Friday, September 7, 2012

Houston, We Have Sour

I finally have some positive results from the kefir lambic experiment. I just have a bottle of the control and one of the kefir version.

As a reminder, I brewed with a pretty standard lambic grist and split the batch. Half was fermented with US-05 until stable at about 1.022 then I added some kefir grains. There was no noticeable drop in gravity after another few days so I bottled. The second half was fermented entirely with kefir and settled at the same 1.022. After a couple of weeks in the bottle the control had no sour and light carbonation. The kefir version was almost completely flat. Both were a bit syrupy and had a little rubberyness but were ok other than that.

It's been a few more weeks. The control gushed at room temperature and left a thick, firm head. It had cleaned up in flavor a bit, almost mo band aid present except a very small amount at the tail of the glass. It still wasn't sour but wasn't sugary either. Not a bad beer actually.

Kefir from today
So I poured a bottle of the kefir. Not as carbonated as the control but it still had a tight head which dropped down after a couple of minutes. The aroma is quite a bit more complex than the control. Bready with noticeable stone fruit; it reminds me of a warm bun with apricot preserves. The wheat is at the forefront of the flavor too but there's a hint of a smooth lactic sour hiding in there. I wouldn't call puckery, much more subtle and quite pleasant. It's almost a sweat and sour candy sort of a flavor. I've got one more bottle of the kefir version. I think I'll cellar it for another few months and see how it turns out. This gives me hope for the technique. I still think I'll do a milk stout base next time.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Great Experiment

A few weeks ago I got some kefir grains and I've been really enjoying making my own kefir. The smooth sourness and wonderful flavors made me wonder about brewing with kefir grains so I launched the grand experiment. I'm brewing a small batch tonight for part 1 of the experiment. The grain bill is classic lambic, nothing too crazy. I'm going to split the batch in two and start one with US-05 then finish with kefir grains. The second half gets all kefir grain fermentation. I'm hoping for something lambic like. Batch two will be a similar experiment with a milk stout grain bill.

1lb Belgian pilsen malt
12oz US torrified red wheat
2oz Belgian aromatic
0.2oz aged Saaz

I did a 75 minute BIAB mash at about 152-154°F for a pre-boil gravity of 1.046. (84.5% efficiency...pretty standard for a small batch BIAB for me). I boiled for 60 minutes with the hops in for the full time (and a pinch of irish moss for the last 10 minutes or so). I had some hops in the freezer from quite some time ago (at least a year). It was mostly Saaz but probably had a little of something else mixed in. Chilled in the sink to about 70°F then split to two growlers. OG is 1.054. Pitched 1g of US-05 in one container and 0.5oz of rinsed kefir grains in the other.

I checked this morning and the yeast half is fermenting nicely. The kefir portion has pushed the water through the airlock with an occasional bubble so it seems to be doing ok although it's starting out slowly.

On Monday evening the yeast half had slowed significantly so I took a gravity reading. At 1.021 it seemed mostly finished (40% unmalted wheat and a low mash temp leaves lots of unfermentables). I racked to a secondary and pitched 0.5oz of lightly washed kefir grains. The kefir only half is fermenting fairly well now. Not a full on yeast fermentation but a couple of bubbles a second.

The kefir half had slowed and cleared by Wednesday evening. The gravity is at 1.022 which is essentially the same as the yeast half. There's not any sourness but I didn't compare the two. The estimated FG for the batch is 1.013 so there may be room to drop still but it might need brett to get the rest of the way. I'll give them a few more days and see if it's steady then do a comparison. I'm thinking I might need to move on to experiment 2, a milk stout. Maybe the addition of lactose will give the kefir something more to chew on.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Beer and Sweat

I've been pretty lax posting but I haven't brewed much lately..suppose I could put more commercial reviews. Anyway, I did brew about 3 months back. Made an Oktoberfest with Zack and Tom (Tom also made a milk stout) that we're going to submit to Beer & Sweat next month. It's at Zack's so I haven't had a chance to taste it yet but he says it's quite good. I'm pretty excited about the event..hopefully we'll score well! I'll post an update with the results.

Monday, March 5, 2012

American Bitter Tasting

I tasted the Pantry Clearing Bitter this weekend and I'm quite happy with it.

Appearance: Little head with large bubble which fades quickly. Not a lot of carbonation in this yet, but it shouldn't have too much being a bitter. The color is a light amber and slightly cloudy.

Aroma: The aroma is light due to the low carbonation but there's some floral and spice notes from the hops. No real malt or strong yeast aromas.

