Thursday, October 29, 2009

Belgian Single Sour Split Batch

Two years ago my friend Jesse came by and we brewed what I guess would be best described as a Belgian style IPA with coriander. It was an extract batch that we ended up splitting and we soured half of it. Well that sour half has been in a glass carboy for two years and we figured it was time to bottle that up. So this Sunday that 3-4 gallons of beer will finally go into bottles. Should be interesting.

Since Jesse is coming up to bottle the two year old sour we decided to brew up another batch of beer. This time we are brewing which I guess would be considered a Belgian Single. 5 gallons we are going to ferment out "normal" and the other 5 gallons we are going to sour. If anyone is around on Sunday feel free to stop by while we brew. I'm sure there will be plenty of tasty beers shared and a full day of brewing and bottling. My friend Eric is coming by to bottle about 6 gallons of two of his sour beers he has been aging for at least a year. So if you come by, bring a sour beer to share…or two. Also any of you homebrewers out there feel free to provide some feedback on the recipe. Most of the ingredients won't be picked up until Saturday so changes can be made.

Belgian Single Sour Split Batch

10 Gallon Batch

14 lbs of 2-Row
10 lbs of Belgian Pilsner Malt
2 lb of wheat malt
1 lb of acidulated malt
1 lb of Vienna malt

3 oz of Styrian Goldings (3.8% AA) @ 60 minutes
1 oz of Nelson Sauvin (11% AA) at 10 minutes
1 oz of Nelson Sauvin (11% AA) at KO

Wyeast 1214 Belgian Ale (starter) – 2 packs
WLP655 Belgian Sour Mix for half – 1 vial

Target OG = 1.063
Target IBUs = 21
Target ABV = 6.2%

Monday, October 26, 2009

Iron Hill Gathering of the Gourds

The original plan was to head out to this event on my bike with the Beer by Bike crew but based on some scheduling conflicts in addition to a rather wet forecast the ride did not occur. Despite the ride being cancelled I wasn't even sure I would be able to make it based on other conflicts, but luckily I was able to get over to Iron Hill in West Chester for a couple of hours. The Gathering of the Gourds is a festival of pumpkin based beer and food that Larry Horwitz (head brewer at IH West Chester) has been putting on the past few years (previously at IH North Wales).

Iron Hill West Chester is the perfect Iron Hill location for events like this. Between the free parking in West Chester on the weekends in addition to the larger "private" bar area in the back it just works out really nicely. There was a total of 5 Iron Hill pumpkin based beers on tap in addition to 6 guest beers on tap. You could get a sampler which included 10 of the beers, 5 oz pours of each for $15. The Iron Hill beers included their 9.5% Ichabod Imperial Belgian Pumpkin Ale, Punktoberfest which was a strong version of their Oktoberfest beer brewed with pumpkin and pumpkin pie spices, Boom Sticke Pumpkin Alt a 7.5% Sticke Alt which was brewed with German pumpkins and seasonal spices. They also took their Imperial Belgian Pumpkin Ale and aged it in a Heaven Hill bourbon barrels, they were calling this one Bruce Camp-Ale. The 5th Iron Hill beer of the event was not on the menu and was not included in the sampler. It was their Imperial Belgian Pumpkin Ale that they aged in an oak barrel along with some brett to create their Funkin Punkin. The beer they were referring to as their "secret keg" but all you had to do was hear about it...and ask for a sample at the bar. They also filled up a pumpkin with their Ichabod which they tapped around 5pm and handed out free samples to everyone.

The guest beers included four beers from Elysian, a brewery that specializes in pumpkin based beers. They brought along their The Great Pumpkin, Dark o' the Moon Pumpkin Stout, Hansel and Gretel Ginger Pumpkin Pilsner as well as their Kaiser Kurbis (a wheat based pumpkin ale). Stewarts Brewery out of Bear, DE sent up their Mischief Night Pumpkin Ale and Cambridge Brewing Company provided their Great Pumpkin Ale.

Out of all the pumpkin based beers I had I was surprised by which beer took top honors in my opinion...Iron Hills Punktoberfest. Probably the beer I was most skeptical about turned out to be the top beer of the day for me. The strong malty notes of the Oktoberfest beer complimented the vanilla and cinnamon that was really coming through as well. The beer reminded me of a pumpkin spice cookie. The Bruce Camp-Ale was a bit too heavy on the bourbon for my taste, but was getting a lot of attention from the folks that really dig over the top bourbon barrel aged beers. The Ichabod is a solid beer as well. Out of the guest taps the only one that stood out to me was The Great Pumpkin from Elysian, a very solid more traditional Pumpkin Ale. The description said they use toasted pumpkin seeds in the mash so maybe that gave this beer a little bit more to help set it apart.

