Monday, May 11, 2009

It's been awhile

So this is obviously my first update in school has kept me busy. But, now that finals are over, I finally have some free time.

My Nightshade Ale (blackberry-blueberry wheat) didn't turn out half bad. It's a very fruity beer, and tastes almost more like a soda than a beer. It's definitely something I'd have to be in the mood to drink, and not just something I'd reach for when I have a beer. Interestingly, the ten pounds of fruit I used in this batch lended a much stronger flavor than did the ten pounds of fruit I used in my sour cherry beer from awhile back (Charlie Papazian's "Cherries in the Snow" recipe). In this batch, I used frozen fruit, whereas in the cherry beer I used canned cherries. I'm guessing there's some kind of difference there?

My imperial stout seems to be coming along nicely, too. It's been sitting in secondary about a month and a half now (I think), and has been aging over vanilla beans the entire time. I'm pretty excited to see how it turns out. My original plan was to let it sit in secondary all summer, but since I won't be around I'm a little hesitant to leave it fermenting in the high temperatures without any way to check on it. So I think I'm going to bottle it in a week or two, and then let some sit here to age and take a few bottles home with me.

I won't be brewing anything else until the fall, so my posts over the next few months will probably be few and far between. For my next batch, I'm planning on doing a pale ale/IPA, with an emphasis on citrusy hops. I wanted something I could just go to whenever I was in the mood for a beer, and that flavor profile seems to fit the bill.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Nightshade Ale finally Bottled

So I finally got around to bottling my Nightshade Ale (a blackberry-blueberry wheat beer). Bottling is just as much of a pain as it always is, but I wanted to get my Starless Night Imperial Stout into secondary soon, so I finally got motivated to do it.

After I bottled, I siphoned what was left into a glass - and it looked awesome. It poured a surprisingly clear purplish-red, with only a little bit of haze. Much less haze than I expected, especially considering a) It's primarily wheat malt and b) the amount of fruit used. It didn't smell very beery at all - almost smelled more like blackberry or blueberry juice or soda. The fruit is the most evident in the taste, but there's just a hint of the wheat malt that comes through. I'm hoping once it's carbonated it'll taste more like beer, so we'll see. I couldn't get an accurate hydrometer reading, so I have absolutely no idea what the alcohol content is.

I'm probably going to rack the Starless Night to secondary tomorrow night - after spending two hours sanitizing and bottling, the last thing I wanted to do was clean and sanitize my carboy/siphon. Besides, I managed to get two vanilla beans today, so I figure I'll soak them in vodka overnight to sanitize them, and then rack the beer on top of them in the carboy. I'm excited about this, and I'm just disappointed that I'm going to have to wait a few months to try it.

It's going to depend on my financial situation, but I might try to brew a quick-turnaround IPA before I leave for the summer, and then have something else sit in secondary while I'm gone. I've been doing some research, and I think I've come up with the combination of hops I want to get that citrus/grapefruit flavor which I love in IPAs. If I decide to do it, I should be able to have it ready by early May, and I can bring the bottles home with me for the summer too.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Starless Night Imperial Stout

So I finally brewed my Starless Night Imperial Stout. I got the ingredients a few days ago, but I've been too busy. Had a fourteen-hour day today (between working two of my three jobs and class), but I got home around seven, and figured brewing/having a few brews would be a good way to relax.

It's obviously too early to tell anything, but the wort is a little bit lighter than I would have liked, so I'm a bit concerned. I'm hoping it darkens as it ferments, but we'll see. My theory on why is that I ordered everything online, and all of my specialty grains came in one massive grain bag, precrushed - and that's something like 3 pounds of grain in one bag. I think it's possible that the grains in the middle of the bag didn't get all of their sugars extracted as well as they could have, and therefore the color didn't darken as much as it should have. Of course, if all of the sugars weren't extracted, then obviously the flavor can be affected too. We'll see. My apartment does smell nice, though - I've forgotten how much I love the smell of boiling wort and fermenting beer.

More likely than not, this will be my last batch for awhile. I'm going to be out of town all summer, back with the parents, so I probably won't be brewing anything. If I get really adventurous, I might bring one carboy home and try to brew something over the summer, but I doubt the parents will appreciate the smell as much as I do. Besides, I'd still like to have both my carboys full over the summer.

I still am tentatively going to brew my winter warmer/barleywine before I leave, and let that sit in secondary all summer. I won't be leaving til the end of May, so obviously that's a bit away. However, last night I tried Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout for the first time...and it got me thinking...

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I've always wanted to brew something with maple syrup. Originally the idea was a maple porter...but...something like the KBS (already with bourbon, coffee, and chocolate) with maple syrup added could be nothing less than phenomenal. That would also be something I'd like to have fermenting for awhile, so we'll see.

