Category Archives: Beer

Beer Flights for Your Holidays

Lately I’ve preferred drinking small 4oz pours of 3-5 different beers rather than a larger pour of a single beer. Being able to compare and contrast multiple beers makes it easier to suss out the distinctive character of each individual beer. I’ve also found when I drink less when I drink mindfully.

The big box stores have released their holiday hours, Amazon is counting down to Black Friday, Vita.mn has released their Minnesota six-pack, and I’m studying up for a BJCP tasting exam. Roll that all together and I’ve had holiday beer flights on the brain. Each of the 6 flights below is designed for diversity and distinctiveness. I trust it will introduce you and yours to something new and interesting (and maybe even look at something familiar in a new way). All the beers were purchased in either MN or WI, though some are easier to find than others.

History Flight

Four pale, crisp, refreshing beers highlighting a brewing technique or ingredient that was once far more popular than it is today. Compare and contrast the tartness from the yeast, spicy from the hops & herbs, and the diversity in carbonation levels.

Beer (Origin) BeerAdvocate Score
Antwerpse Brouw Seef (Belgium) 81
Olvalde Rise of the Burghers and the Fall of the Feudal Lords (MN) NA
Schell Star of the North (MN) 95
Orval (Belgium) 94

Hop Flight

The full spectrum of hop forward American pale ales. Notice the differences in malt sweetness and how the hop bitterness and citrusy hop aroma keeps ahead of it.

Beer (Origin) BeerAdvocate Score
Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye (CA) 95
Ballast Point Big Eye (CA) 91
Indeed Day Tripper (MN) 90
21st Amendment Bitter American (CA) 87

Dark Flight

In these four big, dark beers look for roasted coffee, dark chocolate, prunes, and assertive alcohol presence. Compare the differences in smoke and roasted grains. Discuss with your companions whether or not you enjoy the 2 with peated malt (I do).

Beer (Origin) BeerAdvocate Score
Samuel Adams Wee Heavy (MA) 83
Boulevard Dark Truth (MO) 89
Fulton Worthy Adversary (MN) 93
Brouwerij De Molen Hemel & Aarde (Belgium) 89

Farmhouse Flight

From traditional to clearly American, these 4 beers interpret a rustic, complex, and refreshingly dry style. Compare and contrast the hop aromas and spicy yeast characters. Look for the ‘wild’ yeast character common in this style.

Beer (Origin) BeerAdvocate Score
Brooklyn Sorachi Ace (NY) 92
Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale (MO) 93
Hopothesis Drafty Window (IL) NA
Brasserie Dupont Saison Dupont (Belgium) 93

Sour Flight

These four beers will stand up against any red wine at your holiday table. Like wine, they’re complex in aroma and flavor. Compare and contrast the levels of carbonation and prominence of dark fruit. Look for oak, tobacco, vanilla, and red-wine-esque tannins.

Beer (Origin) BeerAdvocate Score
Bockor Cuvee Des Jacobin Rouge (Belgium) 96
Verhaeghe Duchesse De Bourgogne (Belgium) 92
Rodenbach Grand Cru (Belgium) 95
Odell The Meddler (CO) 89

Cellar Flight

These are big beers, happily set down in a cool, dark, cellar and brought out for a celebration. Compare and contrast prominence of alcohol warmth and hop aroma. Discuss which beer is most reminds you of fruitcake. Look for caramel, oak, and comfortable place to sit down.

Beer (Origin) BeerAdvocate Score
North Coast Old Stock Ale (CA) 92
Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine (CA) 93
Avery Samael’s Ale (CO) 87
Schloss Eggenberg Samichlaus Classic (Austria) 89

Big Beer Year #2: Flanders Brown from Brewing Classic Styles

The second beer of the Big Beer Year is Jamil Zainascheff’s Flanders Brown in as described in his book Brewing Classic Styles.

Well mostly. I made a couple malt substitutions based on availability and quantity tweaks to get closer to the numbers he specifies in the book.

On the process side, inspired by my torn bag mishap, I decided to do an overnight mash in the cooler. Last night, after I crushed the grain, I heated 7 gallons of water to in my boil pot. As that heated, I put the crushed grain in the bag and put the bag in the cooler. When the water got to temp 162°F (I estimate ~10°F loss once the water hits the grain) I poured it into the cooler. Once all the water was in, I jostled the bag around to make sure all the grain was sufficiently wet, folded the end of the bag outside the cooler and closed the lid. And ignored it until morning.

After I made a starter from 2 packages of Wyeast 1056, I went to bed. Easy.

