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Monday, September 9, 2013

Yeast Wrangling: Part II

My efforts at collecting some yeast from the air in my back yard was unsuccessful to say the least.  All the plates I made were covered with various types of bacteria and other microbes as you can see in the picture below.  There were a couple spots that looked like they could be yeast, but inoculating two starters with them yielded very little if any growth and they smelled bad, so I knew they weren't yeast.  Or if they were yeast, they weren't any yeast I'd want to put in my beer.  I'm going to try this again some day, except next time I will take the suggestion of a friend and use some locally grown fruit as my source rather than try to collect the yeast from the air.  It won't be back yard local, but it will be local enough for me.

This was one I thought might be yeast.  Note to self: that's not what yeast looks like on an agar plate.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Yeast Wrangling: Part I

I finally got my lazy ass around to ordering the agar-agar I needed to get this project rolling.  For the last couple months I've had everything I needed except the agar-agar, which I just got in the mail today.  So without further ado, I'll detail the process I used tonight for the first part of this project.

Step 1: Gather Supplies

Dry malt extract x 1 oz
Petri dishes x 1-10
Agar-agar x 1 tbsp
Turkey baster
Container for sanitizer water

Step 2: Prepare Sanitizer

Should be pretty straightforward.  Follow mixing directions on the bottle of sanitizer.

Step 3: Measure out DME and Agar-agar

I used 1 oz of DME in 2 cups of water for an approximate wort gravity of 1.020.  As stated earlier, I used 1 tbsp of agar-agar.

Step 4: Heat Water and Add Ingredients

After bringing the water to a boil add the DME and mix thoroughly.  Be very careful to avoid boil overs at this point.  I had a hard time getting the boil to settle down after adding the DME.  Once the DME is fully mixed in, add the agar-agar.  The agar-agar will clump up a lot, but enough should be immediately dissolved to set properly once the temperature comes down.  I would still try to get as much dissolved as possible, though.  Continue boiling for about 5 minutes after adding the agar-agar.

Step 5: Transfer to Petri Dishes

Remove the  mixture from the heat and use the sanitized turkey baster to transfer the mixture to the sanitized petri dishes. I used plastic petri dishes so I was able to transfer straight away without the need for cooling the mixture.  If you're using glass petri dishes, make sure the mixture is sufficiently cooled.  You don't want it too cool, though, since agar-agar will set at room temperature.  At this point I placed my petri dishes on a cookie sheet and into the refrigerator so they would set faster.  Even in the fridge I was surprised they had set within 15 minutes. 

Step 6: Try to Catch Some Yeast

I placed my petri dishes next to an open window to minimize the chance of a bug getting in there and messing things up, but you could set them outside if you wanted to.  Just be sure to make some sort of protective barrier that will allow air (and therefore yeast) in but keep bugs out.  I left the dishes by the window for 2.5 hours.

Step 7: Incubate

The last step is to place the sanitized lids on top of the dishes and place them in area that will have temperatures suitable for incubating anything that landed on your dishes.  I have a tool box in my garage where it gets to around 80-90 F during the day so I set my dishes on top to wait for a week or so.

Hopefully this works since my last attempt at local yeast wrangling went horribly awry.  We'll find out soon and I will report back when I start seeing some growth.  Until then, happy brewing and happy drinking!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Beer Review - Blue Point Brewing Sour Cherry Imperial Stout

As promised I am back making an honest to goodness effort at making more consistent posts.  To start things off I am doing a review of Sour Cherry Imperial Stout by Blue Point brewing out of Patchogue, NY.  The aroma is soft roast, a little chocolate a just hint of tartness from sour cherries.  It's initially sweet with the chocolate notes translating well from the aroma.  The medium-full body coats the mouth well and allows the flavor to develop beautifully as it warms in the mouth.  The finish is sweet with the faint flavor cherries coming through as well as a slight tartness that gives the impression of a slight dryness.  Overall an excellent variation on the sometimes uninspired imperial stouts that are out there.  That's not to say those beers aren't good or excellent examples of the style, it's just nice to see something different.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

It's Been A While

Wow, it has been a long time since I made a post.  I started taking college classes so I can finish my degree before I get out of the Navy, so I sincerely apologize for this hiatus.  I will try to start posting more often starting with doing more beer reviews when I am running low on brewing related topics about which to post.  In the next couple months, though, I am planning a couple single hop brews with relatively new hops, so I will be able to report my review of those.  I am also planning on culturing some wild yeast from my area in a much more scientific fashion than the last time I tried it, which was, more or less, just letting some wort sit out in the open air for a few weeks.  This time I'll be using petri dishes, microscopes, the whole nine yards and I will be doing a series of posts about that.  So there's quite a bit to look forward to and I look forward to sharing my beer and brewing experiences with you.  Cheers!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Style Series #1: American IPA

Arguably one of the most popular styles in the U.S. and most definitely my favorite style, an expertly brewed American IPA is quite the beer indeed. I'm going to cover a couple things I've learned about brewing American IPAs with that will hopefully help you to brew better IPAs.

