Monday, April 13, 2009

Fine German Lagers and the People Who Love Them

Who are these people?

Us, that's who.

As homebrewers, we've been studiously avoiding them the way a novice baker might avoid fine French pastries. They just seem unattainable and one feels that any attempt to create them will end only in tears and frustration.

Our confidence bolstered by recent homebrewing successes, we've begun to dive in - tears be damned.

Our first mission was to find our favorite. Early contenders included Spaten Premium, Paulaner Pils, and Hacker-Pschorr Munchner Hell.

The Spaten is amazing and, for a while, was our front-runner. Our local has it on tap, and it is delicious. It leaves a taste in your mouth that demands you drink 3 more, kiss the bartender full on the mouth, and then pick a friendly fist fight with that group of bikers playing pool. Brilliant.

Then we tried the Weihenstaphaner Original and the game was over. Even poured from of a bottle, this beer is sublime. If there could be only one light lager in the world, this should be it. Brewed by the oldest brewery in existence (their records go back to 1040) this Munich Helles, as far as we are concerned, is the best light lager on the planet.

Now we start the quest to make our version of it.

Prepare for tears.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Slow It On Down - Batch #28

A few months ago, I read a few articles that proposed that 60 - 90 minute mash times were a hold over from days gone by. They proposed that modern modified malts don't need anything like that amount of time to convert in the mash. More on the order of 30 minutes was the claim.

You may notice I haven't bothered to link these articles.

That's because they are crap.

At least for us. As we dropped our mash times, our efficiency dropped right along with it. We went from our usual 85%+ down in to the 70s. We could, of course, compensate for this by adjusting our recipes but our Mash Tun is already packed to the gills and it seems like a waste anyway.

For this batch of Irish Stout, we went back to a 60 minute mash and our old numbers returned with an 86.7% mash efficiency. We also beefed up the recipe slightly to push the ABV up a little.

I expect this to be the best batch of the stout so far.

Jess also came up with a great name for this beer. It invokes images of sheep grazing in the green fields of √Čire and also sounds vaguely religious which always works for beer. In actuality, it is named after Scarlett, Duchess, Holly, and Junior - the dogs that play frisbee with us all day while we brew. From now on, we'll be calling this beer Four Shepherds Irish Stout.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Better Bottle?

We picked up a ported Better Bottle and are giving it a test run this week. If we are happy with it, we plan to replace all our glass carboys with them.

The fact that they are much lighter and ported are big pluses, but the primary reason for the change is this collection of horror stories about serious injuries resulting from exploding carboys. The chance of something like this happening may be remote, but if there is a safer alternative that works, we're going to go with it.

They are about the same cost as glass, but the ported version ends up much more expensive as the valve is quite pricey. Overall the cost for these things is a bit ridiculous, but with no competition they only have to compete with the price of glass carboys (which all come from either Mexico or Italy.)

If your thinking about buying carboys, I would definitely consider getting a un-ported BB instead. Just the weight difference is worth it. They don't quite have the romance of the glass, but being lacerated to the bone isn't very romantic either.

Imagine doing this with a glass carboy...