The food really helped to make this event stand out. In generally I'm a fan of the food at Iron Hill, especially their specials so going into this I had a feeling they would really pull off some great pumpkin based dishes. What I wasn't expecting was all the food (and plenty of it) to be free! Pumpkin and Chiorizo Chili served from a pumpkin, sweet potato croquettes with some sort of maple and nut based glaze, pumpkin hummus and the highlight as far as the food goes...teriyaki glazed wings with jalapenos and a pumpkin curry sauce to cover them in! Yes the food was amazing. Thanks to Iron Hill West Chester for a great food spread, a solid selection of pumpkin beers and an event that I'll be sure to make it back out to in years to come.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Union Jacks Barrel Aged Fest

9am on a brisk fall morning in early October...15 barrel aged beers on tap at Union Jack's Inn on the Manatawny in Oley, PA...makes for one heck of a morning. I picked up my friend Eric around 8:30 and we were on our way to enjoy a breakfast from the barrel.

To our surprise we were the first ones there when we rolled in at 9. It's crazy how 30 miles west can make this big of a difference on the turnout. Heck Capones had Russian River Consecration on tap a couple of months ago and the line was about 50 deep just to get into the place. I'm not complaining though, prefer the setting a Union Jacks and the laid back atmosphere.

The tap list for this event was probably the best I have seen in our area in quite some time. It went something like this...

-Stone Red Wine Barrel Aged Old Guardian
-Allagash Interlude
-Ommegang Rouge
-Pennichuck Pozharnik
-Founders Maple Mountain Brown
-Saint Somewhere Lectio Du Chene
-Founders Backwood Bastard 2007
-Terrapin Substance Abuse
-Terrapin Big Sloppy Monster
-New Holland Dragons Milk 2007
-Left Hand Oaked Imperial Stout
-Russian River Consecration
-Founders Hand of Doom
-Le Trou Du Diable La Claymore Cerise
-Le Trou Du Diable Brandy Barrel La Buteuse

Highlights included Stone Old Guardian, the beer was perfectly smoothed out and the wine barrels added a nice complexity that complemented this already great barley wine. This was the first time I had a chance to try Allagash Interlude and I was impressed by how much tart cherry, tropical fruits and funky sourness was present in both the flavor and aroma. Really liking the Brett strain that Allagash has going on. The 2007 Backwoods was a welcome surprise, not sure how UJ's got ahold of that one and both Terrapin beers were holding up nicely as well. I believe both beers were from 2006. The Big Sloppy Monster was tasting much more like a barrel aged barley wine at this point as opposed to the huge imperial IPA it once was.

Union Jacks certainly put some time into planning this event and tracking down all these BA kegs. I was happy to see that they were offering samplers, five 6 oz beers per sampler tray for around $15. A reasonable price considering what was on those trays. The only downside was that the flights were already pre-defined by UJ's which certainly makes it easier on them but not as convienent for those patrons who had certain beers in mind to try out.

If you haven't had a chance to get out to Union Jacks I would certainly encourage you to do so. Even if they are not having a special event you can always find a great tap selection, very large bottle selection and solid pub food. The location is charming as well and their patio area is a great place to hang out on a nice spring, summer or fall afternoon or evening.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Terrapin Gamma Ray

So those Deadheads over at Terrapin Beer Company out of Athens, GA have finally started to send their tasty creations up to PA. The brewery certainly brews some amazing beers and for the most part those dancing turtles are a welcome edition to a region already blessed with what some would say the best beer selection in the US. From their Wake and Bake Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout to their Rye Squared Imperial Pale Ale Terrapin is certainly a welcome addition to the Philadelphia beer market.

For a few years Terrapin has been releasing a series of one off beers known as their Side Project. Gamma Ray Wheat Wine was originally released as part of that series and it looks like it's now considered a seasonal release from the brewery. A 10+% wheat wine featuring locally grown honey from the Savannah Bee Company has been popping up in the Philadelphia market with it's new label for the past month or two.

The beer pours a hazy orange with a bubbly off white head that goes away to nothing quickly. The aroma initially features dark fruits but is quickly followed up by an almost mead like honey sweetness. There are some light floral and citrus hop notes but this beer is dominated by the honey. The flavor is also dominated by the honey and is a bit on the sweet, yet thin side. The alcohol is well hidden but this wheat malt meets honey combination just doesn't do it for me. Too much like mead and a thin not so good version of it. Terrapin misses the mark on this one.

$4.50 at Capones in Norristown, PA for a 12oz bottle...skip this one and buy the Wake and Bake.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Duck-Rabbit Schwarzbier

The Duck-Rabbit Brewery out of Farmville, North Carolina is one of the most consistant and reliable American craft breweries. They claim to be the "The Dark Beer Specialist" and that they specialize in beautiful, delicious, full flavored dark beers. In my experience those claims hold true. From their 2009 GABF gold medal winning robust Baltic Porter to their rich and malty Russian Imperial Stout The Duck-Rabbit knows how to make an amazing dark beer. Even their more "sessionable" beers like their hoppy American Brown Ale and medium bodied caramel malty Amber Ale are some of the top beers in their respective categories. Oh and their Barleywine and some of the barrel aged beers...the list goes on.

