Saturday, May 28, 2011

Branding completish!

Das bier smecht gut!
So I've mentioned our attempt at branding the B111 undertaken by Sarah. She finished a while ago and I've been here and there, waiting till I brewed again so I could have time to discuss it. Here we are! We did two sets of brews a-la Goose Island (well, they do more) and Boulevard. Check out the first series:
Look at the side of the label! 
These are beers we would like to offer as seasonal releases: Rye of the Tiger (Red Rye Saison)-Fall, Velvet Onyx (Robust Vanilla Porter)-Winter, Barley Ann Blonde (Belgian Blonde)-Spring, EyeWitNess (Summer).
For descriptions visit OUR WEBSITE.
Cool, huh?
If you didn't catch the side of the label, CHECK IT!
All of the beer names on the labels were painstakingly hand drawn by Sarah, then magically touched up via the Adobe suites. The labels were then printed out and cut out by hand...PAINSTAKINGLY. Those little ones on the sides were a bitch. We aren't sure how feasible this is to do on a large scale, but damn, it looks cool!

Next we have the higher end Belgian series. Some of these are based on a seasonal approach, like the Saisons Noir and Blanche, but some are not, like the Grudge Fuck and others. First Blanche and Noir! You can find recipes for these in earlier posts as well. I think I explained the concept behind them, but if not, I'll rehash quickly. I wanted these beers to pair with the turbulent weather of Spring. Noir would be a big black saison to have on a cold, wet night. Blanche would be a white/blonde saison that would be great on a warm day during spring. We didn't get to it, but they would be packaged together in some kind of cool box that uses alternating black and white design. I hope to make this a reality some day. Grudge Fuck is the beginning of an artistic series relating to either music or literature. It comes from an indie/pop/alt-country mastermind Joe Pernice. Please, please check out their tunes and his book. Oh yeah...he's an author too. The song is an epic ode to "one last touch". Ever since we started brewing, we wanted to name a beer this. I love the idea of pairing something "vulgar" with something beautiful-hence the simple, elegant script on the label. The song does this extremely well. Please find it and check it out. This is the only beer that hasn't been brewed yet, but its on the books for this winter. It will be a Belgian Dubbel/maybe/Dark Strong. Either way it will big, bold, Belgian, and absolutely beautiful. 

As with all the beers, we've tried to include some sort of tag-line and interesting description that is a little fun and smart at the same time. This is harder than it looks, believe it or not. I guess we succeeded? Also notice the little glass icons and the soft, textured B111 logo underneath all the text. Its the little things people! I love it when beer companies let their hair down and describe their beers with some flair.

Well, I could go on and on, but I've got other posts and other thingies to write. Any questions about anything, please feel free to contact us.

Currently Reading: The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass & Brewing Better Beer by Gordon Strong
Currently Listening: In Your Honor by Foo Fighters

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Impaler! a Lavatorily-Aged Pale

Hi friend/friends. Long time no update. That's what happens when you go back to work. A month ago I took the leap into brewing beers with Brettanomyces, and it is either a burden or a blessing depending on which side of the camp you pitch your tent. Some of the dudes at the Home Brewery are convinced its crazy/retarded and others think its crazy-awesome. Why retarded? Well these little yeasts have a tendency to get anywhere and everywhere so every beer that comes in contact with it ends up with the brett properties. Good if you make Belgian beers, like me, bad if you wanna make any other style of beer that isn't supposed to have brett characteristics. So...there is a thin line. And indeed, it is the awesomeness potential in brett beers that makes it worth it. What are those characteristics? Go get some Orval, Saison Brett by Boulevard, Cantillon, Petrus or Jolly Pumpkin Beers.

My approach is to heed the advice of the experts and devote a whole new set of soft equipment to whatever comes in contact to the beer once the yeast are working. I got a little worried at the expense, then I remembered that I was brewing an aged pale. It will be ready in 48 weeks. Plenty of time to get a separate bottling bucket and tubes.

Skipping the history of these beers and other sciencey shit that I don't quite understand yet, I'll just tell you to go read Wild Brews by Jeff Sparrow. He gives a sweet rundown on tons of Belgian-bretted beers that include Lambics and Flanders Reds and Browns. After speaking to other beer people whenever I can, I have discovered that these types of beers (commonly referred to as "sours") are either loved or hated. Me-I love 'em. The only problem I foresaw was space issues. One must not forget that the B111 covers a deceptive 800 square feet. Not a lot of room to have a big jar of beer sitting for an entire year in a relatively vibration free (important evidently) spot. But like a lot of things, I thought, "Eh, fuck it!"

So its a pretty simple recipe for what we are calling the "Impaler":

1. Belgian Pils 11 lbs
2.  Cara Pils 1.25 lbs
Hops: Amount Time IBUs %Alpha Acid
1. Kent Goldings 1.5oz 60 minutes 22
Mash Schedule:
Dough in at 122F hold for 20 minutes. 
Raise to 145F for 40 minutes. 
Raise to 162F for 30 minutes. 
Raise to 169F for 10 minutes. 
Sparge with 176F. 
Pre boil gravity-1.046
Post boil gravity-1.054

I decided to go with 90 seconds of pure O2 to get fermentation going and promote some acid development. Lemme tell ya, that baby got a going! Good thing I used a blow off tube. I also tossed in about an ounce of medium toast French Oak Chips that had been boiled for 15 minutes AFTER sitting in a light lager for 2 weeks to reduce some of the intensity. The plan being I will use the wood in other beers and it will transfer the little beasties to those beers. Cool! 