This morning, I pulled 6 gallons off the still warm mash, boiled for 60 minutes, cooled the wort, and pitched the starter all by 10am. Brilliant.

Recipe:
8# Dingemens Pilsner Malt
4# Belgian Munich
12oz Belgian CaraMunich
8oz Belgian Aromatic
8oz American White Wheat
5oz Belgian Special B
1oz Belgian Debittered Black Malt

1oz Kent Goldings 5.8AA @ 60min
BU:GU: 0.24

Wyeast 1056 American Ale in the primary
Wyeast Roeselare Belgian Blend in the secondary

1.083 OG (Hopville says this is 82% efficiency – WOOT!)
1.015 FG (estimated)
18.5 IBU
9.1 ABV (estimate. perhaps this is an Imperial Oud Bruin?)

Flanders Brown from BSC @ Hopville

I need to keep an eye out for the DMS levels in this beer. If they’re at all noticeable then next time mash with 7.5-8 gallons of water so there’s at least 1.5 gallons to accommodate a 90 minute boil.

Update 6 Feb 2013

On Sunday, February 3rd, I pitched a starter of Roeselare right atop the finishing American Ale. Tonight, as I was checking what the gravity was (1.011) and what it should be according to BSC (1.012) I re-read the brewing instructions. It clearly says, move the beer to the secondary before pitching the Roeselare. Heck – my notes just a few lines above here say the same thing. Oh boy. Well, maybe I cut my losses and bottle this once the Roeselare completely falls – independent of sourness. Drat.

Update 5 Apr 2013

Arg, this batch turned out thin, grainy, and fusel-y with only the slightest background hint of the full rich, red-wine-iness I love in Oud Bruins. I’m pretty sure there are 3 culprits: inept sparge technique, weak yeast starter, and pitching the Roselare before removing the 1056. I don’t expect it to get better with age. Learning experience for sure. Level up! I’m interested to see what the judges at the NHC this weekend suggest.

Update 18 Apr 2013

This beer received a 27 & 30 @ NCH Round 1. Higher than I anticipated. Primary fault identified by the judges: diacetyl (caused by weak yeast & too warm storage) and lack of complexity (I’m blaming the sparge & yeast)

Brew Day for the 2012 Hop Clearance

Today was brew day for the 2012 Hop Clearance and it could have gone much better. I forgot to put the false bottom in the brew pot (that’s step 1, even before turning on the burner).

So, the weight of 19 pounds of grain and the heat from the bottom of the brew pot burned a hole in my BIAB grain bag. Spilling out all 19 pounds of grain loose into the mash water. Thankfully, I had a leisurely 90 minutes before I needed to separate the soon-to-be spent grain from the soon-to-be hot liquor. In an effort to maximize my ‘it came to me in the shower’ chances – I grabbed my gym bag and headed out for a quick 30 minutes on the spin bike. Once on the bike, the answer was clear:

  1. grab the spare grain bag
  2. binder clip it into the unused large, rectangular, Igloo cooler
  3. dump the contents of the brew pot into the grain bag in the cooler
  4. put cooler on bar stool and drain back into freshly-cleaned brew pot

It worked slick and the walls of the cooler provide excellent resistance in squeezing every last drop out of the grains and into the brew pot. This process showed me the value of a separate mash/lauter tun and spigots – even for BIAB (admittedly this does mostly defeat the purpose of BIAB).

With the hot liquor ready for boil, I turned back on the outdoor burners and tidied up. Fifteen minutes later the temp was still reading 140°F. Oh sure, it’s only 16°F outside and the heat of mash has melted the snow off by back patio – but push through little turkey fryer – we gotta reach 212. I dove into the depths of the summer storage side of the garage, extracted the propane tank from the grill, and tagged it in. Fifteen minutes later – still 140°F. With both tanks giving up, it was time to take 6 hot and sticky gallons of grain juice into the kitchen to boil.

The Power Burner on the range quickly brought on a boil, and I prepped my first hop addition and an impromptu recipe tweak. Turns out my 4oz bag of Northern Brewer was hiding .8oz of Saaz. Fine. This is Hop Clearance – throw it in. It does mean, I don’t have as many IBUs as I planned, so while we’re here, let’s move the 10AA Centennial from flame-out to 45min. That’ll give us 10 IBUs back.

Then, I remember it’s January – which means the outside water’s been turned off for 2 months. Which means it’ll need to get turned back on, and hoses attached, to chill the wort. Now I have something to do between dropping the Irish Moss and flame-out. Perfect.

Through all of this, the starter of Headwaters waited patiently. I pitched them around 4pm and by 7:30 there was a nice solid krausen across the entire fermenter. Win.

