Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Racking and Bottling

Sorry for the delayed post this week. This is likely due to the fact that we did not brew over the weekend.

We did bottle our Pliny the Elder clone. This was a bit difficult with all the hops left in the carboy. It was a bit nerve-racking (pun intended) getting a solid stream flowing through the siphon since it was wrapped in pantyhose to help filter out the hop trub. We ended up aerating the beer quite a bit during the process which hopefully won't impact the flavor too much. Maybe next time we'll try using the pantyhose at the exit end of the tube to see if that manages to work any better (but honestly, it'll be quite some time before we make a beer with this amount of dry-hops).

Not much else to report, other than our brown ale really tastes fantastic. Looking forward to giving our first IPA a true taste test this weekend. Kat picked out an ESB recipe that looks mighty tasty, so that is most likely what we'll be brewing on Saturday.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Lagunitas IPA Clone and Green River

We decided to go ahead and brew another IPA this past weekend. Our reasoning was that since IPA is usually our style of choice, we might as well go ahead and brew a bunch so we have a stash over the summer months when we won't be brewing as much (due to time and temperatures). I've been eyeing the Lagunitas IPA clone recipe for awhile now, as this is one of our favorite beers. The batch went off without a hitch, and included Horizon, Willamette and a ton of Cascade hops. We decided to alter the recipe a tab, and will dry-hop this with another ounce and a half of Cascade. We also bottled our Red Tail clone and racked our porter. Quite the manufacturing line we have in the kitchen the last few Saturdays.

On Sunday, we loaded up the boat and joined WRRR for a trip down the Green River Gorge. Although it was chilly in the morning, the weather was fantastic and we enjoyed sunny skies all day. Kat and I "R2ed" (just the two of us paddling) this trip, which is nice since we usually have additional paddlers along for the ride. The Green has some outstanding whitewater, including a IV+ section known as Mercury drop and the Nozzle. Mercury has some powerful hydraulics including a couple meaty holes that are necessary to navigate cleanly. Directly after Mercury is the Nozzle, a 5-6 foot wide gap between two large boulders which is the only runnable slot. If you have swimmers in Mercury, there's not much time to recover and make the Nozzle which makes this section generally pretty hairy. Everyone in the group had clean lines and we enjoyed an outstanding day on the river.

Not sure on the schedule for next weekend yet. We do have a bunch of things to catch up on, so we may delay our next brew for another week. Our Pliny clone will be bottled on Saturday, which will be an interesting task. Looking forward to smelling more of those hops - yum!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

First Taste

I just had to put up a quick post as we just opened our first beer! It had the satisfying "pffft" that you all love to hear when you crack one open. The flavor is great - subtle tones of chocolate and caramel.

Hot damn, we made beer!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Avery Porter Clone

Our repeat performance of the full array of brewing tasks went much smoother than last week. We managed to get bottling started at eleven in the morning and were able to finish brewing just after 6pm. With efficiency in mind, we were a bit excited and almost got ahead of ourselves by bottling before we added priming sugar. Fortunately, Kat realized this after we had capped only one bottle so we were able to correct the mistake painlessly. The good news was that we had a large sample of our IPA to taste. Although the beer was flat, it was actually very good: slightly bitter with a big aroma, and had a fantastic color and clarity. I think this beer will get us a lot of "you made this?" from friends since it's more of the style our friends prefer (and it's tasty)!

After bottling, we started on both of the next tasks - brewing our porter and racking the Pliny clone. Tackling both at the same time was a great use of time since there is always down time during brewing. Our Avery Porter clone started with just under 4 lbs. of malted grains for our pre-boil mash. The featured grains included carapils, chocolate malt, and black patent malt to give it a rich dark chocolate smell and look. While those were steeping, we started added hops to our carboy which will dry-hop our Pliny clone. If you look at the photo we took, that's six ounces of hops just for dry hop. For comparison, we haven't yet brewed a beer outside the Pliny that used six ounce total, let alone for dry-hopping. Tasting showed that the beer's bitterness had mellowed out considerably, and left behind a large hoppy aftertaste. We expect this to be a big beer that leaves a mouthful to "chew" on when it's complete in 3-4 weeks.