Flavor: It's more hoppy and bitter up front than a British ordinary bitter should have. Let's call this one an American bitter, yea, that's it. It's certainly not overpowering or unbalanced and is quite pleasant. The bitterness makes up for a lighter body. After the initial hop fades there's a strong breadiness. There's no Maris Otter in here but you'd never know from the flavor. There's some faint spice to accompany the bready malt leaning more to black pepper then coriander.

Mouthfeel: Thin but not unexpectedly so since it is a low alcohol session ale. A little wheat might have been nice to help with head retention and a small amount of body.

Overall: I like this beer quite a bit. Much better than the previous couple of batches and quite good given the mishmash of ingredients.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Pantry Clearing Bitter

I decided at the last minute that I wanted to brew today. I had some hops and grains in the pantry that needed to get used up so I figured I'd plug the amounts into BeerSmith and see what I got. Turns out I could use most of my leftovers on a 3.5gal batch of ordinary bitter. Most of the hops were pretty old so I intend to use them for bittering (reserving the oz of Saaz for a Belgian sometime). Picked up a couple of ounces of fresh hop pellets for aroma and a packet of S-04 to round out the recipe.

It's pretty cold in Ohio right now so I had trouble hitting my mash temp at first (138°F instead of the target 154°F). I figured that might happen so I mashed a little thick at first expecting I'd need to add a couple of quarts of near boiling water to get the temp right. The second addition was more like 157°F which was good since it's dropped a bit even in my cooler. I did a starch test due to the temperature issues to make sure I got full conversion and ended up with slightly more than a 60 minute mash. The grain bill is mostly pale malt with a mix of UK and Belgian 2-row since that's what I had leftover. A small amount of chocolate malt for some color and a little roast rounded it out.

A 60 minute boil with 2 hop boil additions and some at flame out clears most of my hops. The Styrian Goldings was a little more aromatic than the Fuggles and Amarillo so it's going in at 30 for some flavor. I bought Challenger and Pilgrim (both UK sourced) for some aroma and both go in during cooling. Pre-boil gravity was a smidge low at 1.028 but I suspect my efficiency was low because of the lower volume (greater percentage lost to dead space)

An unfortunate problem I encountered during my cold weather brew experiment is that a turkey fryer thermal valve will not stay open in 20° weather and occasionally catches fire since the o-ring shrinks. Luckily, my stove will boil 3.5 gallons without a problem so I just moved indoors. I eventually got up to a full boil at about 4:15 in the afternoon.

The boil was uneventful after that. I decided the cold was going to help me this time so I'm chilling outside right now. The aroma hops went in at chill time. Two new varieties for me: challenger and pilgrim. Challenger has been a staple for British styles for a while but I've always used the older varieties. Challenger seems to have a nice spicy and slightly musty smell. Jenn thinks it smells like mustard greens and I can't say I disagree. The pilgrim is a little less powerful with a spice and lemon nose.

I'm planning on drinking this one young so watch for updates and tasting notes in a few weeks.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Noble hop information

Just wanted to link everyone to a nice blog entry on noble hop characteristics and substitutions. It's a nice, succinct entry on the four noble hop varieties and is a nice read for beginner and advanced brewers.

Beersmith blog entry on noble hops

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Restaurant Week and Allies Win the War!

I went to the semi-annual restaurant week in the Miami Valley tonight. As always, The Meadowlark was fantastic!

The meal began with a nice and flavorful pea soup with a rye toast covered in melted cheddar. The soup was quite good with a rich flavor but I think the toast could have used a sharper cheddar, it was a little flat tasting and slightly greasy. This course also came with a small (4oz or so) French country ale. This was not quite a saison but did have a nice clean taste with a slight spicyness.

I had the roasted winter squash salad with jalepeno, lime, yogurt, and cilantro. A surprising bite accompanied perfectly roasted squash. The sweetness of the squash mixed with the spice and the slight bite of the yogurt sauce.

The main course was a grilled pork chop with cornbread pudding. Another spicy dish that was quite good overall. The green onion gravy was not overdone and provided a nice contrast to the creamy moistness of the corn bread. The pork was a little overdone for my taste but it wasn't dry by any measure.

Finally, a soft and creamy maple créme brulee finished off the meal. The amount of food was just right and at $25.12 it was a steal.

The highlight of the evening was my Allies Win the War! beer, a collaborative between 21st Amendment and Nikasim this beer could be best described as an American strong ale. The malt was very typical of an English strong with sweet caramels, a little roast, and some dark fruits. Balanced bitterness makes this beer a perfect pairing for any of the meals that were offered for restaurant week. The nose was caramel, dried fruits (especially the California dates this beer was aged on) and the slight citrus and spice of the northwest US hops used in this brew. A medium body and a bit of carbonation lighten the beer so the malt doesn't take over. While not the best beer I've ever had, this was a solid brew and quite representative (exactly what I expected it to be) and I'd definitely buy it again.