With all the gear, the kitchen, the back patio clean, and Hopville’s calculators giving me a 73% efficiency on the mash (hitting 1.108 rather than the estimated 1.114) I’m tentatively optimistic on this one.

BTW – the fermenter smells fantastic.

Update 7 January 2013:

It’s been so long since I’ve brewed that I’d forgotten how wonderful fermentation smells.

Update 5 April 2013:

Turned out ok. Hops seem to be quickly fading. Overall, grainy/husky and less body than I’d like. I’m finding the strong finishing bitterness quite enjoyable. Barely any carbonation came through. The 12.8% ABV is quite prominent. I’m interested to see what the judges at the NHC think this weekend.

Update 18 Apr 2013

Received a 21 & 25 @ NCH Round 1. Higher than I anticipated. Primary fault identified by the judges: acetaldehyde (caused by weak yeast). Both judges describe the hops as low – glad I put so many in.

Big Beer Year: #1 The Hop Clearance American Barleywine

One thing that beer class confirmed for me – I have a strong preference for the rich, full, maltiness of big beers. Hops I’m ambivalent about, but if a beer doesn’t have a prominent malt presence – it won’t make my Ongoing Beer List.

With this in mind, I’m planning 8 beers for 2013, each a different style with common thread: big and malty. The first of these is The Hop Clearance, a big American Barleywine that will eat the unused hops I acquired in 2012. Recipe below:

17.5 # American Two-row Pale
1.0 # Table Sugar
1.0 # American Crystal 80L
0.25# Belgian Special B
0.25# American Chocolate

2.75 oz German Northern Brewer @ 60
1.0 oz Sterling @ 60
1.0 oz US Golding @ 60

0.5 oz Centennial @ 45

0.8 oz Saaz @ 0
1.0 oz Styrian Goldings @ 0
1.0 oz Willamette @ 0

Headwaters Yeast

1.108 SG
1.014 FG (25 Jan 2013)
99 IBU
0.87 BU:GU

The Hop Clearance @ Hopville

After mostly correctly answering 200 randomly questions on all aspects of brewing, beer styles, and running BJCP competitions, I’m now a Provisional BJCP Judge.

Woot.

Now to study for the tasting exam.

Towards a New Beer City

“I think it’s very real, it’s here to stay. We’re on the cusp of a movement here and I think we’ll probably replicate what Portland or Denver have in terms of 80 or 90 craft breweries.” – Peter Remes, president First & First.

Last week Tom Elko and I went to Stouts Pub for beers. We did a tasting tour of Minnesota craft breweries:

Congrats to Minneapolis and Minnesota for having a so many delicious beer options that aren’t Summit – or even Surly. What a difference a few years and a few legislative changes can make.

The Road to Beer Judging Certification: Light Hybrid, Amber Hybrid, German Wheat & Rye

This week we worked our way through Light Hybrid (6A. Cream Ale, 6B. Blonde Ale, 6C. Kölsch, 6D. American Wheat or Rye), Amber Hybrid (7A. Norther German Alt, 7B. California Common, 7C. Düsseldorf Alt) and German Wheat and Rye (15A. Weizen, 5B. Dunkelweizen, 5C. Weizenbock, 5D. Roggenbier).

The hybrid categories are that blurry line between lagers and ales. The subcategories are either ales fermented with lager yeast (California Common) or lagers fermented with ale yeast (Cream Ale) or some similar jostling. The German Wheat and Rye styles were included to conveniently compare the wheat presentation against that within the American Wheat or Rye and Blonde Ale styles.

This was the most difficult class so far. The vast majority of the beers had significant faults, from minor things (stale) to more significant things (nowhere near the declared style). Adding to judging difficulty, the ranges of these styles is significant. As was the selection: 21 beers across 11 substyles.

Cumulative Statistics:
IBU: 8 – 50
SRM: 2 – 25 (straw to dark brown)
OG: 1.038 – 1.090
FG: 1.007 – 1.022
ABV: 3.8 – 8%

On the plus side, a distinctive hop presence in flavor and bitterness is starting to become much more prominent. On the downside, it’s still mostly inappropriate.

