Monday, January 28, 2008

Red Tail Ale (Red Ale #1)

We weren't planning on it last weekend, but i got the bug up my ass and just had to brew another batch. It also helped that one of my poker buddies let me borrow his copy of 150 Classic Clone Recipes. This guide was packed with recipes to copy many of our favorite beers - from Guiness to Winterhook and everything in between. We decided a red ale would be a good candidate for our next batch and settled on the Red Tail Ale, a clone of a beer from the Mendocino Brewery.

First, we needed to rack our IPA to make room for the red ale. I went back to Bob's for the third week in a row and picked up a second glass carboy along with an airlock and thermometer strip (and of course, the ingredients needed for this batch). While racking the IPA, it seemed like the beer was being agitated a bit where the cane-siphon meets the hose, and we worried a bit about the oxidizing. Most books seemed to be more concerned with the beer splashing at the bottom of the carboy, so we may be alright. We also added an ounce and a half of Amarillo and Simcoe hops in a hop bag to dry-hop the beer. This will sit in the fermenter with the beer for two weeks until we bottle. Some of our favorite beers are the Maritime Pacific dry-hopped ales, so we're really excited about this one. I'm glad there's a beer that will be ready before this, so I can be more patient about leaving this alone until it's been conditioned for a long enough time.

We had fun with the red ale, which was actually a simpler recipe than our last batch. We used less malt extract for this brew, and the hops were added at the start, at 30 minutes, and at the end of the boil. This gave us plenty of time for cleaning equipment during the downtime (and sipping more beer). We also decided to stray from the recipe a bit and dry-hop this beer as well. We'll use the leftover Cascade hops to add to the secondary fermenter next week when we rack this. We keep talking about taking a week off from brewing, but I just can't stop! Already thinking about brewing a clone of Sierra Nevada's Celebration Ale. Either way, we'll be bottling for our first time next weekend. This gets us closer to actually tasting the true "fruits" of our labor.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Skagit river and IPA #1

Second post and we already get to write about both passions!

On Saturday, we took my family up on the Skagit River for a scenic float. There aren't any rapids to write about, but we did see many bald eagles in their natural habitat. The Skagit River is the largest gathering of the eagles in the lower 48 states.

Holy crap was it cold! We've done this trip 3 or 4 times before, and while it's always a bit chilly, this is the first time we've been snowed on while on the river. It didn't just snow - it dumped on us. The crew all kept their smiles and had great attitudes so I applaud them (especially mom, who doesn't do so well on boats as it is). Kat and I ended up meeting some friends who were running the river tomorrow - Mike and Leah - and we ended up talking quite a bit about homebrewing. Mike used to homebrew quite a bit awhile back, and our new enthusiasm got him thinking about getting back into the hobby. I have mixed feelings about this, because he offered us the use of some carboys, and if he's brewing again he might need them...

Sunday was brew day. We started by racking (moving the fermenting beer from one container to another) our brown ale to a glass carboy for secondary fermentation. It smelled fantastic! Some of the specialty grains we used for the pre-boil steeping really came through. We each took a taste of the "green beer" and could tell that it was premature. Okay, we knew that before tasting it, but it was interesting trying the infancy and understanding a bit more about the time it takes for a beer to really taste great. We'll leave the brown ale in the carboy for two weeks before bottling.

We decided to brew an IPA loosely based on the Dogfish Head 60-minute IPA. What makes this beer unique is that the hops are continually added throughout the boil. Our previous beer had hop additions at the start of the boil, and then again 40 minutes into the boil. This IPA recipe called for 1 ounce of hops added continually for one hour. It was fun at first, but did become pretty tedious 40 minutes in. This time we did take hydrometer readings, and will be able to more accurately check when the beer is ready to be racked and also the estimated alcohol percentage. IPA is our favorite style of beer, so we're really excited to see how this one turns out.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

First brew!

My homie Dave continues to inspire (and harass) me to record my thoughts and life's events, no matter how trivial, in a blog. My girlfriend Kat and I have recently been interested in homebrewing and I thought that this project would be ideal to write about. Since whitewater rafting is also our passion, I figured the combination of rapids and suds would provide enough interesting material to write about on a weekly basis. Now if only I can stay motivated to post regularly, this blog could go places.

Leading up to the first batch, Kat and I had read a couple of books prior to the event: Nachel's "Homebrewing for Dummies" and Calagione's "Extreme Brewing". The "Dummies" book turned out to be more well-rounded and explained the process in greater detail. We had actually picked this up earlier last summer, and I started reading it in November. The more I read, the more fascinating the science was and less intimidating the process became. My family heard about this new interest and showed encouragement at Christmas: the Calagione book and a gift certificate to Bob's Homebrew in Seattle.

Today marked our initiation into the world of homebrewing. We visited Bob the Friday before and picked up a starter kit and a few various items recommended in our books. While we had picked out a recipe to start with, Bob included his own recipe and all ingredients in the starter kit. Since he had included quality ingredients, we didn't have a problem making the change and he had a recipe that fit our first choice - a brown ale.

Brew day was a blast. We felt very prepared since we had read the previous two books, and also the book that Bob included in the start-up kit, "How to Brew" by John Palmer. Brewing was not difficult, and leaves lots of time in between steps to sip your own cold beverage. In fact, the most difficult part of the process was keeping things clean and sanitized. Our only noticeable mistake was forgetting to take a hydrometer reading before pitching the yeast. This won't make a difference with the taste of the beer, but would have helped us understand the process, and be able to measure the actual change of the beer over the next few weeks. I can already tell that the wait until we crack open the first bottle will be painful. But this certainly seems like a hobby Kat and I will really enjoy.