The porter brewing went off without a hitch. One difference from previous batches was we added half of our malt extract late in the boil for this recipe. Bob mentioned that this helps hop efficiency, which should bring out more of the bitterness from the Columbus hops. Fuggles were used for aroma and again in a week for dry-hop (dry-hopping is unconventional for a porter). These are very aromatic and have a nice fruity and earthy balance. The wort was cooled and we pitched our London Ale yeast at 70F. It's been fermenting nicely since Saturday night. Now we have to decide whether or not to brew again this weekend. Can you believe that I'm leaning towards the 'yes' side?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Pliny the Elder Clone

Busy busy brew day for us on Saturday. We knew it would be, as our first bottling attempt was this weekend as well as racking our Red Tail clone from the previous week. We really weren't sure what we were going to brew. We had talked about a few different possibilities during the week, but didn't really have a solid decision. I had found a clone recipe of Russian River's Pliny the Elder IPA which was getting rave reviews, but I knew would be expensive based on the amount of hops in the recipe. Less than an hour before leaving for the brewstore, I came to the conclusion that this was the beer I really wanted to brew, and Kat agreed.

Before we could start on this ale of epic hop proportions, space was needed in the fermenter and therefore beer had to be bottled and racked. Our original brown ale was looking fantastic - it had cleared up nicely and a solid layer of sediment was sitting on the bottom of the carboy. Cleaning and sanitizing the bottles was the real work here, especially without a dishwasher to sanitize. We were able to make the best with what we had. I found some unused organizing racks worked perfectly for drying the bottles after sanitizing. After the cleaning, we added the priming sugar and moved the beer to our bottling bucket. Then it was a fun and easy trade off, as Kat would fill up the bottles, and I'd add the cap. We ended up with 23 12oz. bottles and 12 22oz. bottles, just shy of our expected yield. We did take a taste of the beer, prior to carbonation and it was much better than expected. In 2-3 weeks time, we'll have a fantastic beer to share with our friends!

Our Red Tail was racked to a carboy, and we added an ounce of Cascade hops for dry-hop. The beer did still have a bit of a foamy head at top, which was a small concern. It had been bubbling away for the first few days and slowly tapered off just as our previous attempts so the other behavior was as expected. The sample tasted fairly balanced, but also a very mild flavor. Kat said that adding the dry-hop was "the best thing we could have done" to this beer, and I think she's right.

Brewing the Pliny Clone was a real treat to a couple of hop heads like Kat and I. Even Bob (of Bob's Homebrew Supplies) was impressed by the sheer amount of hops used in this recipe:

Pliny the Elder
1 lb 2-row malt
0.28 lbs crystal malt (40L)
0.86 lbs Carapils malt
1 lb dextrose
6.15 lbs light DME

1.5 oz Chinook hops (mash)
2.75 oz Warrior hops (90min)
0.5 oz Chinook hops (90min)
1 oz Simcoe hops (45min)
1 oz Columbus hops (30min)
2.25 oz Centennial hops (0min)
1 oz Simcoe hops (0min)

Wyeast 1056 American Ale

3 oz Columbus hops (dry-hop)
1.75 oz Centennial hops (dry-hop)
1.75 oz Simcoe hops (dry-hop)

Mash at 150-152F for 45min.

This was a noticeably different recipe from the start as we added and ounce and a half of hops just to the pre-boil mash. The other major difference was the addition of a pound of corn sugar to the boil. This will give lots of fuel for the yeast as it turns the sugars into alcohol and CO2. Let's get back to the hops though. In case you didn't do the math, there is over a full pound of hops in this recipe. This was our first chance to use many of the listed hop varieties for the first time. We both absolutely loved the Columbus hops which had a slight fruity aroma. The Chinook was a nice bittering hop as well, and came through strongly in the tasting. Our only issue during brewing was forgetting about adding Irish Moss, but we added a tsp. with about 10min left in the boil anyway. The airlock has been bubbling like crazy since Sunday morning, and we both know this beer will be tempting to taste as early as possible. We'll do our best to see how long we can hold out, it won't be ready for sure until the end of March and will certainly improve after additional weeks. Good thing we'll have 3 brews to tide us over until then.