Tonight’s Ranking (using BJCP’s 0-50 scale)

  1. 49 – St. Blasius Weizenbock (Weizenbock, great example of the style and delicious: malty with deep plum and rum notes and pineapple sweetnees. You must find this beer.)
  2. 48 – Flensberg Weizen (Weizen)
  3. 47 – Ayinger Ur Weisse (Dunkelweiss)
  4. 47 – Flying Dog Amber Lager (California Common)
  5. 45 – Anchor Steam (California Common, considered the classic example of the style)
  6. 44 – Franiskaner Dunkelweisse (Dunkelweiss)
  7. 40 – Lake Superior Kayak (Kölsch)
  8. 36 – Genesee Cream Ale (Cream Ale, considered the classic example of the style)
  9. 34 – Bell’s Oberon (American Wheat or Rye)
  10. 32 – Weihenstephan Hefeweisbier (Weizen)
  11. 31 – Innstadt Weizenbock (Weizenbock)
  12. 28 – Uerig Sticke (Düsseldorf Alt)
  13. 28 – Pyramid Curve Ball (Blonde ale, to timid for the style)
  14. 28 – Widmer Bros Citra Blond (Blonde ale, way too big and hoppy for style)
  15. 28 – Alaskan Amber (Northern German Altbier)
  16. 24 – Schlägl Roggen Gold (Roggenbier, though it had nothing in common with the style)
  17. 20 – Schell Deer Brand (Cream Ale)
  18. 20 – Mankato Original (Kölsch)
  19. 20 – Anchor Summer (American Wheat or Rye)
  20. 18 – Pinkers Munster Alt Organic (Northern German Altbier)
  21. 18 – Mankato Stickem (Düsseldorf Alt)

The Road to Beer Judging Certification: European Amber, Dark Lager, Bock

This week we worked our way through European Amber Lagers (3A. Vienna Lager, 3B. Oktoberfest), Dark Lager (4A. Dark American Lager, 4B. Munich Dunkel, 4C. Schwarzbier) and Bock (5A. Maibock/Helles Bock, 5B. Traditional Bock, 5C. Doppelbock, 5D. Eisbock)

The overwhelming attribute of these 3 styles is a prominent toasty, sweet, and complex malt aroma – like the crust of freshly baked bread (melanoidin). Still little to no hop aroma or flavor. Again the hops only job is to cut the malt sweetness and provide a dry finish.

Cumulative Statistics:
IBU: 8 – 35
SRM: 6 – 22 (gold to brown)
OG: 1.046 – 1.072
FG: 1.008 – 1.018
ABV: 4.2 – 7.4%
(notice all but OG & SRM are very close to last week's Light Lager & Pilsner styles)

While the Oktoberfests and Doppelbocks are still plentiful this time of year, the Maibocks are scarce, the Eisbocks are endangered. A visit to 5 of Twin Cities’ best beer stores (Four Firkins, Ale Jail, Merwins, SAV #1, and SAV #2) proved Traditional Bocks are extinct.

Even though my time in Germany introduced me to many of the beers from tonight’s selection, some pleasant surprises came up in the rankings. The Hofbrauhaus Maibock was an amazingly delicious and accurate example of a Maibock; pale, dry, malty, sweet, balanced, clean. Similarly, the Köstritzer Schwarzbier was an outstanding surprise; dark, clean, smooth, and roasty (just this side of burnt). Again, highly recommended. The biggest surprise came from Baltika #4 – this Russian interpretation of a Dark American Lager was clean, with a toasty rich malty aroma followed by a malty dark sugar taste and slightly sweet finish. Very enjoyable.

Tonight’s Ranking (using BJCP’s 0-50 scale)

  1. 49 – Hofbrauhaus Maibock (Maibock/Helles Bock)
  2. 46 – Paulanar Salvator (Doppelbock)
  3. 45 – Köstritzer Schwarzbier (Schwartzbier)
  4. 43 – Haacker-Pschor Oktoberfest (Oktoberfest)
  5. 41 – Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel (Munich Dunkel)
  6. 39 – Spaten Optimator (Doppelbock)
  7. 39 – Spaten Dunkel (Munich Dunkel)
  8. 39 – Paulanar Oktoberfest (Doppelbock)
  9. 37 – Baltika #4 (American Dark Lager)
  10. 36 – Hofstetten GranitBock (Doppelbock)
  11. 35 – Capital Amber (European Amber Lager)
  12. 34 – Shiner Bock (American Dark Lager)
  13. 34 – Capital Eisphyre (Eisbock)
  14. 32 – Sam Adams Black Lager (Schwartzbier)
  15. 20 – Hofstetten HellenBock (Maibock/Helles Bock)

The Road to BJCP Certification

A year and a half ago when I started formulating my own beer recipes – my friend Chris asked me if I had looked into hopville.com. Since then, Hopville has helped me understand and target the bounds of beer styles. By the numbers. But not by the ingredients. Even in the latest iteration Hopville warns of that discrepancy.

To get a better understanding of style-appropriate ingredients and tasting profiles – I declared one of my 2013 goals is to be BJCP certified.

