Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fermented News

There appears to be a new brewery in Kansas City. Dead Canary Brewery is a new, female owned brewery located in the West Bottoms of KCMO. It looks like they'll have some pretty kick-ass beers. It'll be awesome to have another brewery in the area. I can't wait 'till they launch.

Meanwhile, over at Boulevard, they are pumping out new beers left and right. In case you missed it, they recently released a funktified version of their Saison. I have three of these aging in the cellar right now.

To follow that, they just released a special version of Sixth Glass that was fermented on tart cherries and then aged in bourbon barrels. I just picked up two bottles today I should have a review up soon. (More info on the two special releases here)

As if that wasn't enough, They also released a new year-round IPA called Single-Wide IPA. I can't wait to get my hands on one of these. Right now the Single-Wide is only available on tap, I hear they have it at the Jazzhaus, so I'm going to have to hit that up soon.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Begining: Adventures in Homebrewing Part I

I have had the itch to brew my own beer for quite a while now and thanks to a kick in the pants from my lovely wife (gift certificate and a book) my new addiction hobby has officially begun.

The first step was to study the craft, I've never been one to rush into things without preparing first. I found two books to be especially helpful, How to Brew by John J. Palmer and Brewing Classic Styles by Jamil Zainasheff. How to Brew has a lot of info in it and can get pretty technical. If you want a book that's not as in-depth, The Complete Joy of Home Brewing by Charlie Papazian is the book for you. I have also found reading the homebrewing forum over at to be very helpful. Now, on to the brewing...

The recipe was supposed to be Jamil's Chocolate Hazelnut Porter, only I was going to omit the hazelnut. Of course since this is my first time, I encountered a few problems and committed a few errors along the way.

First, the local - and by local I mean 35 miles away in Shawnee - home brew store, Bacchus & Barleycorn, didn't have any Munich malt extract so I went with more pale extract at the suggestion of the clerk. Second, I ended up pouring in a little extra extract than the original recipe called for so I ended up with about 9.1 pounds of extract instead of 8.8 lbs. Third, instead of leaving some wort in the kettle with all the trub, I strained it through a funnel with a strainer in it – I think Jamil's recipes factor in a half gallon of wort being left in the kettle. As a result I over-shot my original gravity by about .04 (assuming I can read a hydrometer and adjust for temperature correctly).

More problems, the first Wyeast smack pack of yeast never inflated like it was supposed to. Turns out the clerk gave me a year old smack pack, nice. After a quick call to Bacchus I was off to exchange it for a fresh one – 70 miles, round trip. Next time I'll be sure to pick up some dry yeast as a backup. Finally, I pitch my yeast at 6:30 pm, the wort was ready at about 12:30. Next I have problems getting the damn stopper to stay in my carboy, apparently you need to dry the stopper off after sanitizing it. As of right now, 24 hours after pitching, everything looks good. I'm getting a steady stream of bubbles coming out of the overflow valve and my temperature control looks good. I just hope the yeast can chew up enough sugar to leave me with a tasty brew.

So here's my recipe, notes, and more pictures. I'm thinking I'll call this one Jumbo Cocoa Porter or maybe Rookie Porter:

OG: 1.106
IBU: 33-36 (assuming I estimated the boil gravity right.)
Boil: 60 minutes
Pre-boil Volume: 4 gallons
Pre-boil Gravity: 1.056 (estimated)

Muttons Light LME, 9.1 lbs.

Steeping Grains:
Crystal 40˚, 1.0 lb.
Crystal 80˚, 1.0 lb.
Chocolate Malt, 0.75 lb.
Black Patent Malt, 0.5 lb.

Ghirardelli Cocoa Powder, 0 min., 0.5 lb.

Goldings 4.7%, 60 min., 1.3 oz.
Willamette 4.7%, 30 min., 0.8 oz.
Willamette 4.7%, 15 min, 0.8 oz.
Goldings 4.7%, 0 min., 0.4 oz
Willamette 4.7%, 0 min., 0.4 oz

Wyeast 1056 American Ale, 1 smack pack

Great Value spring water from Welpman Spring in Morgan County, MO

Brewed on 12/06/2008 by myself.

Steeped grains for about 35 min. at 150˚ - 170˚ (accidentally let it get too hot) in 3.5 gallons of water. I also squeezed the bag a bit which can lead to extra tannins and it may be possible that my steeping efficiency was higher than the estimate used in the recipe.

Added about 4.5 lbs of extract and a half gallon of water, turned heat up. Boiled for 60 minutes, added the hops (all pellets) and cocoa as listed above. IBUs may be lower than estimated due to pre-boil gravity possibly being higher than estimated. Added the rest of the extract.

