First batch ever put into a keg. Brown Ale is kegged. Recleaned and sanitized the cane and siphon and about to keg the Cream Ale.
I wish I could do this every time. SO much easier than bottling.
First batch ever put into a keg. Brown Ale is kegged. Recleaned and sanitized the cane and siphon and about to keg the Cream Ale.
I wish I could do this every time. SO much easier than bottling.
It just dawned on me I’d had this blog going for about a year. Was amazed how close I was. Started this on May 12, 2012, so about a year and a week ago.
This will make it 638 posts. Almost 2 posts per day on average. Granted it tends to be heavy posting on brew day, not so much other days. but I’d say that’s not a bad posting rate. Not obtrusive, but not scarce either.
And as of right now 198 people following.
Hah. I was laughing when I had 20 following. My first post even mentioned the fact I didn’t expect anyone to read this.
On to more important matters, I never got the Tafelbier bottled as planned last night. But I’m gonna get cracking here momentarily.
Edit: Stupid Tumblr deleted all my text here. Hah. Here’s more or less what I originally wrote that it deleted:
For those of you also going to the National Homebrewer’s Conference, the seminar schedule is posted. Some really good stuff on there.
I’m looking at the following. Some seem interesting. Some more than others. Bolded are the ones I’m REALLY excited about.
The sulfur should go away when it’s lagered for a little while.It’s not an overpowering note, not even an off-flavor. Rather, it’s that hint of sulfur that kind of tells you “this is a lager”. I’ve never gotten that from 1056 before. I know folks who’ve taken it well below the recommended range (fermenting it into the mid 50s) have reported sulfur, but I fermented this in the mid 60s, where I usually use the strain.
I’ve seen this making the rounds today. Aside from the fact that (unless the beer is Iris), the pictured Van Roy would be adding aged hops providing exactly zero of the characteristics maligned, it’s not a bad article.
Also, I generally agree with the thrust. I’m tired of “IPA” being THE beer that every craft brewer has to brew. I’m tired of “lets see how many pounds of hops I can cram in per barrel”.
I definitely prefer either malt or yeast (or in some cases bacteria) driven beers, rather than hop driven ones. Actually, I enjoy some beers that would by many standards be considered hoppy if the American IPA craze hadn’t started (forcing APAs into IPA levels and so forth). English Bitters are perfect examples. A “hoppy” beer. But not a hop bomb.
That said, I do enjoy a well craft hoppy beer. However, I think the alarmist “all or nothing” tone of the article is problematic.
Against Hoppy Beer
The craft beer industry’s love affair with hops is alienating people who don’t like bitter brews.
Belgian 61-year-old master brewer Jean-Pierre Van Roy adds hops to a brew kettle at the traditional Cantillon brewery in Brussels.
Photo by Francois Lenoir / Reuters
As a beer writer, I often find myself preaching the word about craft beer to people who don’t want to hear it. There are a lot of Bud Light fans and people who’d rather sip a zinfandel, even in the craft beer capital of the world, Portland, Ore., where I live. So when a homebrewer friend recently decided to visit my husband and me from Tennessee, I was excited to spend time with a kindred spirit, someone with whom I could share my favorite brews without having to make a hard sell. The first brewery I took him to was Hopworks Urban Brewery, where I ordered us a pitcher of the Velvet English session beer.
After a few sips, I noticed that he had pushed away his glass. “I’m sorry, guys,” he said when he noticed our puzzled expressions. “This is just way too hoppy for me.”
I was floored. Session beer is light and drinkable—it’s called session beer because you’re supposed to be able to drink several over the course of a drinking session without ruining your palate. If one of my favorite session beers was too hoppy and bitter for an avid beer drinker—for a homebrewer who is currently brewing beer to serve at his own wedding—what would he think of the famed Pacific Northwest IPAs? Do friends let friends drink only pilsners?
That’s when I realized that I had a problem. In fact, everyone I know in the craft beer industry has a problem: We’re so addicted to hops that we don’t even notice them anymore.