I'll let you guys know how it comes out in a year. 

Currently Reading: Brew Like a Monk by Stan Hieronymus
Currently Listening: Tears Roll Down by Tears for Fears

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

More branding!

Our caps and coasters are in! Sarah has done some bad ass designing and the company's have kicked out these gems surprisingly quickly and with nice quality. Doesn't it make you wanna buy some B111 beer?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Rye of the Tiger- a Red Rye Saison

Not exactly red now is it...

Son of a bitch. I guess Rye of the Tiger is a name that is already taken by Great Lakes in Ohio. I'll still give kudos to Sarah for the awesome naming job, as usual, even though it technically existed already. We'll be the first to do a logo though damn it! I'll check the trade mark shit later. ANYWAYS. At a home-brew club meeting a few months ago, we were given the task of making a beer with AT LEAST 15% Rye. Not being a big fan of rye, I thought it would be fairly difficult for me, and probably a waste of money and effort. I hit the BBB for some advice on some issues. I also wanted to make it have a nice red hue to it. No reason really, just thought it would be cool to have a red saison and it seemed rye would be a nice compliment.

Not being an expert at building a recipe, I was a little intimidated. The easiest thing for me to do was build backwards from the rye requirement of 15%. Then I knew the base malt would be Belgian Pils, because that's a little more traditional than something like 2-Row barley. I don't really need wheat since there is rye and I don't want to muddle it. AND I want to make it red (I do what I want!). To do that I could either use a bunch of chrystal malts or something like Vienna or Munich malt, but I didn't want to make it too sweet...I guess. I dunno, I have not used those malts much before, so I decided to just take a shot in the dark, based on simplicity. Use Pils, Rye, and some debittered black malt (no flavor imparted really, not trying to make this thing a stout) to bring the color up-long story short. 
One new thing I tried was per Colin's advice from Downtown Joes, CA-taste your recipe before you brew. So my new friend Luke, from the Home Brewery and I took the recipe, then counted out about 1% of the grain bill, then tasted. The first version was too bitter, so we knocked back some grains, found some English Crystal Rye, adjusted, and got something that was nicely balanced. Try it! 

As for hops, I am currently desiring only to work with Noble and English ones until I get them down. So I went with Kent Golding and Tettnanger and plugged them into the Brew Pal software on my phone till I had the IBU's I wanted, which I toned down because, again, I wanted to focus on the rye and not have too much competing for flavor. Tettnang got the last addition because I like it's flavor over Kent Goldings.

Yeast-Just used the yeast from my previous saison, which was the Wyeast French Saison 3711. A wonderfully easy saison yeast to work with. HIGH attenuation, with QUICK results, unlike that bastard Belgian Saison 3724 from Wyeast. Love the flavor, but hate waiting for 5 weeks for it to finish. That thing is SUCH a diva!

RECIPE: 7.25 gallons into brew pot, 6 gallons into fermentor
Yeast-3711 French Saison: 370 ml on thin slurry
1. Belgian Pils 9 lbs
2. Rye 2.5 lbs
3. English Crystal Rye .3 lbs
4. Belgian De-bittered Black  .4 lbs                                     
Hops: Amount Time %Alpha Acid
1. Kent Goldings 1.5 oz 60 minutes 7.2% 29 IBU
2. Kent Goldings .5 oz 10 minutes 7.2% 3 IBU
3. Tettnanger           .3 oz             10 minutes                   4.9% 1 IBU

Mash-Protien Rest at 130F for 15 minutes, raise to 148F for 40 minutes, raise to 158F, then Sparge. 
Fermentation: Start at 69F, then raise a degree or two a day until 74F. Held at 74F for 2 days, then chill and bottle. 


Appearance-Deep burgundy color, verging on black. Slight brown/red highlights when held to the light. Head is tremendous and sustains nicely. Creamy, pillowy and extremely tight bubbles.
Aroma-Earthy, spicy, peppery. Rye is up front with just a light backing of dark sweetness and citrusy yeast. 
Mouthfeel-sprtisy, warming and full. Very very full mouthfeel. Reminds me of winter. 
Taste-Textures really take over. Maybe a bit too much carbonation? Hint of caramel and nuttyness at the first taste. Prominent rye and a touch of caramel sweetness at the final part of palette. Warming comes in right at the end too. Leaves mouth a tough tingly if you drink quickly. A bit too highly carbed. 
Drinkability-Very drinkable, with the exception of it being too carbed. Excites fall and winter feelings. This beer is fine for a one a night thing, but I’d change a few things if I were to make it again. e.g. Make the mouthfeel slightly less huge-Drop the rye a touch or skip the protein rests. Drop the carbonation just a hair. AND cut the de-bittered black malt in half. 

Currently Listening-Several Arrows Later: Matt Pond PA, Wasting Light-Foo Fighters
Currently Reading-A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole & Wild Brews by Jeff Sparrow

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

First Label test!

Check it kiddies; our first label test. It was designed with hand done-ribbon-text, transferred to the computer machine, "upgraded", then printed on photo quality self-adhesive sheets from Epson. Cool!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Checking on what condition my conditioning is in

Today I am attempting my first real (read: informed) bottle conditioned beer today. It is my Belgian Golden Strong taken from Brewing Classic Styles. Basically its a close approximation to one of Belgium's great beers, coolest beer website and our personal favorite beer here at the One Eleven: Duvel. If you have never had it, then get it. Its great any time with anything. 