The two styles of beer I drink the most are Imperial Stouts and Double IPAs, and I've already tried my hand at a few stouts. I've been wanting to brew an IPA/DIPA for awhile. Once I tasted Bell's HopSlam, I decided that when I brew my IPA, I want to try to clone that. That's obviously going to be a pretty intense project, and I'd like to refine my brewing technique before I tackle that one, but that's something I'm excited about.

When I transfer the Imperial Stout - which, I've named Starless Night, and I think that's a pretty sweet name for an Imperial Stout - to secondary, I'm going to age it over vanilla beans. Starless Night is pretty heavy on the roasted flavors, and I think the vanilla could add a nice smoothness and an awesome finish. I hope it darkens a little bit...if anyone has any opinions/other things I could add to darken it at this point, I'm all ears.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Free time for brewing is few and far between

So I haven't brewed at all this month, which entirely defeated the purpose of buying a second carboy so I could have two going at once. Ah well. Still haven't bottled my Nightshade Ale yet either...although I think I have enough bombers lying around to do the batch, I haven't had the time to devote to bottling. When I have had time, going through the effort of bottling has been the last thing I've wanted to do. It's not that bad of a thing though - work and law school has kept me ridiculously busy, so I wouldn't have the time to enjoy the beer anyway. I still have a good amount of the chocolate porter and raspberry-chocolate stout I made, anyway.

The raspberry-chocolate stout has mellowed out somewhat, but the raspberry flavor is still a little strong. If I do a beer like this again, I might stay away from the extracts. It added a medicinal flavor that is kind of unpleasant. Still, it's a pretty solid beer - I'm happy with it.

I did order the ingredients for my next brew, however, and I did decide to do the Imperial Stout. I'm going to be on spring break next week, but hopefully when I get back I'll be able to make time to brew the batch. I enjoy brewing MUCH more than bottling, and my lack of free time will definitely be a good thing with this beer, since I'll want it to sit in secondary for awhile. I'm going to be out of town for most of the summer, so I haven't decided if I want to leave it in secondary over the summer, or bottle it right before I leave (after a month-month and a half in secondary), and let it bottle condition. I also plan on aging it over vanilla beans in secondary, so that might have something to do with which way I lean.

Since I am going to be gone this summer, I'd like to make full use of both carboys and have another batch going while I'm gone. I'm contemplating making a barleywine/winter-warmer combination...or basically a barleywine with traditional winter spices. I think it'd be perfect to do over the summer, because it would just be getting drinkable right around as the temperature starts to drop in the fall. That, however, is obviously way down the road.

I'll be gone for the next week, as I said, but hopefully I'll have time to brew my Imperial Stout sooner rather then later once I get back.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Sorry I haven't done much blogging's been keeping me busy, and I haven't really done any brewing.

Actually, the really isn't necessary. I'm pretty much out of bottles, and instead of buying more, I might hold off brewing anything new until I'm sure I'll have somewhere to put it. As it is, my Nightshade Ale is still sitting in secondary, since I have nowhere for it to go. I still don't have the money for a kegging system, so that's going to have to wait as well.

I did try a bottle of my raspberry-chocolate stout the other day. Right now, the raspberry flavoring is still a little strong and overpowering, but I'm hoping that will mellow out a little bit soon. It's good though - a little bit thin for a stout, but still good.

On another note, it looks like the Chocolate Porter I brewed somehow became infected. I pulled out some of the bottles the other day, and that tell-tale ring seems to be forming around the neck. It's odd, though, because that's been bottled for a month-and-a-half now, and this is the first time I've noticed any problems. It still tastes fine, so I don't know *shrugs*. Hopefully it's a harmless infection. On the upside, I guess, I was a little disappointed with the brew, so it's not a total loss.

I'd still like to brew my English Pale Ale and a Maple Porter soon, but again, my lack of bottles has caused me to rethink my philosophy. A buddy of mine is in a similar boat, and he solved the problem by brewing a Belgian that he knows will take a long time in secondary. I know the Maple Porter would probably take a long time to do, but that got me thinking about a couple of other ideas.

I've been intrigued by the idea of brewing a barleywine for awhile now, and that'd obviously be something that would have to sit for quite some time. However, over the last few months I've fallen in love with Imperial Stouts, and that's another beer I'd really like to brew. There's a chance I'll be out of town all summer, so the tentative plan is to have both of those brews in secondary then, when they'll just sit and ferment for 3 months. However, I might get started on one of those sooner rather than later, since a) I'm not able to brew as much as I thought I would, b) I have limited space, and c) It'll give more time for all of the flavors to come together and mellow out.