Hops are the flowers of the climbing plant Humulus lupulus, a member of the family Cannabaceae (which also includes, yes, cannabis), and they’re a critical ingredient in beer. Beer is made by steeping grain in hot water to turn its starches into sugar (which is later converted to alcohol by yeast). While the resulting liquid, called wort, is boiling, brewers add hops to tone down the mixture’s sweetness—without hops, beer would taste like Coke.* Recipes usually call for only a few grams of hops per gallon of beer produced, but those little flowers pack a big punch. In addition to their bittering properties, hops impart strong piney, spicy, or fruity flavors and aromas. They also contain antimicrobial agents that act as natural preservatives.
Although they make up a small proportion of the ingredients used in beer, hops command the vast majority of the industry’s passion. Beer geeks have an intensely emotional relationship to hops. We wax poetic about the differences among varieties: the mildness of the Saaz, the bright tang of the exotic Sorachi Ace. In my wanderings through bottle shops, breweries, and beer conferences, I’ve seen hop cufflinks, hop bracelets, hop tattoos. I’m a party to the hop mania: I have hop-scented soap in my shower and hop-and-peppermint foot cream by my bed. I love everything about hops—everything, that is, except for the way that a lot of people conflate hops’ bitter aftertaste with the taste of craft beer itself.
Let’s be clear: Not all craft beer is hoppy. There are many craft breweries that seek to create balanced, drinkable beers that aren’t very bitter at all, like Patrick Rue’s the Bruery in Placentia, Calif., and the Commons Brewery in Portland, Ore. Among the non-hoppy yet complex and delicious American craft beers available are Widmer’s hefeweizen, New Glarus’ cherry and raspberry beers, and Full Sail Brewing’s Session Lager (a beer specifically developed to serve as a refreshing counterpoint to overhopped beers). America’s independent breweries make beers to suit every palate, not just the ones that revel in bitterness.
That said, there is some truth in the stereotype that craft beer is hoppy. The beer that more or less launched the contemporary craft beer movement, Sierra Nevada’s flagship pale ale, was, for its time, a supremely hoppy beer. In 1980, when most of the nation’s beers were produced by Anheuser-Busch, Miller, Schlitz, Pabst, and Coors, Sierra Nevada’s pale ale was a revelation. Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman added way more hops than most brewers at the time would ever consider using. But he used a recently discovered American variety called the Cascade, a hop whose big, bitter bite was counterbalanced by a sweet grapefruit scent and a spicy aftertaste. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is a beautiful beer with an aggressive edge, and it’s the beer that put me, and so many others, on the path to craft beer enthusiasm.
Thanks in part to Grossman’s pioneering influence, the pale ale, and its hoppier sister, the India pale ale, grew massively in popularity. (Today they’re the third-best- and best-selling craft beer styles in the country, respectively.) This was a positive development, but some breweries went overboard. By the 1990s craft breweries like Rogue, Lagunitas, Stone, and Dogfish Head were all engaged in a hop arms race, bouncing ideas and techniques off one another to produce increasingly aggressive, hop-forward beers.
There are a few obvious reasons for hops’ status as the darling of craft brewers. Hops’ strong flavors present a stark contrast to watered-down horse piss, which is how I believe one refers to Bud Light in the common parlance. Maximizing hops is a good way for craft brewers to distinguish their creations from mass-market brands.
Hops are also appealing because they give brewers an easy creative outlet. There are lots of choices to be made when it comes to hops: You can select different varieties, whether you want the big, piney flavor of the Chinook or the mild earthiness of the traditional English Fuggle. You can decide whether you’ll add them fresh, dried, or pulverized and compacted into tiny pellets for greater consistency. Maybe you’ll give your beer a big burst of hoppy aromatic oils by adding them after fermentation, in a process known as “dry hopping.” If you’re mechanically inclined, you can even jury-rig devices like Dogfish Head’s foosball player-cum-engineering mechanism “Sir Hops Alot,” which feeds a steady stream of hops into the boil for a solid 90, or 120, minutes.