"Lager storage"/refrigerator
I had a hell of a time figuring out EXACTLY how to do bottle conditioning. A quick infominute-Bottle conditioning is a process where beer has yeast added into the beer after its initial fermentation, right before its bottled. While in the bottle, it goes into a secondary fermentation. Usually the beer is filtered first to get rid of the older, or in the case of high-alcohol-beers, worn out yeast. Since the Snow Devil (my Duvel clone) comes in at 8.5% it qualifies as a high-alcohol beer. Why would you do this? It adds complexity due to different yeast flavors (if you choose to use flavorful yeasts, which I will not be doing), helps in carbonating a beer if your yeasties are worn out, and a smoother flavor profile if given enough time

The info available was there, kind of, but it took a lot of work to get through. So where does one start? I started here. It was a pretty good outline, but it didn't quite cover my circumstances. I wanted to use dry-yeast and pitch a slurry, for a Belgian beer. Why a slurry? Well according to pretty much everybody, like in this book, Palmer, and the manufacturer of the yeast S-23, they say to rehydrate your yeast. Otherwise, you could lose anywhere from 40-60% Click those links and you can figure out how to do that first. I spent some time getting that ready. Then I had to decide exactly how much yeast I wanted to pitch. Too little and your carbonation may not be optimal, too much and you get much more yeast in there...which can affect flavor quite perceptibly. The Northern Brewer sheet suggests 1-3 million cells per ml for belgian beers, or 20-60 billion per 5 gallons, which I was bottling. That's kind of a big swing, so I just went for somewhere in the middle. I also didn't have a vessel to measure out 15ml of slurry and needed more because of my Belgian style, so I had to work around that by going bigger. Let's get to what I actually did do: 

I found how to get 10x the weight of my dry yeasties-400 ml of water- Northern Brewer sheet said 1/4tsp dry yeast to 100 ml of water...times four. So I boiled the hell out of a pot of water that would let me end up with more than 400ml. I boiled about 2 quarts for 15 minutes or so. Not sure if that's "sterile" or not, but its close enough. Once that cooled to just above room temp, I dumped 400ml into a sanitized pyrex container. Then I sanitized the shit out of the package and scissors, then combined it into the water. I forgot to stir the water before adding the yeast, per the S-23 website. I ended up with a little island of yeast after 15 minutes. So I used a sanitized spoon to combine the whole slurry and let it sit some more. After about 10 minutes, I reswirled, then added 75 ml of slurry to my bottling bucket with my priming sugar. Why 75 ml? Well... I did some deep-mental-digging math to stumble upon that number. My reasoning: If 400ml of water with an 11.5 gram package of properly rehydrated dry yeast gets you 230 billion cells (according to the NB sheet), then 40 ml will get you 23 billion cells. That wasn't quite enough since my beer is a nice and high alcohol beer, again, according to people who know more than me, I should add more yeast than a typical beer because of the gravity, and also because of the low temp that I was bottling-this beer came straight from the fridge. Anyways, I ended up guessing I needed 43 billion cells, or 75 ml of slurry. Jamil's Yeast publication stated that it should be anywhere from 10-20x less than your primary fermentation pitch, so there I was. Unfortunately it lacked a nice-comprehensive chart for every beer style known. How dare they?! 

As far as the amount of time to let it condition in its secondary fermentation...well I don't know. I think Duvel does a month or two then sends it out. Dupont does 40-80 days. Me...well...I think I'll try it at 3 weeks and see, then let it sit. Since this particular beer is super carbed AND it is bottle conditioned it needs to be cold as a witch's titty (approximately 38F or so) for at least a couple of days to let some of that yeast settle. You also don't have to empty the bottle completely. Ideally, for any beer except hefeweizen or wit beer, you chill it for a while, then pour it without disturbing the yeast layer at the bottom. The beer may be so good that you want to get every drop out, but it will be for the better that you don't. There you have it. That was my bottle conditioning story. 

Currently Listening: Genesis-Invisible Touch
Currently Reading: Don DeLillo-Americana

Friday, February 18, 2011

For lack of a better name-My Dark Saison.

My love obsession with saison continues. I cannot get enough of this beer and the more interpretations I have, the more I love it. If I have one that isn't that great, it only bolsters my desire for the ones I enjoy. As I mentioned earlier, this beer style varied from brewery to brewery back when they where brewing them for the farm workers in Belgium. The style also varies from season to season with the brewers now. A good example is Fantome: the beers change to suit the season. We see that on the whole with craft beer; fall seasonals are spiced accordingly and seasonal ingredients-like pumpkin or squash are added. The beer takes on the tone of the season. Its very cool. Its parallels why it feels especially good to eat pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, or drink egg nog at Christmas. Yes, its tradition, but the flavors also help evoke the season. What is fascinating about saison is that this one style of beer can cover this seasonal terrain. You don't really see that with other beers.