For their latest offering the brewery has attempted the often overlooked (at least by American craft breweries) Schwartzbier. The German style dark lager or "black beer" that has it's origin pointing back to Middle Ages in Braunschweig Germany. Not really a surprise pick from a brewery that specializes in "dark" beers and certainly one I was excited to hear about when broke the news.

They have held pretty true to style with their offering. Dark brown in color, almost pushing black with a medium creamy/bubbly deep tan head that left sticky lacing down the sides of my glass. The aroma showcased a rich toasted almost roasty malt character complimented by toasted nuts, some light coffee and milk chocolate. The hops were probably a little more pronounced than some traditional representations of the style, but I liked that. Floral, light citrus and noble hop spiciness. The flavor featured much of the same with more if the bready malt, hard pretzels and brewing grains coming through. Hop flavor and bitterness was there and pronounced. I have heard the Schwartzbiers referred to as a German Pilsner...but black and while this beer certainly has some roasted malt and light coffe and chocolate notes, it's still a rather accurate explaination.

Here is to The Duck-Rabbit continueing to pump out great beers that have yet to really dissapoint -- Cheers!

On a side note...for those of you in the Lansdale, PA area. The Blue Dog Pub is selling this beer for $2 a bottle. Not a bad price for a single bottle.

Christmas Ale in Bottles

As of 9pm last night Christmas Ale 2009 is officially in bottles. The final gravity came in at 1.019, which puts the beer at just over 7% ABV. Was shooting for around 8%, but based on how it's tasting we can live with 7%. We ended up with a total of 8 12 oz bottles and 46 22 oz bottles. Sound like just enough to share with all our friends and family during the holidays. Now we just have to wait for the priming sugar to do it's magic and carbonate the beer. We like to get this one in bottles early so that the beer has plenty of time to fully carbonate and also for the spices to blend and settle down a bit. Will crack one open in a couple weeks to check on the carbonation.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Christmas Ale 2009

Since 2006 I have been brewing a holiday spiced ale with my good friend Tommy G (aka Tom Tom also known as Big Brother to my son Elliott). As a matter of fact this beer was the second beer we ever brewed and the first beer that actually turned out ok (we tried to do a Double IPA for our first ever homebrew batch...not a good idea for a first batch). So on September 13th, 2009 we set out to brew Christmas Ale 2009.

Lets start with the recipe for this 10 gallon batch of Christmas in a bottle.

Malt Bill
28 lb of American Two Row
1 lb of Wheat Malt
1 lb of Crystal 20
1 lb of Crystal 80
1 lb of Victory
1/2 lb of Chocolate Malt
2 lb of Granulated Belgian Brown Sugar (Beet Sugar)

Hop/Sugar Additions:
1 oz of Tomahawk (Columbus) (15% AA) @ 60 minutes
1 oz of Amarillo @ 30 minutes
2 oz of Simcoe @ 15 minutes
2 lb of Brown Belgian Sugar @ 10 Minutes
2 oz of Simcoe @ KO

6 sticks of Cinnamon
2 Vanilla Bean Split (Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean)
3 tsp of Nutmeg (Whole ground on brew day)
3 tsp of All Spice (Ground)
1 tsp of Madagascar Clove (Ground)
Zest of 6 Navel Oranges
All added at 1 minute left in boil

Wyeast 1028 London Ale Yeast – large starter
Brew Day
With most of the beers I brew I try to do a starter at least the night before brew day. With this beer I really should have gotten the starter going earlier since the yeast was a couple months old, but didn't notice that until I was about to make my starter. In the end it seemed to still work out fine.

With 32+ lbs of grain I figured we were going to have a hard time getting it all into the 10 gallon cooler that I use for a mash tun, but somehow we managed to get all 32 lbs of grain in along with about 7 gallons of water. The mash was a bit on the thick side and the temperature dropped a bit more than I would have liked, but all in all it worked out. Target mash temp was suppose to be around 152 and we were more in the 149 to 150 range.

The sparge took over an hour and didn't really give us any trouble. I typically use a fly sparging method and that was the case for this batch as well.

I have a 15 gallon brew kettle and we probably ended up with roughly 13 gallons of pre-boiled wort. So while this might have been pushing the limits of the boil kettle we made it through without any major upsets or boil overs.

While the boil was going Tommy G (with a little help from Elliott) got all the spices together and oranges grated.

Adding the brown sugar.

The wort boiled for about 60 minutes and it took us close to an hour to bring the beer down to yeast pitching temperature.

The OG came in around 1.073 which was just about right on target. Fermentation seems to be going well and we should be set to bottle this tonight. When finished the beer should come in around 8% abv.