Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pennsylvania Blueberry Still Cider

No gravity readings on this recipe, but it seems to be a nice and easy to make drink that really pleases the dry red wine drinkers, that are eager to sample their way into a home fermented beverage.  This recipe is mainly for my still version, but more than one person has stated  it may be a fine carbonated beverage.  When I drink it still, it is served at room temp and in a wine glass - much like you would a merlot.

3 Gallon Batch
3 Gallons of local apple cider
6 pounds of frozen blueberries (hand crushed)
1 pound of chopped craisens
1 12oz can of pie blueberries in syrup
1 12 oz can of 100% frozen apple juice concentrate
2 pounds of light brown sugar
1 capdem tablet (crushed)

Day 1 - Thaw and crush 3 pounds of berries.  Combine in sanitized fermenter with cider, craisens, canned berries, juice concentrate, sugar and capdem.  Put cover on fermenter and allow to rest at 70* for 24 hours.
Day 2 - Pitch yeast and hold at 70*

Ferment for 3 weeks

Day prior to racking - thaw and crush 3 pounds of berries.  Place in sanitized fermenter (I put in hop sack this time) and add crushed capdem tablet

Monday, September 20, 2010

Chai Saison

This beer was brewed at the semi-regular group brew with my friends during a seasonal brew day in Joppa MD.  The beer was basically a classic Saison recipe from Farmhouse Ales (a fantastic book if you have not yet read it), however we wanted to add some chai flavor.  I was originally inspired to use the chai after having Chai Iced Tea from a local eatery, Pai Wai.

The saison is one of the most amazing beer styles I have ever researched, since it was initially brewed to sustain farmers.  The "style" originated in the farming area between France and Belgium, and was typically a hodgepodge of malted grains the farmer had on hand, hops, and yeast that was then fermented at higher temperatures.  There is some guesswork in defining the style, since the beer would differ farm to farm, year to year.  This beer was such a staple to the farming class, it was sometimes even used as pay for the farm laborers - workers were permitted up to 5 liters per workday. Since this was a beer brewed based on what was on hand, the grist could contain various proportions of spelt, wheat, oats, barley and even other malted products.  There is a distinct "spicy" flavor that is characteristic of the beer, but traditionally no spices were known to be added to the beer.  Today, some of the more well known saison producers manage to create a bouquet of spice and flavor through only yeast and hop derived phenols.  Many homebrewers will read the style guidelines, and think spicing a saison is required - it is not.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A good beer day

Today was a good beer day, and it is only 6:00.  So far, I have had a chance to meet up with my MD Brewday friends, enjoy quite a few great commercial and homebrewed beers, made a fantastic (hopefully) belgian dubble, and taken ownership of a few branded MD Brewday pint glasses and a fresh sack of pilser malt. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Blanching fruit (peaches)

This may be fairly common knowledge to anyone that is a baker/cook, or slightly more into the culinary arts than me... but I had to look it up, so I assume others may too.  I have used whole berries, fruit purees and flavor extracts in the past, with some good results (not so much with the extracts).  Living in the middle of Pennsylvania's farmland, I have access to some good fruit.  I am not a huge fruit beer fan, but I do feel there are places where fruit can round out or even add to a beer, especially in sours.  I wanted to take one of the more common crops in my area (peaches) and try to create a sour peach beer, and while there already is a Peach Berliner out there, I figured I could make something in the same vein, but perhaps unique to me.  The plan is to reuse my existing Berliner recipe and a fresh pitch of Wyeast Berliner Blend, but age the beer with pounds and pounds of peaches.  I was given roughly 5 pounds of unknown peaches from my in-laws neighbors.  They we rather unattractive, but very ripe, and very tasty.  5 pounds, with pits, is not enough to impart the flavor I am looking to get in the beer.  I went to a local Amish farmer who I visit semi-regularly for a larger stockpile.  I got almost 20 pounds of amazing redskin peaches from Ike.  They were actually amazing to look at.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