A while ago, we were fortunate enough to get a couple of kegs of New Belgium's Dark Heather Saison in Springfield. This is definitely a seasonal offering and it was certifiably cool. I loved the warming feeling of this beer with the spicy yeast notes that saisons all have. Ever since I've been wanting to do a dark-black like saison. Recently I tried Goose Island's Pepe Nero and was not as taken as I was with the DHS, but still its a great drink. What I especially like is how this beer plays on expectations. Your ideas of "traditional"-orange or yellow- saison must be challenged, not to mention your expectations of dark beers-this one isn't "heavy" or roasty, or "stouty". Its clean and crisp still. Both of these dark saisons had some warming and spicy notes, with slight, slight, hints of roast and finished very crisply. I currently have the Fantome Noel in the fridge which I am just waiting for something super awesome to happen so I can enjoy. This beer's ingredients change with each year. Usually they contain some sort of fruit juice addition, but its tough to tell. There's usually quite a buzz that surrounds this beer, so if you find it, buy it and love it.

My approach to the dark saison is leaning somewhere towards the American approach, which is actually a bit conservative compared to Belgians like Fantome. This beer was my first attempt at formulating my own recipe too, so I wanted to keep it simple...somewhat. The trouble I had was wanting the black color, but not imparting too much roast flavor, as it could clash with the pepper qualities of the yeast. Upon the "quality control" I did last post, I would make changes now. Here's the recipe in all its weird formatted glory:

1. Belgian Pils 9 lbs 37
  1. German Malted Wheat                  1.5 lbs             39
  2. Toasted German Wheat (350F)       1 lbs               37
  3. Melanoidin                                     .5 lbs               32
  4. Cara-Pils                                        .5 lbs               34
  5. Belgian Special B                          .25 lbs             30
  6. Black Barley                                  .5 lbs               29
Hops: Amount Time %Alpha Acid
1. Styrian Goldings 2 oz 90 minutes 3.4%
  1. Czech Saaz .5 oz 90 minutes 3% 
  2. Czech Saaz             1.5 oz                          10 minutes                   3 
  3. Original Gravity: 1.060
    Final Gravity: 1.002 
    ABV: 7.7%
 Given the tasting, I would drop some of the complexity of the malt bill. It seemed like there might too much going on. On the cutting board would be the Melanoidin malt and probably the Special B. I was hoping those would provide more sweet complexity, but I think it just was too much. The hop flavor is pretty nice right now too, so I think I'll keep that on this one. As for the strong fusels I was getting...I got up into the mid 70's during fermentation. This wasn't a big deal I thought, but it may be a lot of little things working in conjunction? Possibly too much oxgenation (only did 2 minutes though) combined with some of the roasty flavors might produce this? We'll see if it settles out. For now, I must leave off and go check out a Beer Engine at our local Gastropub. Next dark tasting may be the half of this I wood aged...

Currently Reading-Dharma Bums-by Jack Kerouac

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Early Dark Saison tasting.

"quality control" time! 

Age-9 days in bottle.

Appearance-Dark darkly brown, looks black. Totally opaque. It becomes barely brown around the edges as you drink it. Awesome pillowy head that is slightly off white. Great formation and great lacing. Looks like a porter for sure.

Aroma- Slight pepper mixed with a touch of citrus. Just a trace of alcohol smell. As it warms, it release a sweet-nutty-banana smell. But still, totally yeast dominated.

Mouthfeel- Crisp carbonation. Spreads nicely in mouth. Body is medium and is noticeably nice as the glass empties. It is holding together much better than my previous all grain batches at its current age.

Taste-First taste is a slightly bitter toastyness-bordering on medicinal, then a little wheaty. Hops and fruitiness follows that. End taste is hugely fusely. Still very young. Needs more time to mellow out. As it warms the initial taste becomes smoother. Flavors become more assertive, but still rounded. The middle taste is barely nutty and the hops fight through right at the end-a sort of soft citrus flavor. Finish is very warming, still too warming. After taste is of lingering the Saaz hops. The difference between 36F and 45F is unreal. It needs to be better balanced. Probably will be balanced in a month or two.

Drinkability- As it warms up, it becomes much, much smoother. The finish is still crisp, but still full, its kind of hard to describe. The flavor is a touch too bitter. I need to reduce the bittering hops by a couple of IBUs.

Overall, this is a completely unique beer to me. I've never tasted all these flavors together, and some of the ingredients are new to me. Its actually, dare I say, beguiling?? I'm liking it more and more as it warms. Its very earthy and very wintery. A nice beer to have after a windy-cold ass day. So how'd it come to be? Look above...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Saison Resource

Beer comrades! While trolling on the Burgundian Babble Belt , an excellent site for learning about sour, funky, and awesome Belgian beers I found this article about different saisons. In my first saison post, I didn't really talk about some breweries doing seasonal saisons... I was gonna do that when I talk about my dark saison that I recently made. So more on that later. Until then, Prost!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Robust Vanilla Porter all up in my mouth.

Remember that Porter I made in my firstish post? Lets discuss its qualities! I've had a long day of brewing and cleaning and not nearly enough drinking.
Dark as the bloody night! 

Appearance-A healthy, deep black with a nice fluffy cream colored head that dissipates slowly. Completely opaque, with subtle deep ruby hues whenever light has the chance to sneak through.

Aroma-Smooth vanilla aroma, followed by hints of chocolate and coffee. After swirling, there is some heavy caramel notes that slide in and some slight, slight, slight fusel (hot alcohol notes).

Mouthfeel-Light carbonation that dances in the mouth. Not a heavy body at all. Thin, in other words. Still is a bit watery. Either needs more body in the recipe OR (hopefully) more time in the bottle so everything can meld together all sexy like.