1. Mash Temperature

A great IPA, American or otherwise, is quite dry.  American IPAs are very dry while English and Imperial IPAs have a bit more body, albeit for different reasons.  When I first started brewing IPAs I was scared that I would make the beer too dry so I would mash at somewhere around 152 F, but the reality is that a lower temperature is required to get the appropriate level of dryness.  149 F is a much better temperature to mash at, but anywhere in the 148 - 151 F range should get you where you need to be.

2. Hops

Obviously, hops are the showcase of the IPA style and there are a myriad of factors to account for.  Most brewing texts will tell you that the beer needs to be hop forward, but balanced by a supporting malt character, which is true, but it's not the whole story.  There also needs to be a balance within the hop profile itself. The bitterness can't be too harsh or strong, otherwise the beer will be intensely grassy and unenjoyable.  Too much hop flavor will drown out the supporting maltiness.  Fortunately it's quite easy to achieve the proper balance with some alternatives to the traditional hopping schedule.  For IPAs first wort hopping is great technique to get a smooth bitterness and a pleasant flavor/aroma component.  Combined with late and dry hopping it creates a complex hop profile with several layers of depth to explore.

There are other topics that will help contribute to a great IPA, but I believe these two things are the keys.  For a more in depth analysis of the IPA style check out IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale.  Cheers and happy brewing!  

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Early Morning Brew Day

Well, it's 5:25 am as I start heating my strike water for my first brew day in over two weeks. Being on 12 hour night shifts makes it hard to find time to brew, but I have resolved to make time. That, I think, is the essence of passion not just for brewing but for anything. Making time to brew that you really don't have speaks volumes about one's dedication to brewing. I really should be waiting until I get an actual day off, but this can't wait any longer. If I am to brew this American stout with enough time for it to condition properly to be ready for the National Homebrew Competition it needs to be done before January is over and now is as good a time as any. Accompanying my brew day is a fantastic Imperial Red Ale from Oskar Blues called G'Knight in honor of their dearly departed Gordon Knight. I never knew Mr. Knight, but it is my hope that I can bring his apparent passion for finely crafted beer into my brewing and this brew day is dedicated to him.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Featured Recipe: Dust Devil IIPA

I had the distinct pleasure of tasting this beer a few days ago.  It was brewed by my good friend Mike Stauffer, an excellent homebrewer in Texas.  I tasted ten of his brews and this is the one I loved the most.  Intense hop character both in the aroma and the flavor, a solid but smooth hop bitterness supported by a medium-light body.  Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to present Dust Devil IIPA by Mike Stauffer:

13 lbs American 2-row
.5 lbs Rye malt
.75 lbs Crystal Malt 20°L
.5 lbs Crystal Malt 40°L
.5 lbs Cara-Pils® Malt; Briess

.6 oz Warrior (Pellets, 16.00 %AA) boiled 60 min.
.5 oz Cascade (Pellets, 5.50 %AA) boiled 20 min.
1 oz Cascade (Pellets, 5.50 %AA) boiled 5 min.
1 oz Simcoe (Pellets, 13.00 %AA) boiled 1 min.

Yeast :WYeast 1056 American Ale from slurry (2nd Gen.)
Ferment at 64F for 21 days then dry hop

1.00 oz Simcoe [Pellets 13 %] (Dry Hop 7 days)
1.00 oz Summit [Pellets 17.60 %] (Dry Hop 7 days)
1.00 oz Chinook[Pellets 10.00 %] (Dry Hop 7 days)

Mash Temp; 151F
Batch Size; 6 gal
Volume Boiled; 7.2 gal
Measured Brewhouse Efficiency; 71%
Measured OG; 1.068
Measured FG; 1.006
Measured ABV; 8.1%

I can't make you brew this, but all I can say is that if you're a hop head you won't be disappointed by this brew.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Revving Up For The NHC