And unfortunately hops are a quick way for beginning brewers to disguise flaws in their beer, by using the hops’ strong flavor to overcome any possible off tastes. Do you regret throwing those juniper twigs in the boil? Did you forget to sterilize a piece of equipment and are now fretting about bacteria? Quick! Hops to the rescue!
From a consumer’s standpoint, though, beers overloaded with hops are a pointless gimmick. That’s because we can’t even taste hops’ nuances above a certain point. Hoppiness is measured in IBUs (International Bitterness Units), which indicate the concentration of isomerized alpha acid—the compound that makes hops taste bitter. Most beer judges agree that even with an experienced palate, most human beings can’t detect any differences above 60 IBUs. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, one of the hoppiest beers of its time, clocks in at 37 IBUs. Some of today’s India pale ales, like Lagunitas’ Hop Stoopid, measure around 100 IBUs. Russian River’s Pliny the Younger, one of the most sought-after beers in the world, has three times as many hops as the brewery’s standard IPA; the hops are added on eight separate occasions during the brewing process.
Craft brewers’ obsession with hops has overshadowed so many other wonderful aspects of beer. So here’s my plea to my fellow craft beer enthusiasts: Give it a rest. Let’s talk about the differences between wild and cultivated lab yeast, and the weird and wonderful flavors that are created when brewers start scouring nearby trees or flowers or even their own beards for new strains. Let’s geek out about local, craft-malted barley and how it compares to traditional imported European malts. And let’s start preaching a new word: Craft beer isn’t always bitter. Who knows? Maybe we’ll finally win over some of those Bud Light fans.
*Correction, May 16, 2013: Due to an editing error, this article originally said that grain is boiled to make beer. Actually, grain is steeped in hot water; it’s the resulting liquid, called wort, that is boiled.
Well what do you know…
Unfortunately they’re not mine. On loan from a club member and ready to be filled up. Cleaned and full of sanitizer. Just need shake, empty, rack and seal. He couldn’t find his charger canister, so I won’t be able to purge with CO2, so I’ll have to be especially careful taking them back over so any little bit of remaining headspace doesn’t get all shaken up into the beer.
Meant to get the Tafelbier bottled last night. Didn’t happen, and won’t happen tonight either. But I’ll get that bottled tomorrow night. I’ll also get the Smoked Porter into secondaries tomorrow night.
The Cream Ale and Northern Brown both get kegged Saturday night or early Sunday morning. Then Sunday AM I’ll run them back over to the owner who’ll carb them up for me and have them ready to go for the NHC. I’ll see if he can’t keep the Cream Ale on cold storage for a “lagering” period until then.
I pulled samples of both today to make sure they were ready to go prior to kegging (don’t wanna dump an infected batch in someone else’s keg, not that I was worried they’d be infected).
Forgot to snap photos, but they’re looking good, and both have dropped brilliantly clear (any chill haze remains to be seen). The Cream Ale tastes almost like an American Lager, including a slight sulfery note. It’s amazing how similar they are. The only difference is the slight presence of Cascade hops. I initially smelled skunk, which was alarming, but it faded and I don’t know where it came from. Perhaps the mind associating the sulfery pils malt corn character with skunked hops? It was gone as soon as I detected it. And I’ve never once had a problem with a beer getting skunked through a plastic bucket.
Anyway, Sunday is another club brew (doing a big batch to put into a 15 gallon keg). We’ll be brewing an ESB to round out our contributions for Club Night.
And Sunday night I’ll get starters going for the Tripel and Saison I’ll brew over the coming long weekend.
Took about 10 minutes to set up (and I was taking my time). Tap water goes in (left), with left coil in ice water bucket. Flows into right coil in wort, and then back out.
I’ll look around for a good cylindrical item I can use to shape the left coil properly. It’s soft copper, and very malleable, so shaping by hand is not a problem, just have to be careful not to kink it.
I don’t expect a night and day difference between using only my old immersion chiller and the addition of a prechiller, but it will definitely help, especially when it comes to those last few degrees that I can never get down to in the summer.