Taste-Some vanilla notes right up front. The 6.9% of the brew hits the back of your throat before any malt flavor does. Malt notes are still very slight, but there is some roastiness/coffeeness that is barely there. Definitely needs more malt flavor to come through. There is some slight hope notes also on the back of the tongue that you would only notice if you knew what kind where in there (Styrian Goldings). When swallowing there is some nice vanilla that runs down your throat followed by some warming alcohol then finished with a spritz of carbonation.

Drinkability-Very, very drinkable. You don't even notice the 7% alcohol that this bad boy has. A couple of these will get you loose in a hurry. And by loose I mean willing to have sex with people you wouldn't normally have sex with. Pretty good mouthfeel and great tastes. So far this has been, hands down, my favorite home-brew to drink. I will be brewing this guy right at the end of summer when its time.

Want the recipe? Get it here.

Currently Listening: The Cars-Greatest Hits

Things are brewing in the 1ELEVEN.

Today is brew-day. I guess. Normally I get excited, but today I just didn't feel like cleaning up all the shit it takes to brew-which can be a tricky thing when you are apartment brewing. BUT. I dealt with it. AND today is the first time I'm going to be repitching my own yeast. What the hell does that mean you ask? Good question. If you've got an hour and a half and like laughing and learning, then give that a gander. I'll give you the short in the mean time. It means I saved the yeast from my last batch and am re-using it. Bam. The excellent Brew Strong show tells you how to do it. Why go to the trouble? Well first of all, it saves me $6.50, which in my state of non-working-ness is pretty cool. Secondly, they yeast supposedly works faster, better, and awesomer-meaning better flavors. So I'm trying!

What am I making? A Saison of course. I'm trying to be positive and call on the upcoming warmth that Spring should be dropping soon. Since these babies tend to taste super-great after about 2-3 months of aging, I figure this will be ready right when its nice enough to go outside. Since you all READ MY LAST POST, you are probably wondering what kind of Saison am I making?? This particular one is what I am calling Saison Blanche, or a white saison. It won't actually be white, but if you are familiar with Belgian Wit (Flemmish for White) beers-like *cough cough* Blue Moon or the much better Hoegaarden then you will understand. They are typically made with around 50% wheat (or more) and 45% pilsener and 5% oats, that's right, oats-they add a silky mouthfeel. So I had that sort of line up and combining it with a Saison-specific yeast (the Wyeast 3711), but I'm sticking to the traditional-pilsener malt as the main base and supplementing with the rest, because, well, I dunno. I kinda changed my mind at the last second. When she's all done & ready for bottling in 1 week (hopefully) it will be a lovely translucent golden color-close enough to white.

Brew day has not gone according to plan. I am trying a new technique; step mashing (where one raises the temperature of the mash upward at specific times, which lend to different enzymes and other scientific things). That took a lot longer than I anticipated on an electric stove top... I also encountered the dastardly stuck sparge, which is where the grain bed blocks my precious wort from getting out of my mash-tun (big ass pot where you mash in). It happened at the very end, right to where when I stirred to get it loose, the wort that was left was absorbed by the grain. Boooo. I ended up losing .5 gallon or so. Really though, its just another day. How about a recipe?

Saison Blanche
8 lbs Belgian Pils
2.5 lbs German Malted Wheat
1 lb instant oats (untoasted)
2 oz Acidulated Malt
1 lb cane sugar (@60 minutes)

1.5 oz Kent Goldings @60 minutes
1.5 oz Tettnanger @10 minutes
1/2 tsp hydrated Irish Moss @ 10 minutes
1/2 tsp hydrated WYeast Yeast Nutrients @ 10 minutes

300 ml of WYeast 3711 French Saison yeast slurry according to Mr.
Pure Oxygen for 2 minutes

Ferment starting at room temp-68F for me, then raise to 80F over the course of 5-7 days.

So its a stupidly simple recipe, but I'm stepping gingerly here. I've only made one other recipe (my dark saison before this) and it was really complicated, so I thought I'd reduce it to make a stable testing ground in which to build and perfect! Haha! Yes! Anyways. I'll post a tasting description when its done.

Brew Day Soundtrack: The Pernice Brothers Discography

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sai-what?!-son? It's Saison time!

Spring may be around the corner...some where, some time. When/if spring & summer do actually come, you are gonna need a bad-ass beer to party with. This beer should be a Saison (Say-sawn). What the hell is that you ask? Exactly. Its not well known, but with it's growing popularity, you should be able to find one somewhere.

Real Quick! History time! First of all, these are Belgian beers-which means they are inclined to be pretty crazy. Belgian-Farmhouse Ales to be specific, not like the Trappist beers that are brewed by monks. These beers were made by farmers in the southern, French speaking region of Belgium, known as Wallonia. Hint-Saison is French for "season". As Phil Markowski tells us in Farmhouse Ales, they "were brewed at the beginning of winter in a farmhouse brewery in order to quench the thirst of the farmhands who worked the fields in the summer." This is pretty much the standard of brewing practices before refrigeration. High fermentation temperatures (above 70F) usually spells disaster for beers...EXCEPT Saison-which can get up to 95F. What is interesting is that Markowski notes each brewer pretty much had a different recipe. Basically, they had to be robust enough to handle extended aging, but refreshing and light enough to not get farmers piss-drunk while they were working. Remember kids, water was pretty dicey hundreds of years ago.