Cooled wort with immersion chiller to about 80˚.

Transferred to carboy, and filled to 5.5 gallons. Took two hydrometer readings to make sure I was doing it correctly. 1.105 + .0012 adjustment for 70˚ = 1.106 original gravity.

Notice my yeast pack is still pretty flat, decide to break for lunch to give it more time to inflate, approximate time: 12:30.

Return from lunch at about 2:30 - Nutcracker on tap has a lot more hop flavor and aroma than the bottles I had. Decided to give up on yeast and headed to Bacchus for a replacement. I should have also picked up some dry yeast.

Aerated wort with a Mix-Stir Agitator – I used two approximately 30 sec. bursts. Finally pitched yeast at 6:30pm. Figured out you need to dry the stopper in order for it to stay in the bottle.

12/07 9:00am – looks like a small kraeusen has formed. The blow-off tube managed to come out of the water bucket so no bubbles to note. Secured tube back in bucket.

12/07 9:45am – Bubbles!

12/07 2:30pm – Bubbling has increased to a steady rate and kraeusen looks about ½ inch thick, maybe less. Room temp = 60˚ Fermenter temp = 66-67˚

12/07 6:45pm – 24 hours since pitching, bubbling is still steady and kraeusen looks about the same as before. I was hoping to have more activity by now, obviously I should have pitched more yeast. Room = 60˚ Fermenter = 67˚

More updates and pictures will be posted below.

[Update 1]
12/07 10:00pm – Fermenter temp approaching 68˚, adjusted space heater setting down 2˚ - I suspect fermentation will heat up in the next 24 hrs. Fermentation appears to have picked up a tick. Observed some foam in the kraeusen expanding and collapsing.

[Update 2]
12/08 5:30am – Fermenter still at 68˚ and room is still around 60˚, turned space heater down another 2˚. Kraeusen looks about the same as last night.

12/08 6:40pm – Room = 60˚, fermenter = 69˚. Bubbling is still constant, kraeusen looks a little puffier.

12/08 9:45pm – Room = 62˚, fermenter looks like it's getting close to 70˚. Kraeusen is thicker and not as dark. Cut the space heater, opened door to let cool air in from unfinished part of basement and turned a fan on the fermenter.

12/08 11:30pm – Room = 63˚, fermenter = 68˚ Kraeusen looks even thicker than it did two hours ago. I'm not sure why the room temp keeps going up. I'm going to leave the door open and fan on over night.

[Update 3]
12/09 5:30am – Room = 58˚, fermenter = 63-64˚ Kraeusen has increased to about 3 inches, very poofy. Looks like the cooler air helped keep the temp down, turning fan off for day, room temp should drop a little more as outdoor temps drop.

12/09 9:10pm – Room = 55˚, fermenter = 60˚ Looks like high kraeusen has come and left. Lots of foam residue on the top of the bottle, almost to the neck. Turned space heater back on (set to 58˚). Almost a one second gap between bubbles.

[Update 4]
12/18 4:00pm – Day 12 - Fermenter and room about 62˚. Gravity = 1.028, a little higher than I want it to be. Chocolate and roast aroma and flavor a bit of bitter from the hops. Not as sweet as I expected, not a bad thing. Finish is a little grainy. Switched from overflow to a double-bubble airlock. After asking a few questions on-line, it's possible that my original gravity was not as high as measured. Apparently you're supposed to mix the wort up after you add water so you can get an accurate reading, duh. Turned heat up to 70 and gave the fermenter a little swirl to help the yeast finish.

[Update 5]
1/8/2009 – Day 33 - Bottling day. Siphoned about 4 gallons into bottling bucket and filled 27 twelve and twenty-two ounce bottles. Final gravity stayed at 1.028, hight than I wanted it. Beer has a pronounced chocolate flavor, no real off flavors detected. Should make a nice dessert beer.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

New Glarus Staghorn Octoberfest

Last weekend I had to drive up to Wisconsin and while I was there I was able to stock up on some Wisconsin craft beer. Up first is an Octoberfest from New Glarus. Available exclusively in the state of Wisconsin, New Glarus is well known for crafting excellent ales and lagers, especially those of German origin.

Crafted from Wisconsin malts and water and German hops and yeast Staghorn pours a crystal clear deep cooper color with a short white foam that quickly settles into a thin film. The Aroma is spot on for the style, toasted grain and biscuit with a dose of spice from the hops (probably Hallertau).