Knocked an item off of my “to buy/build” upgrade list. $30 or so bucks thrown down between 20 feet of copper coil, some vinyl tubing, and some screw hose clamps. Will take no more than a minute or two to assemble, and I’ll have a small immersion pre-chiller. From tap through prechiller in a bucket of ice water then through wort chiller then out means my ~78F summer ground water will now be ~40F water running through the immersion chiller. Actually able to cool as far as I want, and should be substantially faster to boot.
Also replaced the Erlenmeyer I broke with my laziness.
Then ingredients for my next two batches (Saison and Tripel).
And then I finally decided to start doing what I should have been doing a long time ago, and buying base malt in bulk. The LHBS was out of the regular Weyermann Pilsner, so he instead gave me the substantially more expensive floor-malted Bohemian Pilsner at the same price. So now between leftovers from the Cream Ale and this, I have 60 lbs of Pilsner malt to burn though. 18 lbs between the Tripel and the Saison, another 10 lbs going in next month’s Quad. So that’s already about half of it.
Next month when I grab Barleywine ingredients, I’m gonna also grab a 55lber of Crisp Maris Otter.
Currently in the fermenters:
My massively full pipeline has shrunk dramatically. I was at nearly 20 cases full for a while there. Of course, shipping off more than a case between various comps the last couple months has expedited that. But I’ve been drinking more, too. Having sessionable beers certainly helps that.
I killed off the Hefeweizen about a week ago. I’m drinking the last bottle of my Mild right now. I’m going to go ahead and put the Islay Scotch Ale, Wee Heavy, and Imperial Red to rest over the course of the week. The Wee Heavy has run its course. I’ll make a point to rebrew it early next year once I’ve worked through the current lineup. The Islay Scotch Ale wasn’t a failure, but wasn’t a resounding success. Will try again eventually. And the Imperial Red is just failing to carbonate after more than 6 months despite tasting good otherwise. I see no point in providing extended aging to a beer that won’t carb. Should have used champagne yeast to carb it.
The Brett Tripel is going to sit there. September will mark its second birthday. I’m on track to have some left for its 5th birthday.
Wednesday I’m planning on making a LHBS run. In addition to replacing the Erlenmeyer I destroyed, I’m gonna grab a 55lb sack of Pils malt (between the Saison, Tripel, and Quad, I’m gonna need it). I’ll probably grab a 55lb sack of Maris Otter the following month. Don’t think either will last through the remainder of the year, but should get me close. But I’ll grab the specialty malts, sugars and yeasts for the Saison and Tripel while I’m there too.
Then if all goes according to plan, I’ll have the Tafelbier in bottles midweek, the Smoked Porter in secondaries with the peppers over the weekend, and the Brown and Cream Ale in kegs over the weekend (clubmate supplying the kegs, gonna give me a charger to purge and seal them, then he’ll store em cold and actually carbonate them for me).
I may get starters going Wednesday night for a double header Sunday. Alternatively, I might just get starters going over the weekend giving me plenty of time to ferment out to completion and then cold crash for brewing the following weekend.
We’ll see what happens.
So I’m not happy with the scoring from the Spirit of Free Beer.
The scores weren’t terrible. But they should have been higher. Like, 4-6 points higher each.
My Kolsch got a 28. It scored 32 at NHC. The notes were the same I’ve received in the past. The scores just were lower. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s just age (although it’s only a 3-4 week difference).
My Cal Common scored 27. It scored 33.5 at NHC and advanced to mini-BOS. This one REALLY pissed me off. The two judges seemed inexperienced. It’s another “I don’t think they were tasting my beer” scenario. One said I was using out of place hops (it was EXCLUSIVELY Northern Brewer which is THE hop for the style, and much higher ranking judges at NHC said the hopping was spot on). The other claimed it was infected (lactic).
My Wee Heavy scored a 32. That’s the lowest it’s ever scored. 36.5 at NHC. The notes pissed me off, but it’s scored as low as 33 before, so I can’t hate on the score too much.
My Oatmeal Stout scored a 33. First run in competition. I guess I can’t complain when I have no other notes to compare it to.
