Thursday, October 30, 2008

News Round Up

There has been so much going on around here that I am behind in all things beer related, but I have great news.

First, the Strong Ale (specifically an Old Ale - BJCP Style 19A) is delicious. I gave it a test taste (pictured) this morning and was astounded at how good it was especially for not being a huge fan of the style - at least I thought I wasn't. I'm going to find out exactly how it measures up when I enter it in the FOAM Cup homebrewing competition on Monday night. I'm hoping to get some valuable feedback that, hopefully, I can apply across the board to my brewing endeavors.

Next I wanted to thank everyone for coming to our Octoberfest party. Although the rain forced us inside and killed the camp-out, everyone seemed to have a great time. There was lots of great beer around, from Dogfish Head to local beer from Growlers in Gaithersburg and my Saison (although it hardly tasted like a Saison - not sure what happened there) seemed to go over pretty well. The biggest issue with the Saison was that, due to its high alcohol content, people were having to switch off to something more tame lest they pass out in the bathroom adorned with a lampshade. Still, as predicted, the keg did not survive the evening. I applaud the effort from everyone and appreciate the kind comments.

Finally, the big news. With help from good friend Shawn, we are going All-Grain - just like a real brewery. If you don't know, the difference between All-Grain brewing and what I have done until now it is the equivalent of baking an entire pie from scratch vs. baking a pie in a pre-made crust. More control, but more things that can go wrong.

Shawn has never home brewed before, but has been following my exploits and has enjoyed much of the resulting product. We are putting together the equipment now that will allow us not only to brew All-Grain batches, but to brew 10 gallon batches - twice as much as before. And that, as Martha would say, is a Good Thing.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Batch #17 - Strawberry Blonde

Brew Date: 10/19/2008
Recipe: See Brew Sheet

I'm starting a new method of keeping notes for the recipes that we like and will reuse. I want to keep all the notes from various batches of the same recipe in the same document.

Also, I bought and used fresh leaf hops for the first time for this batch. They smelled great!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Serious Times Call for Serious Beers

This is no time to be drinking light lagers, Obama. No, now is the time for beers with some fortitude, some 'umph'. A drink with real substance and a big taste that can warm your heart even as you watch the least-common-denominator pander-fest that is our presidential election. A satisfying malt shoulder to lean on while the world economy attempts to China Syndrome us all into amateur fur traders and dirt farmers.

So stop panic-sloshing your Miller Light on your 401k statement and come down to my beer fridge where I have 10 gallons of Serious Beer chilling.

Serious Beer #1: The Saison
Oh yes. A clone of Brewery Ommegang's Hennepin - possibly the best beer in the world in my opinion. One usually things of strong beers as being dark in color, but this is not the case with the Saison. Originally brewed in farmhouse attics in Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium, it is a gold/amber color. This beer is bound for consumption at our Octoberfest party and I don't expect it to survive the night. The recipe includes rock candy to pump up the ABV and at 7.2% this beer is serious business.

Serious Beer #2: The Strong Ale
This one is dark. Real dark. Brewed in traditional English Old Ale style and I even got a hold of some plug hops for the aroma. Bigger than a porter, but not as rich as a barleywine, it is sweet, malty, and at 6.9% ABV a serious beer.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I just can't do it!

I still haven't dumped the Kolsch. I just can't bring myself to do it. I suppose I'll hang on to it until I absolutely need the keg and hope some magic happens.

The worst side effect of not being able to drink the Kolsch is that I have no homebrew to drink at the moment. Again. I'm thinking of starting a petition to have myself removed as brewmaster. I clearly lack the level of responsibility that I demand from myself. How can I be trusted when I have failed so many times in the short period that I have been responsible for making beer for me? Ridiculous.

The English Bitter was great. Lots of people liked it and it went over well at Rod's Octoberfest. It's not going to win the Clone Wars, but we'll probably make it again.

The SUPER SECRET RECIPE is coming along. It is in secondary in the carboy and I just dry-hopped it today. I tasted it when I moved it to the carboy and it is wonderful so far. I can't wait for it to be ready.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Time Heals All Wounds?

I have had only one bad batch of beer since I started brewing way way back in May of 2008. It was batch #3 and my understanding of what the problem could be was tenuous at best. The beer tasted like chemicals and was completely un-drinkable (despite the fact that we drank it). I bottled some of that batch for a couple of reasons. I wanted to see if, over time, the beer "fixed itself" and I wanted to have some more knowledgeable people try it and tell me what the problem was.

I did have some beer guru types try it and the problem they identified was in-step with my main suspicion - chemicals in the beer (duh). At the time this would have been Oxy-Clean or One-Step that did not get rinsed thoroughly from some vessel that the beer spent time in during its birth.

I changed my cleaning ritual and eliminated the One-Step, replacing it with StarSan. I also made sure that I rinsed a few more times than I thought was necessary just to be sure. I have not had a problem since.

Until batch #10. Same exact problem. In fact, it is even worse than batch #3. It's like drinking industrial strength glue. I'm not sure what happened, but now I'm sure that what I am tasting is Oxy-Clean. I'm guessing that I was tired during one of the transfers and racked the batch into a keg that I had not rinsed very well. But there is light at the end of this tunnel, right?

Today, with hope in my heart, I grabbed one of the bottles from batch #3. It has been a few months and if the beer could fix itself, it should have by now. I knew that if the beer in the bottle was good, I could just take the batch #10 keg and store it for a few months and it would be fine. No harm done.

But no. The bottled beer, although clear and gorgeous, tasted the same - bad.

So this weekend I will be doing something I have never done - dumping a full keg of beer. I can't even bring myself to con my friends into drinking this stuff - it is just hideous.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Big Tap

Jess and I sent our friends Aric & Mindy this cool tap handle from their awesome local brewery to thank them for putting up with me last month. Included in the picture is a pint of the English Brown Ale (right?) that Aric brewed while I was there and I hear it is tasty.

I can't wait to get out there again!