Long story short, the style almost died out (much like how Witbier-Belgium's awesome wheat beer...Blue Moon anybody?-almost did until the 1950s) but was rescued recently. Read Michael-Beer Hunter-Jackson's (hee-he!) website to relive the scarcity of these beers. What's interesting is that each saison that you try is different. Its ALMOST like brewers now-a-days understand the history of the little farmhouse locals that each were brewed according to the imagination, ability, and desires of each farm brewer. That can also be frustrating for in-the-box drinkers, that is people who expect the same beer every time they have a certain style. A perfect example is Boulevard brewing company in Kansas City. In their Smokestack Series they had a Sasion and a Farmhouse Ale-the mighty TANK 7. Essentially, they are the same style...Farmhouse. But they are two way different beers. The former, which has been retired, is cloudy orange in color, deliciously dry, but still has hints of sweet maltiness. Its peppery and citrusy. Awesome! The latter is even more crisp & dry, clear, sometimes, golden and very hoppy. Both of these are patterned after actual Belgian Saisons. The Saison is pretty much the hoppiest Belgian beer you're gonna find. Both of these, like the original Belgians, pour a crazy looking head that looks like soft, bubbly clouds. Every time I pour one, I want to jump right in and nestle. Nestle. See:
See! Gorgeous!

So if you get a Belgian one, what are you in for? The Belgians still have the craziest Saisons. The pre-eminient Saison is Saison Dupont. Its  straight forward saison-having only Pilsener malt and hops in it's make up, the wild flavors come from the yeast. Its orange in color, has a rich, dense head, pepper & slight citrus and dry as a damn bone. Careful, it can also be a bit skunky, thanks to the green bottles. That company also makes an organic version (Foret) which has a heavier mouthfeel and more of a bier de garde nose-fruity and sweet malt. These are also pretty easy to find. Shit. I can find them in Branson, MO...

If you get a few under your belt and you are loving them, then try any of the beers by the brewery Fantome. This brewery is known for throwing in whatever the hell they feel like in their beers-spices, herbs, fruit juices, and flowers. For Markowski, Fanotme "embodies the unbridled spirit of brewing saison...".  These beers have a bit of Brettanomyces in them. Brett is a "wild" type of yeast that produces the distinct "farmhouse" notes. When you get a beer with Brett, you will know it. They are very dry, slightly tart/acidic/sour whatever you wanna call it, have smells of wet wool, hay, or anything remotely barnyard. Now I know that sounds kind of crazy, but you just gotta trust me and go with it. If you like things remotely sour, you gotta try these beers. Boulevard also has a Saison-Brett in their Smokestack Series. It is truly a beer not to miss.

What is awesome about the variety of Saison is the versatility. Its unbelievably tasty during hot days and will pair with pretty much every single food, one exception being marinara sauce dishes-but honestly, I haven't enjoyed a beer with any red sauce really. One thing that it goes exceptionally well with is Goat Cheese. I think my favorite beer and food moment came at a friends classy BBQ where they were serving goat-brie soft cheese. The lady and I had that with Great Divide's amazing Colette. The high carbonation makes Saison clear your palate of anything fatty and rich-hince its refreshing-ness. Unfortunately this beer isn't available until April. You better believe I'm ordering some in bulk my babies. Any other food that has herbs, spices, citrus notes, is fat or rich, Saison will absolutely love. Do roasted chickens, salmon salads, shrimp, any spinach salad, BBQ, WHATEVER.

So I've mentioned a few different Saisons thus far. Dupont is the standby and a must try, but if you can find the organic Foret it might be an easier drink for beginners. I used to find it really nice, but after having the two back to back I prefer the dryness of the original Dupont. Fantome is also a must. From there, any other Saison will make sense. As mentioned, the Colette is a great Saison/Farmhouse ale and more like Dupont and Tank 7 in its simplicity. If you can find Jolly Pumpkin's Bam Biere, give that a whirl. Its more like the Fantome in that it has a nice sourness. One should also note that you don't have to pour the ENTIRE bottle into your glass. Almost ALL of these are bottle conditioned, meaning that some yeast is added back into the bottle after primary fermentation. This gives the beer a little more unique character. It also adds yeast into the bottle. So pretty much any bottle that says "bottle conditioned"means that you don't have to pour the whole thing into your glass-an exception would be Hefeweizen...ANYWAYS. Ommegang's Hennepin isn't a bad option, but it just doesn't float my boat like Tank 7 or Colette.

I've been brewing up a storm on Saisons. I could go on, but my stories are on... and last time, the post got quite a bit long. So, I'll leave it for another day. Cheers and go get yourself some Saison!

Currently Watching- White Collar
Currently Reading- Ethan Frome, Raymond Carver

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Porter Reduction Sauce w/Steak and Bleu Cheese

Bam! I found this recipe whilst trolling on the link to the right ya dummy! Or right here.


Yesterday I bottled my first porter (Jamil's Robust Vanilla Porter) and now I want to talk about porters. I'm job-free, slightly full, and have nothing but time on my hands, so hang on. This will be my first real beer post so let's see where it takes us. (I wanna link to beer sites. You'll have to enter your age every time. Its better than linking to Wikipedia, so bear with). The history offered below is not meant to be authoritative and will be peppered with my original comments and thoughts. So don't try to cite me or anything.