Here’s the thing. The judge’s comments were either nearly identical (including the praises) to previous comments I’d received, but scored lower (than scores given by higher ranking judges). Or they pulled things out of thin air (lactic sourness in the Cal Common is a big one) that no one, including other judges on the same damned flight noted. Given that they would have all be tasting from the same bottle, I doubt it was contamination. One judge noted a strong boozy note on my Wee Heavy and beaned me for it. Again, NO ONE HAS NOTED THAT EVEN ON THE SAME FLIGHT. In fact, it’s been ROUTINELY praised for the LACK of booziness.
Basically, some judges gave me slightly lower scores for equally positive feedback I’ve received in the past (scores I would have been happy with despite being a couple points lower), but poor judges on some beers beaned me for shit I shouldn’t have been beaned for.
So I’m gonna go ahead and assume that my scores were understated by 5 points, making my Oatmeal Stout a 38 point beer. That’s a score I’m satisfied with that I think that beer deserved.
Point is, some judges are fucking idiots.
Yet another one of those inventions we really don’t need…
…like the one-way-valve cup bottom-up draft dispenser.
….or the person who installed one in their couch.
….or that godforsaken Japanese self-foaming mug.
However, gotta love the ingenuity of people.
The governor signed HB9, the homebrew legalization bill into law today!!!
MONTGOMERY, Alabama — Home brewers can finally raise a legal glass and rejoice.
Gov. Robert Bentley this afternoon signed the home brewing bill into law, ending Alabama’s status the only state in the nation that bans the making of beer and wine at home.
The Senate approved the bill Tuesday on an 18-7 vote sending the bill to the governor.
The bill, by Rep. Mac McCutcheon, R-Huntsville, would allow those 21 and older to make up to 15 gallons of beer, wine, mead or cider every three months for personal use. It would not be legal in dry counties or dry cities.
Brewing enthusiasts across the state rallied for the legislation. It was championed by two legislators from the Huntsville area who said some professionals are shocked when they move to Alabama and find out their favorite hobby is against the law.
The bill was opposed by the faith-based Alabama Citizen Action Program which generally opposes in law loosening restrictions on Alcohol.
Mississippi recently lifted a ban on home brewing.
15 gallons every three months isn’t exactly much. But it’s a start. I’m lucky enough to live in a state that follows the federal 100 gallon per person per year/200 gallons per household per year law. Without any of those stupid “you can’t take it out of the house” making club meetings or competitions impossible without breaking the law.
So yeah. Homebrewing finally legal nationwide (or at least according to Beer Pulse the MS legalization bill goes into effect 7/1 where they say the AL one goes into effect immediately).
A huge victory for sure. However, still a lot more work to be done with a number of states implementing volume limits and restrictions on where you can or can’t take your homebrew. Every single homebrewer should be an AHA member. Period.
In any event, still raising a toast to all the AL brewers who can now brew without fear.
I wake up from nap on the couch and see this!!! HB9, the homebrew legalization bill, passed the Senate!!! Now the Governor needs to sign it into law and homebrewing will be legal in all 50 states!!!
Smoked Porter finished out at 1.013 for 5.9% ABV. Tastes great, and I’m not big a huge smoked beer guy. Smoked character is notable, not harsh but also not cloyingly sweet or super bacony (there’s a little bacony flavor, but nowhere near the Rauchbier level). And more of a chocolatey roast than a harsher roast. Gravity says Robust Porter, flavor more like a Brown Porter, or even a strong Mild. I wouldn’t enter it in competition without adjustment, but I like it the way it is.
Point being, I would probably brew the base beer again as is.
That said, I’m ready to unleash Capiscum hell.
Also, my APA-being-entered-as-Blonde is en route to CA. Judging for that (the last run of the AHA Club Only competitions). The thought dawned on me that a stronger overhopped Blonde may do better than an underhopped APA out in CA. So there may yet be some hope for it.
And the Spirit of Free Beer judging is Friday/Saturday. They say that results will be posted Saturday. That’s some efficient competition running. Really happy with the beers I entered. If they meet or exceed the NHC scores, I might take home a few medals. 504 out of 520 entries paid and received according to the website, so there’ll be some decent competition.