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.