I think the first porter I ever had was Boulevard's Bully! Porter. The first memorable porter I had was Founder's Porter. I was in Chicago at Garret Ripley's (RIP), which was a block from our hotel room. The bartender talked me into it because the label said something like "a dark and sexy brew". When I had it it overwhelmed me. Very roasty, strong bitterness, and black as the damn night. I powered through it. It was quite a change considering the beer I had before that was my beloved Hoegaarden...ON DRAFT! After that we had a 3 block walk to an L stop, where I then had one of the most painful sittings, then 4 block hoof to the train station while having to piss worse than I ever had before (but not since, maybe that story later). Moral of the story: Give yourself plenty of time before your train leaves to drink...AND PEE.

One year later and many porters later and I have finally developed a taste for it. It should be noted that just because you don't like a beer (or style) immediately, give it some time, try other beers and other styles and then come back to it. I'm still waiting on coming back to American Barlywines... Quick! A history of porter:

Garrett Oliver, in The Brewmaster's Table tells us that back in the 1700s, Brits liked to blend their beers. They still do. One of the most popular blends was then formulated into one "entire" beer called...Entire. Pretty soon, the men, called Porters, who worked haulin' shit around for traveling folks on trains took to the beer and drank the hell out of it. Soon enough, the beer became known as "porter beer". Quickly it became really super popular. Like popular enough that brewers had to build giant wooden vats that would hold over 800,000 US gallons of porter. That's huge! Imagine if one of those things broke! I wonder what would happen...maybe something like The Great Beer Flood of 1814 where eight people died. It was even the drink of choice for Grace Poole while she did a shitty job of watching over Bertha Rochester (Mr. Rochester's dark, sexy, insane-Whoops!-of-a-wife) in the attic in Jane Eyre. According to Ray Daniels in Designing Great Beers, this beer would have been "...highly roasted, smoky, somewhat acidic (from Brettanomyces-more on that in later posts), and well bittered". So honestly, not that different from today's American Porters it sounds like, except it would have been a lot lighter in flavor and color, having more of a ruby hint than straight up black. In 1817, after formulations changed, English Porters would take on its now familiar dark brown.

It was also the first widely and heavily manufactured beer. It spread to Ireland, where Arthur Guinness soon devoted the operation to porter. Eventually this beer descended into the famous Guinness Stout. In the States, Washington and Jefferson had huge Porter-Boners. Jefferson actually sold some of his home-brewed porter and Washington just basically loved it. But, with the rise of Pilsener beer (and other golden lagers from Bohemia and Bavaria), porter began to fall out of favor. Then, in America, Prohibition and the resulting chaos afterwards, more or less, brought the end to everything interesting involving beer. The history of beer after Prohibition was repealed on December 5th, 1933 is actually quite interesting, devious, and certainly shitty. Another post for another day!

Since the 1970's the beer scene has been experiencing a slow-building craft movement. Porter was definitely rescued in America (along with an ass-load of other styles). Companies like the now famous Anchor Brewing and Sierra Nevada introduced excellent American-style Porters. *Anything with the moniker "American" pretty much means they are bigger-more alcoholic-, hoppier, and possibly more "flavorful" than the style which they are referencing* Now, just about every company has a porter. Most likely they appear in the fall or winter as a special seasonal release. And really, that's how I approach them. When it gets cold, I feel like something roasty, big, and a little alcoholic-warming.

But! There are different kinds of porters out there. Basically, they are broken down into three different styles: English/Brown, Robust, and Baltic. As Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer note in Brewing Classic Styles, they all have some roasty aspect regarding flavor. This roastiness will be less than a stout (usually) but more than an a brown ale.

English/Brown Porter-The step between English Brown Ale and Robust Porter. There are light caramel and toasty malt flavors, in addition to chocolate flavors. There is also a subdued hop character. Go out and find some St. Peters, Fullers, or Samuel Smith examples of porter. These beers are very smooth with very nice balance. If you are not a hop-head, but still want some roasty flavors, go with these.

Robust Porter-These are slightly beefed up porters. Usually, this is the porter you will find offered from American companies. The color will be a bit darker, usually black with brown or ruby highlights. The roast character will be stronger, even lending help in the bitterness department. The addition of black patent malt is most likely the culprit here. The flavor might steer away from caramel and toffee focus to more coffee and dark chocolate, but the caramel should still be there in the background-which is one way to differentiate this style of beer from Stout. Good American examples I've had are Anchor, Sierra Nevada, Odell, and Flying Dog.

Baltic Porter-This is kicked up one more notch: bigger, richer, sweeter, and more alcoholic than the others. However, it does not have the roastiness and hoppiness of the robust porters. It will also have some hints of those flavors you can find in bad-ass Belgian Dark beers; raisin, plum, dark cherry, and even sherry or port flavors. Awesome! But, good luck finding this style. Some companies, like Left Handed and Great Divide make a smoked version, while the only straight up baltic porter I've had is from Baltika. You may have seen this Russian company's stuff before because they have distinct, horrible for beer, clear bottles. The Great Divide Smoked Baltic Porter is bad ass however, with a great, complex and smooth flavor, with light smoke. The Left-Handed is for those that want more meat in their beer. Try it and tell me I'm wrong! Its big, thick, and meaty...just like my...