English Strong Ale (Breakspear Triple) Tasting

I cannot believe I brewed this beer all the way back in November of last year. Even young and with a lower than expected OG, I knew this was going to be a good beer with age. If you are not familiar with the Brakspear Brewery, it was one of the last remaining English breweries to use a traditional fermentation method known as the double drop fermentation. Essentially, about 16 hours after the yeast is pitched in the primary, the actively fermenting beer is dropped, via gravity, from an upper ferment vessel to a lower (think of bunk beds, but with fermenters). In theory, this may seem like a terrible idea. Why would you want to oxidize a fermenting beer? Well, this basically extinct method is what was once said to give British beers the traditional flavor. Since British yeasts are generally known as under attenuators, there may be something to the dropping that may re-invigorate the fermentation, and perhaps provide additional esters that would otherwise be undetectable in the finished beer. Thankfully, the fine folks at Wychwood Brewery purchased the equipment (including the double drop fermenters) and the rights to Brakspear a few years ago, and the tradition continues on for now.

I set-out to try to recreate this beer, on the encouragement of a coworker who has a fond love of British beers, and perhaps a little more love for the British man she married. They had the Wychwood recreation of this beer during their last trip to merry ole England, and raved. I did the best I could to scrounge up the basics of the recipe, and below is where I landed.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Berliner Weisse 2010

I had heard previous reviews of the Wyeast VSS berliner strain release, and how it created some wonderful beers last year.  I was happy to see that it was released during the summer months this year, allowing brewers to employ a sour mash, while using the warmer months' ambient temperatures.

A berliner weisse is a sour German styled beer, that is said to be the champagne of the north.  This beer also holds a tale of being the favorite of Napoleon.  It is hard to find styles of this beer commercially, but locally I have had fantastic versions from Iron Hill and Nodding Head - both of which I really enjoy.  If/when you are offered a berliner at a brewery or good beer establishment, you are typically offered a plain version or one mixed with a flavoring syrup, traditionally it is Woodruff .  While I have had berliners with Woodruff, raspberry and apple syrups, I typically enjoy the unflavored version the most.  The beer is generally pale and slightly cloudy with a nearly non existent head that disappears quickly due to the higher acidic levels.  These higher acid levels are the byproduct of the lactobacillus bacteria that is intentionally introduced into the unfermented wort.  Generally the lacto ferments along with a clean ale yeast, to produce both the signature sourness, but also the alcohol and co2.  The beer is typically low abv and higher carbonated, which makes it quite drinkable, but the sourness may be surprising to those unfamiliar with the style.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

65 Gal Lambic

I guess it was just over a year ago now, that my brew friends Al, Stefen and myself decided we would try our hand at brewing a traditional styled pLambic (while I respect the history, I will be referring to the brew as lambic here out). Independently we had each brewed a sour beer at one time or another, with average results, but our respect and enjoyment of the lambic beer drew us to an epic brewday. We decided to try to brew this as close to the Belgian method as possible, with the only exception of spontaneous fermentation.

First, we wanted to secure a barrel. After trying to chase down some internet leads, I decided to call some of my local wineries. I think I only made 2 calls before speaking with the cellarmaster at Chadds Ford Winery, and we managed to work out a deal on a 65G French Oak barrel. Since this is a fully operational winery, the barrel was recently retired after about 6 batches, and had remained swelled, and recently had a sulfur stick burned in it to prevent organism growth. I picked up the barrel and we really began to move forward with plans for the brew formulation, method approach, and sourcing ingredients.

For the recipe, I deferred to the single best source I have acquired on brewing lambic beer, Wild Brews by Jeff Sparrow. We went with the traditional 70/30 pilsner to wheat grist. We chose unmalted wheat since we were ambitious enough to tackle a turbid mash for this monster brew. Since I had previously brewed a starter batch with unmalted wheat, and had milled it at home, I pushed very strongly to have the wheat milled by the supplier, North Country Malt. Milling wheat is tough enough, milling raw kernels is no joke. Since I only milled 3 pounds and thought my drill was going to explode, 30+ pounds would really suck. The guys took my word for it, and we had the supplier mill the wheat. We also sourced our pilsner malt from NCM. For hops, we went with Hallertau Select since they were under 2% AA and we did not have access to ample amounts of aged hops. For yeast, we used 5 very fresh smack packs of Wyeast Lambic Blend, a half gallon, 4th generation, slurry of Roselare, and the contents of a primaried 5 gallon starter batch pitched with Wyeast Lambic Blend.