Well,  it's that time of year folks. The National Homebrew Competition is just around the corner,  the perfect time to start thinking about brewing those recipes that depend on freshness for maximum quality. I myself am brewing eight beers for the NHC,  one of which (Old Ale) has already been brewed. The rest are fairly to highly dependent on freshness for success.   They are:

American Pale Ale
American Amber Ale
American Brown Ale
American IPA
Imperial IPA
American Stout

With the NHC first round in late March and early April it's about time get to brewing.  The stout and wiezenbock will be up first as I feel they will benefit from that little extra conditioning period prior to the competition.   The rest will be brewed sometime in mid to late February to give the beer ample opportunity to condition properly but still be at their respective peaks of freshness for the competition.

This will be my first NHC so I would love to hear any tips from you veterans or just hear what you're brewing,  veteran or not.  Good luck to everyone who's entering the competition and I hope to see you at the second round because I plan on going whether any of my beers advance or not.

If you want to take your brewing to the next level and maximize your chances of medaling in the NHC, take Gordon Strong's advice which can be found in his new book Brewing Better Beer: Master Lessons for Advanced Homebrewers

Featured Beer: New England Brewery Gandhi-bot

Just wanted to make a quick plug for a beer that I have recently been reunited with and that I think deserves special mention as one of New England's great beers.  The beer is called Gandhi-bot and is brewed by New England Brewing in Woodbridge, CT.  It is a double IPA that, in my opinion, could go head to head with the greats: Pliny the Elder, Heady Topper and Surly Abrasive immediately come to mind.  Of course there are other great double IPAs out there, but those three are among the most famous.  If you live in Connecticut or Massachusetts and you enjoy a great double IPA you owe it to yourself to get your hands on this beer.  If you don't live in Connecticut or Massachusetts you should look into making the drive if you're close enough or trading for it.  As of a few minutes ago when I checked, Gandhi-bot cannot be purchased through any of the online retailers of beer, so it might be hard to get your hands on.  It is most certainly worth it, though.  Here's a picture of it to whet your appetite.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The BJCP Tasting Exam

As I indicated in my last post I took the BJCP Tasting Exam yesterday and it was quite an experience. I was incredibly nervous walking in there, but I soon found my rhythm. The first beer was an Oktoberfest that I feel like I screwed up pretty badly.  There was something obviously off about it, but for the life of me I couldn't figure it out.  It's a lot harder to detect off aromas and flavors in a beer that has aroma and flavor. For my off flavor practice I only used light lagers which make it to easy to pick out.  After that I was blessed with a Wiezen,  a style with which I am very familiar. I don't want to jinx anything by saying how I scored the beers or if I think I did well. Mostly I just wanted to reassure anyone who might be taking the exam not to stress too much. I was constantly worrying that I would forget how off aromas smelled and off flavors tasted, but when it was game time my brain made the association and pulled through for me. I didn't have the luxury of having a class available in close proximity to me so I was doing all my preps and studying on my own. If you can, though, get involved with a class; it will help you immensely.  They will be able to help you recognize off aromas and flavors that you're having a difficult time getting down as well as teach you how to be more descriptive when filling out your score sheets, which is something that can make the difference between a good score and a great score.  The only other piece  of advice I have is to start looking for an exam as soon as you pass the Entrance Exam. I was very lucky to land a spot in an exam only four months from when I passed the Entrance Exam. Other exams a year and even further out were booked solid with substantial waiting lists. Good luck to all you prospective judges. I hope to see you at the judging table some day.  Cheers!

For an excellent introduction to the finer points of tasting beer along with a bit of history check out Randy Mosher's Tasting Beer: An Insider's Guide to the World's Greatest Drink

BJCP Exam Preparations

Well, in just a few short hours I'll be walking in the door to take my BJCP Tasting Examination.  I am incredibly nervous, but at this point I've done about all the preparation I can on my own.  I didn't have the luxury of having a prep class local to me so I've been trying to prepare as best I can on my own.  Over the past week I've been going over the style guidelines and studying the off flavors just so they're fresh in my mind.  I will have more information after the exam, but for now, wish me luck!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cloning Surly Abrasive

Back in November of 2012 I was afforded the opportunity to try a beer called Surly Abrasive which comes from Minneapolis, MN.  One of my good friends is Dan Banks who provided the Abrasive in exchange for some Heady Topper, which is also an amazing IIPA.  My personal opinion is that they're equally matched, but die hard fans of one or the other will obviously take sides.

