Friday, September 19, 2008

Brewing News

Well, it's been awhile since I've blogged about the brewing news. Since the last post, I've blown through the Columbus APA keg. The latest of my single hop APA/IPA series of the summer, I was pretty happy with the results, but I think Columbus, for my taste anyway, needs to be blended with other American hops. Just a little too rough around the edges for beers following the Bush Doctrine of go it alone.

I also buckled down and made my first wine, a Chilean Pinot Noir, that is in secondary right now. Wine kits are a little pricey, but they are ridiculously simple. It took about a half hour to make the thing! From what I hear, they are pretty hard to mess up, so I'm hoping that around Christmas time I'll be sipping some good wine that cost about 4 bucks a bottle.

Right now I'm drinking my Big Bill's Brown ale and will be kegging Jamil's Mild sometime tomorrow. The brown is a little on the young side, only 2.5 weeks since brewing, but it's nice and clear and has a nice sweet chocolate malt backbone with a good hop punch to balance things out.

I picked up ingredients to brew another blonde ale this weekend, as well as the 50 pound sack of DME I ordered. For the blonde I'll be using my hop harvest as well as a bunch of huge Cascade cones that I harvested from the hop yard of a guy in my homebrew club. Last Sunday another club member and I went to his house to help him get rid of his crop. When I saw the trellis I almost cried. It was like a wall of hops reaching to the heavens. After 3 or 4 hours of picking, I got about 3 pounds of Cascade and about a pound each of Saaz and Fuggles. Some of the Saaz will be going into a Czech Pilsner that will be dumbed down with ale yeast since I can't lager yet and the Fuggles will be going into a Stout or Porter of some sort. Seeing this hopyard really got me thinking hard about making a major expansion to my yard next year.

Finally, I picked up all the parts for a partial mash tun so that I can start experimenting with some different base malts like Golden Promise and Maris Otter, but I don't have any solid plans for what I'm going to brew for my first partial mash brew. I'm leaning towards an Oatmeal Stout or maybe a Smoked Porter, but that may change. Any suggestions?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Union Brew - Big Bill's Brown Ale

With my last weekend of the summer I decided to spend Labor Day brewing and drinking homebrew and decided a big American style brown ale was in order. Being Labor Day and a union man, I just had to name it after Big Bill Haywood, labor organizer and one of the founders of the Industrial Workers of the World. This batch is a second shot at the Bourbon Barrel Brown, but without the bourbon or oak. I envisioned this as having a little more chocolate but also some more residual sweetness than the first attempt, so I added a little more caramel malts in 3 different lovibonds for complexity, more chocolate for flavor and color, and some pale chocolate for a little toastiness. I kept the hop varieties (Galena for bittering, Ahtanum for flavor/aroma) and schedule the same, but IBUs decreased just a little. Just like I did with the Columbus APA, I brewed with 6 gallons of unsoftened and untreated tap water from outside that I treated with a campden tablet to remove chlorine and chloramine. Big Bill's Brown came in at 1.066 OG and 52 IBUs. I'll leave this in the primary for 3 or 4 weeks and then it's going straight to keg.

While I was brewing this I poured the last pint of my Raspberry Wheat. It's pretty depressing to have a kegging setup with no beer to put in it :( For the first time since June (aside from beer for camping, which doesn't count) I had to buy beer that somebody else made. Bummer. This brew shortage got me motivated so I'm brewing again Saturday morning. On deck I've got Jamil Zainasheff's Mild ale from his book "Brewing Classic Styles." If you don't have this book already, go get it. Now. 80 award winning recipes (1 or 2 for each BJCP category) that have all won ribbons for one of the best homebrewers in the country. So far I've done the IPA and American Amber and they've been 2 of my best beers, so I've got high hopes for this one. It's a very small beer - the OG is only 1.036 - so it will be kind of weird to brew this, but I've heard good things about the recipe and it should be done fast so I'll be able to go right to keg quickly and start drinking a nice session beer for football season.

In other homebrew news, I picked up some more hops (Simcoe and Argentina Cascade) and a spare keg on a recent trip to Midwest Supplies. I just saw today that Freshops has some of the 08 hop crop in and they've got some varieties for pretty cheap, so I'm deciding if I should pull the trigger or not. One thing that complicates the decision is I just dropped a big chunk of change on a 50 pound bag of dry malt extract. I'm a little concerned about how I'm going to store it without it getting chunky, but buying in bulk will save me about 8 bucks a batch for a standard 1.056 beer with 6 pounds of DME in it, so if it works out I figure it's worth it.