The boil went well, no surprises. After having 20+ batches u
nder my belt, my concerns are generally in the cold side of the brewing - yeast getting finicky is far more hazardous than boiling wort at 5 degrees higher than recommended.

When applying fruit or vegetables to the carboy, one should always try and keep as few outside contaminants from getting in. This includes anything from cat hair to drool to pesticides. Similar to the damages to your body, chemicals that are intended to kill bugs should not be included in your beer as they will kill your yeast. Always buy organic, or better yet, grow it yourself! Zesting far more lemon than called for the in the recipe, I wanted this beer to be as crisp and citrusy as possible. The other hazard in adding fruit, vegetables, hops, etc. to the secondary is the risk of clogging your siphon. Small particulate matter or large chunks of food can really be annoying when trying to get the beer into its next receptacle. That includes from bottle to glass and tap to glass. Many brewers have debated the strategies of dry-hopping their ales with as minimal interference to the segues as possible. The last thing you want is a dip-tube or keg-line clogged with a cluster of bitter hops, unless your into that sort of thing.

Primary Secondary Kegging

Once you enter the realm of gauges and explosive materials, lookout. Things seem much more complicated and impractical for something as simple as beer. But then the luxury of technology can do many things, including cutting down your bottle conditioning by about 2 weeks! Im in. Not to mention ridding yourself of the pain in the ass of washing, rinsing, sanitizing, storaging all those bottles. But theres also nothing quite like bringing a bottle of your own somewhere. My mini-keg lets me bottle about a third of the batch and rest goes to the keg. Because it was my first kegging experience, I rushed it. I wanted that beer to be ready sooner than it should have been. The sugars were not completely dissolved, and both the few bottles I stored and the kegged beer lacked overall carbonation. The sweetness was ever present and the beer was cloudier than I had hoped. The lemon and coriander were great, but not enough yeast knocked down and not enough time for the fermentation.