The flavor pretty much follows the aroma. A little bit of sweet bread flavors to start, followed by a mix of biscuit like flavors and some earthy spiciness from the hops. Everything is balanced towards the malt side but it is not overly sweet. The finish is clean with a slight herbal hop bite, maybe a slight metallic twang in there as well. Mouthfeel is creamy with excellent carbonation. I think this is my new favorite American made Octoberfest.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Samuel Adams Hallertau Imperial Pilsner

Today we'll sample one of my favorite seasonal beers, Samuel Adams Hallertau Imperial Pilsner. Brewed by the Boston Beer Company, it was created as a tribute to the noble hop Hallertau Mittelfrau which are grown in the Hallertau region of Bavaria in Germany. If Germans made hop bombs this is probably what they would make.

The beer pours a deep golden straw color with a bright white head. Its not crystal clear like a Pils should be, there is a slight haziness to it, maybe from all the hops? The aroma is dominated by the spicy floral aroma of the Hallertau hops, with a hint of honey and malt lurking underneath it all. A real treat for the nose.

The flavor starts out with a touch of caramel sweetness, this is quickly replaced by the spicy bitterness of the hops. There is some citrus notes mixed in there as well. The mouth feel is a little creamy and has a tendency to stick to the tongue. The finish is bitter and perfumey with a touch of heat form the alcohol. There is just enough malt in there to keep the beer slightly balanced but the Hops are definitely the main attraction.

This beer is very drinkable, if it wasn't for the 8.1% ABV I'd have a hard time stopping after just one. The bitter finish could be a drawback for some but I like it. I really enjoy how the Hallertau hops are so clearly put on display. Jim Koch should make this part of their regular line-up. This is not a beer to be missed. It is sold in four packs and they'll set you back about ten bucks.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Beware the Red Menace

The picture of Lenin on the bottle should have been enough warning to keep me away from this beer, but for some reason, I bought it anyway. Red Menace from Hale's Ales in Seattle, Washington is supposed to be a big amber ale with lots of hops in it. Like Lenin's theories of social order this beer is an epic fail.

Appearance is a cloudy iced tea color, an odd color for an amber ale, with a dingy white head. Aroma is a mix of grainy malts, a little bit of sweetness and some earthy spiciness from the hops, but there is also a bit of an off smell, metallic perhaps, that makes the aroma a bit unwelcoming.

Flavor is completely dominated by the off flavors, metallic or medicinal. I don't think I'm going to be able to finish this glass, the aftertaste is really terrible. This is a beer that is only fit for dirty, Lenin loving commies. All beer (and freedom) loving people should steer clear of this crap.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen

Today we'll be sampling Ayinger's Oktoberfest beer, one of my favorite examples of the style. The Oktoberfest style is a lager beer made with lots of Munich malt and nobel hops. You probably already know the history of Germany's Oktoberfest if not check it out.

Ayinger is one of the best German breweries that exports to America and their fest beer is a prime example of their skills. The beer pours a bright copper color with a frothy white head that settles down to a wispy film. The aroma is sweet biscuit with a touch of caramel and some faint spiciness from the hops.

The taste starts off with some caramel sweetness up front followed by plenty of chewy bread flavors in the middle, along with some nut flavors. Balance is provided by just the right amount of noble hops. The finish is almost tart instead of bitter. Mouth feel is crisp and light bodied with a mostly dry finish. A very interesting lager. If you haven't tried this classic example of a classic style, you need to do so.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Racer 5 IPA

In an earlier post I mentioned that there are a gaggle of new beers available in Kansas, today I'm going to review one of those great new beers. Racer 5 IPA is a award winning west coast IPA brewed by the Bear Republic brewery located in Healdsburg California in Sonoma County, right in the heart of wine country.

Pours a deep golden straw color with a touch of copper in it and frothy, off-white foam. The Columbus and Cascade hops make themselves known right away with a blast of tangerine and mangoes followed by some pine and floral aromas. Later I pick out some caramel sweetness from the malts.

The first taste presents a more bitter fruit profile, more to the grapefruit side of the citrus spectrum with a touch of orange. The malt lays down a subdued biscuity backbone with just a touch of caramel, the hops are the main focus of this beer.

The bottle conditioning gives it a nice smooth body. Finish is appropriately bitter with a touch of a spicy burn from the 7% alcohol. Overall, a really well done, hops heavy IPA that is sure to satisfy your hop yearnings. I wouldn't recommend it for the hop novices out there, but I'll be drinking more than a few this fall.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hefe' for Breakfast

This weekend is considered the symbolic end of summer, although around here summer has a ways to go still, so I thought I should finally review a “summer-time” beer.* There is no summer-time beer I enjoy more than a nice fresh Hefeweizen.