Dan and a few of his buddies have taken on the monumental task of cloning Heady Topper and with 6 different hops the hop bill possibilities alone are endless, not to mention the grain bill.  I truly hope they get it down and I believe they will, but with so little to go on for a recipe, my guess is that the first try won't be the winner.  Having a healthy culture of Conan is going to go a long way toward helping them achieve their goal, though.

After reading about their goal of cloning Heady it dawned on me that I could do the same thing with Surly Abrasive.  This will be my first time cloning a beer, but unlike my Heady cloning friends, I have a relative wealth of information to go on.  The Surly website lists everything that goes into Abrasive, but not the proportions, so that is what I'll be guessing at for the first go around.

I have developed a first try recipe that I will be using later this week or early next week:

10.5 lbs Pale 2-row
 4 lbs Golden Promise
1 lb Flaked Oats
.75 lbs Crystal 40L
6.4 oz Corn Sugar

1 oz Citra (14.1%) FWH
1 oz Warrior (16.7%) 60 min
2 oz Citra (14.1%) 10 min
2 oz Citra (14.1%) 5 min
2 oz Citra (14.1%) 0 min

Ferment at 62 F with Wyeast 1335 British Ale II yeast

3 oz Citra (14.1%) Dry Hop for 7 days

I will keep making posts as developments occur. Until then, get your self some Heady or Abrasive if you can and enjoy it.  Otherwise, find your favorite hop bomb and wait for your turn at Heady or Abrasive.  Cheers!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

New Hop Grower

This year, for the first time, I will be joining the illustrious ranks of hop growing home brewers.  I just pre-ordered my rhizomes from Adventures in Homebrewing and I am incredibly excited.  They won't be shipping out the rhizomes until April and I just can't wait.  I ordered rhizomes for three varieties: Centennial, Cascade and Willamette.  Of the three Centennial is the only hop I haven't used all that much in my brewing.  I hope to change that after the harvest by brewing a wet hopped IPA that uses all three varieties.  Stay tuned because I'll be posting more updates on the hop growing starting when I receive the rhizomes in the mail which should be in mid-April.  Until then I'll be covering many other beer and brewing related topics.

My next post should be a detailed report of my experience at my BJCP tasting exam on Saturday Jan. 19.  I'm incredibly excited and nervous about this exam.  Throughout my life, for any given exam, I never feel like I've prepared enough, but there's not much I can do with so little except study the guidelines, so I will just have to have faith in my palate.  I will report my experience for everyone to learn from.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hop Review: Belma

Belma is a brand new hop from Puterbaugh Farms and Hops Direct that is described by the growers as:

"A very clean hop, with a very orange, slight grapefruit, tropical (but not mango/guava, more like pineapple), strawberry, and melon."

Excited by release of the new hop and the $5.25 per pound price I bought myself a pound to try out.  In an effort to get sense for its characteristics I brewed a SMaSH (Single Malt and Single Hop) IPA.  Here is the breakdown of how I think the hop performs:

Aroma - The aroma was quite pleasant with subtle fruit notes.  I say subtle because even though I got a big hop aroma in my beer it took five ounces worth of hop bursting and two ounces of dry hopping to get there.  There other similarly fruity hops that will get you that kind of character for fewer ounces.  As for the components of the aroma I got mostly pineapple and strawberry with some soft citrus notes as well.

Flavor - The flavor is where this hop falls flat, I think.  Even with the previously mentioned hop bill there was very little flavor to speak of.  Among what flavor there was it was hard discern any prominent flavor components.

Bittering - I made the mistake of using a completely hop bursted and dry hopped beer with no bittering charge, so I don't have a good idea of how Belma performs as a bittering hop.  What I can say is that even with no bittering charge the bitterness that was there was somewhat harsh, so I believe that would be exacerbated by a 60 minute boil.

All in all I think this is a poor hop to use by itself, but I think it would be a good dry hop for it's nice fruity aromas when paired with other hops with more aggressive aroma and flavor characteristics.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Second First Post

I started a blog of the same name a few weeks ago, but I was not happy with the blogging platform I was using, so I've closed that account and switched over to Google's Blogger platform.  The aim of this blog is simply to be about all things relating to beer.  I am a craft beer lover as well as a home brewer, so there will be all sorts of beer related topics on here.  When I started the first blog I wanted to be able to review a new beer every day, but with a new diet on the horizon and the need to save money for having a child later this year that will not be feasible.  Here's to me sticking around a lot longer than a few weeks this time.  Cheers!