One should keep an eye out for flavored porters. I've had great experiences with vanilla porters. Especially THIS ONE. If you find it on draft during its winter-seasonal-time, get it! Get two! Find some rice krispy treats and get another one! The finishing vanilla flavor is so smooth and so inviting. All of a sudden, you can easily look down to find an empty glass. This was the impetus for me to brew a vanilla porter. Normally, I want to try to make the normal style, before the vanilla, but this time I couldn't resist.

Break (I know this is getting long. Read on...or don't)

My Brew Day:

This was my 5th All-Grain batch, meaning I take the raw grains (crushed), throw them in a big ass pot with a shit load of water at a certain temperature (153F) for a certain time (60 minutes). That, called wort, is then boiled with hops (I used 1.65 oz of East Kent Goldings). To get a vanilla flavor, Jamil recommended a two-step process-Use a vanilla bean in the last 5 minutes of the boil, then liquid vanilla-imitation or extract-at the bottling. Did you know ONE vanilla bean costs $10.50 at a Price Cutter?! Sucks. Recently, I found them at Dillions for $2.99...go figure!
My RVPorter Souldjas
I was brewing with my buddy Brett, meaning, that he sat there and drank while I brewed and stewed over my process. This being my 5th batch, I still have some things to work out. However! I hit all my numbers. There are me. I ended up with 1.072 OG reading, which is .001 more than what the recipe called for-not that big of a deal. I chilled and transferred and added my sweet-baby-starter-wort I made for my yeast. I'm nice to them like that. Its like stretching before the big game, or giving yourself the "how's your father" before you get down with your special someone/something. Then it was off to the fermentation chamber, aka the loud-ass-fridge in our bathroom, for 8 days. Then I had beer! On bottling day I decided to add some Vanilla Extract, witch is twice as strong as imitation vanilla mind you. I didn't know how much to add so I winged it and through in 1 1/2 tbs. Flavor results will be coming later. But, the taste out of the fermenter revealed a nicely roasted beer, which was in the aromatics more than flavor, some chocolate notes, a little caramel, some coffee, and some softer malt flavors. I'm so excited!

Finally. If you are like me at all, then drinking makes you hungry and forgetful. I eat. Then drink. Then I forgot I ate already, then eat again. So you got your porter, but what do you eat it with? It is a silly notion that wine is the only beverage that goes with food. As G.Olly (my nick name for him) will tell you, there are two big ways you can approach pairing. Complimentary and contrasting. First of all, if you have a baltic porter, try it with some ice cream and chocolate syrup. If you have an English Porter and a fat wallet, try it with some sea scallops if you can cook them. Chances are, in America, there will not be a restaurant that serves a porter AND scallops. But fear not! They are easy to cook. Or turf it up and try steak with porter. Match up that smokey grill char with the smokey, roasty flavors in porter. Basically, anything grilled will work well, but it might serve you best doing this in winter. Summer just calls for a different beer for some reason (although Jamaica and Ireland may disagree). Again if you have a fat wallet, or a talented huntsmen, GOlly suggests Venison Sausage. In The Gourmet's Guide to Cooking with Beer, Alison Boteler suggests many things, including pears and mushrooms. I tried a roasted red pepper, caramelized onion & fresh thyme stuffed portabello mushroom cap, but was not satisfied. My suggestion-a burger with smokey cheese of any sort with mac and cheese that has caramelized onions, bacon, and thyme added to it. Just try that shit!

OK! There we go. A whole mess o' Porter info! Give me some comments ya'll.

Currently Reading-Designing Great Beers by Ray Daniels
Currently Listening-A Wilhelm Scream "Career Suicide" and Van Morrison "Still on Top"

Monday, January 24, 2011

Testify! But not like you think...

So there are a large amount of craft beer blogs blossoming out on the interwebs, especially since the craft industry is currently booming. Its awesome. But what is strange is that although it seems widespread, the retail craft beer market makes not even 10% of the whole beer market. Granted I am focused into the niche... However, what I have learned is that the small percentage of people who are into craft beer are really into craft beer. They are the vocal few and I want to join them. I've only been drinking beer for three years or so, but have been deep into beer for two of them. Interestingly enough, I found that my ability to understand different beer flavors grew as my understanding of new and different foods grew. 

What has really attracted me to this world is not just new and exciting flavors that I experience with each craft or home brew, but the people who are behind and excited about these brews. I find their enthusiasm to be contagious. I feel that the craft beer scene provides the one thing that scenes (music, movie, etc) pretty much never provide: an authentic sense of community. Beer people are out doing things and are so willing to share. The art and music scenes seem so exclusive, not to mention, extremely negative. I've found the craft beer community to be quite the opposite (granted there are some assholes in every bunch). I've met great people after only a couple of years in the "scene". Reciprocity comes to mind. So many people I've met have been so forthcoming with info to help you with whatever your goal is: brewing, tasting, experiencing, history etc. 

Without belaboring this too much, let me state what this blog will attempt: I want to share whatever I am doing, experiencing, learning, tasting, reading, traveling, whatever craft beer related with anyone who wants to listen or who is at a different point in the learning curve. I want to talk about it all. I want to share pics and stories, get a little crazy, swear as much as I want and do it as nicely as possible. Aaaaand hopefully the posts will be much more coherent and succinct as I get back in writing shape. I'll also be sharing at the end of every post what I'm reading, listening, watching, or drinking just because I wanna! Amen...or whatever!

Currently Watching: No Reservations
Currently Reading: Farmhouse Ales by Phil Markowski