*My first pozterisk (you'll have to scroll to the botom of that link). Most beer geeks like to drink a lighter beer, like Lagers, Pale ales, Wits, and Hefeweizen, in the summer and darker beers, like Porters, Barley wines and Stouts, in the winter. Personally, I drink whatever beer I'm in the mood for at the time, with the modern technology that is indoor climate control, season isn't as important as it once was.

Hefeweizen is a traditional south German beer made with at least 50% wheat and a special strain of yeast that gives the ale a banana and clove aroma. Since freshness is paramount to a good Hefe', and we know the freshness of imported beer from Germany is questionable at best, I like to stick to locally made examples like the one from Free State.

I picked up a growler at Free State last night so I would have a nice beer to drink while I embark on my Labor Day weekend list of chores. After finishing my morning mowing I poured a nice tall glass of the cloudy, golden straw colored ale with a thick white head to sip while I prepared my breakfast.

The aroma is thick with bananas, clove, and wheat malt – a delicious start. The first sip taste like fresh banana cream pie sprinkled with nutmeg and clove. The mouth feel is creamy and smooth with just enough heft. The wheat tartness kicks in in the finish and it has just enough hop bitterness to balance it all out.

This just might be the perfect accompaniment to eggs and bacon. There are a couple of other good Hefes out there and I hope to bring you some reviews of them before the summer really ends.

The breakfast of champions!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sierra Nevada Anniversary Ale, 2008

Sorry about the long hiatus. I just moved into a new house and I've been a little busy with all that, plus a mild bout of laziness. I'm back now and I should have several new posts coming soon, there are lots of new beers available in Kansas now. Today we'll take a look at a seasonal favorite of mine, Sierra Nevada's Anniversary Ale.

Anniversary Ale is a IPA ale that Sierra Nevada releases every fall to celebrate another successful year. This beer is a lot more balanced than you might expect from a west coast IPA, it's basically a beefed up version of their regular pale ale.

It pours with a big foamy head and a brilliant copper hue. The nose is a mix of malt and hop aromas. The pine and citrus from the Cascade hops fight with the toast and caramel of the malts.

Taste is more of the same delicious balance, toasty malts balanced by the pine and citrus of the hop oils. Mouth feel is crisp with plenty of carbonation and a chalky, dry finish. Bitterness is there but not as overbearing as many IPAs can be.

Overall a really easy drinking IPA that doesn't blow you away with the hops. Instead, it impresses you with the overall balance, and flavor. If you don't normally drink IPAs you might consider giving this well crafted brew a try.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

1554 Enlightened Black Ale

Today we'll take a look at one of my wife's favorite beers, New Belgium's 1554 Enlightened Black Ale. This ale, weighing in at 5.6% ABV, is the recreation of a long lost recipe that was found in a library in Belgium and then recreated using modern brewing techniques.

Dark brown almost black ale with a ruby glow when held to the light. A thick beige colored head that settles into a light film on the surface and some lacing on the sides. The aromas start of with roasted malts and cocoa that are followed by some fruit, dark cherry and figs.

Flavor starts of with a creamy coffee note mixed in with some fruitiness and a touch of caramely sweetness. Some spice and earth notes from the hops make a quick appearance in the middle. The mouth feel is rich and velvety smooth. Finish is slightly dry with a lingering chocolate-like bitterness. Pretty complex mix of flavors, kind of like mixing a belgian dubble with a porter, very interesting and enjoyable. Don't hesitate to pick this one up and give it a try.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Goose Island India Pale Ale

Today I found myself in the mood for a hoppy beer, so I thought I would give the Goose Island IPA a try. Goose Island is a brewery based in Chicago and thanks to a distribution agreement with Anheuser-Busch you can find their beers everywhere.

Their IPA is a little on the mild side with 5.9% ABV and a decent 58 IBUs. Not quite as strong as the Odell or Titan. On the plus side Goose Island lists the bottled on date on the back label of their beers, which is always nice. Today's selection is a little on the old side with a bottled on date of January 17.

The ale pours out a rich golden straw color with a thick off-white head. The aroma is nice mix of pine and citric hops with a touch of malty sweetness, not as pungent as I'd like it to be.

The flavor is also a little on the subdued side. The first flavor I notice is a sweet bready maltiness that is quickly followed by the hops, mostly pine and floral. Good balance, but I'd like to taste more hops.

Mouth feel is medium bodied and smooth with a crisp dry finish and some moderate bitterness. Overall a good, but not great, IPA. I'll probably choose another brand if given the choice.