Saturday, March 24, 2012


Over the last two months I have been working on a writing project that has brought me to places I have never been before. Unpacking the historical landscape of this city and finding remnants of its past is very much like an Indiana Jones enterprise, without the inherent colonial tomb stealing.
Im pretty stoked on these tasting glasses from now defunct Manitoba breweries. You may call me out as a hoarder/collector of things I don't need, but honestly I have been buying these with the flights in mind. My plan is to build flight decks for sets of 4. These flight decks will be in the shape of swords, I hope.

Black Galaxy

Gentlemen, frankly I am amazed we made it to the brewery on time for the Saturday morning release. And I don't think its because we took it easy during our respective Friday nights either. A testament to our will for one-off releases.

So here's the lineup, even before the door opened, to score Half Pints Black Galaxy Cascadian Dark Ale. A great batch that has somehow managed to stay around the apt. longer than two weeks. We got our limit, but there definitely were a handful of those who did not (gauging by first hand account and the unpopulated review board on BeerAdvocate). Those empty handed might want to try Lethbridge though. If you missed out and would like to trade for any Gueuze I have not had before, feel free to contactme.

J to L

LinkAs mentioned in the previous post, I had prepared a chocolate porter for the first time in my brewing history. I was very pleased with the results and will definitely be using chocolate in future batches and in different combinations. After a success one tends to try and keep going on that path. The past two weeks have seen three different batches brewed using first time ingredients largely from the produce and herbal sections at Organic Planet.

As owner/brewmaster of Dogfishhead Brewery Sam Calagione would say, 'why brew normal beer?' Although he is both older and wiser in the craft, sometimes you also want to make sure you are brewing what people generally refer to as beer, so that you can be reminded that when it comes down to it, you can make a style as intended. So this latest activity in the brewery has produced one creative weizen, one daring schwarzbier and one good old fashion brown ale.

These homebrew concoctions were labeled in the J to L spectrum of the alphabet so in keeping with problematizing linear progression, lets start with L:

Lowbush Vice
- Creative
Made as a hopeful attempt at an untroubled segue from winter to spring; this weiss batch utilized a couple tubs of wheat malt that had been kicking around the brewery for far too long. Lowbush berries - referring to the height of the organic blueberry shrub - were added after a standard boil and allowed to steep for 30 minutes. The longer the steeping lasts the more aromatics the blueberries will produce. Weiss style guidelines call for slight fruity characters in the nose and estery notes in the aroma.

When using fruit such as this in your beer, it is important to prevent the skins from breaking and keeping all amounts of pectin out of the wort. Mind you, the inside of the blueberry is where the flavor is, but if making a mead or fruit wine you would then need to uncomplicate the yeast's job by chemically stabilizing the amount of acids present, and that is far too much chemistry work for this first shot at blueberry beer.

I'm not sure if the originator of this recipe (which I tweaked from homebrew favorites) threw out the blueberries after steeping or not, but it would be ridiculous if they did. These are freakin good blueberries still...having said that I now have a couple bags of frozen blueberries that smell like syrup and are covered in hops so choose wisely how you reuse these.

All in all, this Vice has received good reviews from those who have tried it in the tap room. The remaining 2 gallons are bottle conditioning till that beckoning sunny spring day.

Licorice Lager
Unfortunately there are no pictures of this foray into schwarzbier other than one of the secret ingredient in question = Licorice Root.

This batch sums up the creative nature of homebrewing for me. I found a recipe for a dark lager, added licorice root shavings in the last 12 minutes of the boil and an additional can of expired pre-hopped malt extract for a pilsner (I got it in the discount bin at Brewers Direct - which I don't recommend doing unless you are experimenting). Before I go any further, I want to mention that licorice has many great medicinal also is used as a laxative. Drink under advisement.

Schwarzbier is a German black lager, meaning it has an srm (standard reference method) count near the porter end of the spectrum but the body of a lager. With any lager, there are particular conditions the brewer has to pay attention to. The biggest problem for me was keeping the lagering temperatures constant. I placed the carboy out into the walkway of my fire-escape when it was still -10C outside. However, the days grew warmer and the nights grew shorter, and the lager was not conditioning as it likes. Anytime you end up with temperature fluctuation you will get your yeast to react poorly. Generally, they release diacetyl which has a buttery taste to it, this batch produced more like a septic tank smell. The flavor is fantastic and made for a very quaffable beer, but the aroma was ungodly. After about 20 minutes of sitting in the glass the odor dissipated. I'm hoping this secondary fermentation stage at room temp will help expel some of that nastiness.

Just a note, lager yeast will ferment at ale temperatures, but the proof of lager yeast is their ability to produce good clearing beer at the near 0 C temp range. Right now, it's a wait and see policy.

-Old Fashion
This all-grain brown ale was inspired by the awesomeness that is the greatest planet (besides our own) in the solar system. Its fantastic and perceptible trip in the night sky during the months of February and March (in conjunction with that of Venus) has been both thought provoking as well as a silent companion on night marches. As seen at left, the brew produced a violent storm as if evoking the gas giant within my kitchen.

My best beers have been variations on Papazian's all-grain recipes from his seminal text, The Joy of Homebrewing. This little gem is no different. Still an issue with all-grain brewing in the apartment, but this time, it was slightly easier as my two brewpots are large enough to contain just over 5 gallons of wort, as opposed to three smaller pots just under.

Step mashing method was used for the bulk 2-row pale malt, black patent malt, chocolate malt, and 120-lovibond crystal malt as the specialty grains. Fuggles for boil and Goldings for aroma make this classic brown ale as good as I have tasted. One new addition to this style which I seem to make better than any others - not saying a whole hell of a lot - was the 1tsp of gypsum to the mash. When making regional styles of beer, the brewer must account for contextual flavors that go beyond the flare notes, in this case its replicating the waters of Burton upon Trent, a historic brewing
region of England. The traditional brewing waters of England have a lower ph level than my tap water or even the Red River can produce. An addition such as this seems to emphasize the desire to meet a standard because not living in England or back in the early 1800s before brewing water was treated is to recognize that this type of beer is historical, and must adhere to historical factors.

And this fun picture is what was left over after the primary transfer. Mmmm...