So we'll see. Hopefully I'll be updating more often soon.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

English Pale Ale & Maple Porter, Raspberry-Chocolate Stout Update

I bottled my raspberry-chocolate stout this morning, and everything went smoothly. Had to finish off one of my previous brews to have enough bottles, but that's life for ya. I say every post that I really need to start kegging, and I'll say it again - if for no other reason than I'm running out of bottles, and really don't want to buy more. I would still like to bottle some of each of my batches, so I can bring them over to friends' places and what not. Overall though, I want to keg - it's easier, and it's cool to have beers on tap at my house.

The raspberry chocolate stout looks like it's turning out pretty good. There wasn't much of a raspberry aroma, but it was definitely noticeable in the taste. It did overpower a little bit, so I'm hoping it mellows out in the bottles. I added a tablespoon or so of dark cocoa powder to the priming sugar, so I'm hoping that adds a little more chocolate flavor to the brew. For flat, warm beer, however, the sample I tasted did taste pretty good. I'll probably crack open the first bottle on Valentines Day, so that'll give it two weeks or so to condition.

So of course, now I'm thinking about my next batches. I think I want to brew an English Pale - I want something thats a good session beer, and easy to drink. I'm not a huge fan of American Pales, because to me, they for the most part taste like watered-down IPAs (And I love me a good IPA...). I'm going to look at the ingredients in the kit my friend brewed a few weeks ago, and tweak it a little bit.

For the batch after that, I plan on brewing a Maple Porter. Incidentally, this was the first beer I wanted to make when I started brewing, but I decided to start simple (and I'm glad I did). I think it'll be a good transition into Spring, when the weather's still kind of cold, so you get the heavyness of a winter brew with the maple syrup flavors of February/March. The chocolate porter I brewed taught me a good bit about how to better balance a beer, so hopefully I'll be able to carry that over into the maple porter.

I haven't checked in on the Nightshade Ale since I racked it to secondary, but there's not much I can do with it now. I'm out of bottles, and I don't have a keg, so until one of those problems is rectified it's going to continue to age in secondary. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Two Brews in Secondary

Well, I racked my Nightshade Ale to secondary today. Fermented in primary nearly 8 days, and that's the longest fermentation I've had so far. It brewed incredibly vigorously for at least 3 or 4 of those days. It looked a deep reddish-purple in the carboy...yay for purple beer! It smelled a LOT like a tripel, which threw me off a bit. I wasn't really sure what I was expecting it to smell like, but I don't think I was expecting that. However, I love tripel's, so it can really only be a good thing.

My raspberry-chocolate stout has been sitting in secondary for about a week now, and I figure sometime in the next couple of day's I'll bottle it, so it'll have conditioned enough to be ready for Valentine's Day. I just dread the thought of bottling - I really want to start kegging, because it is SO much easier...and it's cool having beer "on tap" at my apartment. Bottling is just a pain, it's messy, and it takes up a whole afternoon.

With those two brews in secondary, the next question is what to brew next. I really want to brew an Imperial Stout, but it just doesn't seem that timely right now. Also, I know it would take a long time in secondary, and I don't think I want to take up one of my carboy's for that long. Maybe over the summer I'll throw a batch together, and let it sit all the way until winter.

A buddy of mine recently brewed the "Innkeeper" beer kit, from Northern Brewer. I guess it would best be classified as an amber, though the biscuit malt gave it a flavor I hadn't really tasted before, and I really liked it. That got me thinking, though, that I kind of just want to brew a good session beer - one that I can just pop open when I'm in the mood for a beer, one that I can have a few of when I have buddies over to hang out. I've been experimenting a lot and trying a bunch of unique things, but I'm thinking about going back to basics.

I like the amber ale I brewed for my first batch, so maybe I'll do something like that again, but switch it up a little bit. Three of my good friends near me all brew, and we kind of try to all brew different things. I really liked the beer my friend just brewed, but want to do something a little bit different. So we'll see. He also brewed a honey ale a couple of months back, and that was really good as well. I do like using honey as an ingredient, and it still makes an easy-drinking beer.

Hopefully I'll have some ideas for my next batch in a few days. Law school and working three jobs has kept me busy, to say the least, but this is one of the few things I do to relax.

Oh - almost forgot. I sampled my Chocolate Thunder porter again the other night, and it has really mellowed a LOT since the last time I tried it. There's still a little too much coffee/roasted bitterness, but it's much smoother overall, and more of the chocolate sweetness is coming through. If I do another chocolate-style beer, I'll probable cut the chocolate malt by quite a bit, since the baker's chocolate itself provides plenty of bitterness.