This week, I start the process – an 11 week course leading to the BJCP exam.

Roggen Brett – Just Bottled

Tonight, I bottled my Roggen Brett, a 60% rye beer fermented with 100% Brettanomyces. I’ve been savoring it since. Easily the most delicious beer I’ve brewed to date – and it’s not even carbonated yet.

The beer is the color of leather. The nose – a mix of dark fruit and horse blanket. On the tongue, the medium body starts out both spicy and tart then finishes sweet. Hints of cherry and apricot can be picked up the entire way.

Hemel & Aarde von Brouwerji De Molen

image

Tonight, I stopped by The Four Firkins to meet Nick Anderson from Rush River. I quite enjoyed hearing the story of Rush River – and the challenges they’re having keeping up with the demand for their beer (there’s a reason their Unforgiven and ÜberAlt are #1 & #2 on my all-time beers list). On the way out, I picked up sixer of ÜberAlt and asked Alvey to recommend something peaty like Sam Adams’ Wee Heavy.

Without hesitation, he hands me a bottle of Hemel & Aarde von Brouwerji De Molen.

‘We just got this in’, he adds.

Exactly what I was looking for: peaty, roasty, dark as midnight, with a nose like campfire.

“Made with the most heavily peated malt in the world from the Bruichladdich distillery. Almost pitch black and opaque, small head. Furiously peated aroma, hiding the malt, licorice and dark chocolate somewhat. Very full bodied, thick mouthfeel, like fluid bread. Dark chocolate, loads of peat, lapsang souchong tea, chocolate cake, culminating in an almost endless aftertaste that also has licorice.”

Whereas the Wee Heavy is like zipping into a sleeping bag next to a campfire on a chilly night, the Hemel and Aarde is telling ghost stories, roasting marshmallows, and celebrating the sunset.

Besides, it’s hard not to love a beer with a label proudly exclaiming: ‘enjoy within 25 years’.

Sour Cider Mach II & Cranberry-Cyser

As part of the MN Homebrewers Club 2011 bulk cider buy, I picked up 10 gallons of un-pastuerized apple cider from Pine Tree Orchard (note – it’s not sold on their sales floor).

I split it into two 5 gallon batches.

1. Another take on my well received sour cider. Same yeast (dredges of 2 bottles of Orval).
Starting Gravity: 1.050
Final Gravity: 1.005 (~6% ABV)

2. A Cranberry-Cyser with 5lbs of Ruby’s Bottled Sunshine Honey from Krosch Gardens, a pound of whole cranberries, and WYeast 4766 Cider yeast.
Starting Gravity: 1.076
Final Gravity: 1.005 (~9.5% ABV)

Where's Your Ghost Deer?

In the daily churn it’s easy to miss truly remarkable projects. Remarkable in origin, in execution, and in presentation. Projects that market themselves. Projects that compel you. That haunt you. That remind you somewhere, deep inside you, there is an extraordinarily meaningful project – that must be birthed. And you’re the only one that can.

“The beer itself is a robust 28% blonde ale. After fermentation it is aged for 6 months in some amazing whisky, bourbon, rum and sherry barrels. There is only one Ghost Deer head and this beer will only ever be available on draft, served in a stemmed 1/3 pint glass, direct from the mouth of the deer himself. The elusive deer is going to be resident in BrewDog Edinburgh for a very limited time period commencing at 5pm on Wednesday the 7th of September. The deer himself will decide where he will next appear.”

Where is your Ghost Deer?

Fermenting: Broken Gnome – Belgian Dubbel Rye

My neighbors have a fantastic garden gnome. Turns out, it hit a rough patch a while back and needed significant repair. Immediately I knew this story needed a commemorative beer.

    This Belgian Dubbel Rye is dedicated to that Broken Gnome

  • 10# Belgian Pilsner Malt
  • 2# Rye Malt
  • 2# Belgian Biscuit Malt
  • 1.0 oz Crystal hops @ 60
  • 1.5 oz Crystal hops @ 30
  • 1.5 oz Crystal hops @ 15
  • Wyeast Belgian Ardenes (3522)

Inspired by J’s comment, I gave the brew-in-a-bag technique a try for this beer. So far, I’m extraordinarily happy with the process. Straight forward all around. Took about 4 hours total (30 min set up + 60 min mash + 60 min boil + 45 min cool down + 30 min cleanup).

Broken Gnome on Hopville

  • OG 1.068
  • IBU 22.3
  • BU:GU 0.32 (malty/sweet)

Fermenting: Sour Cider (Mach I)

image

I’ve been itching to make a cider. Yet, since it’s off season, I don’t feel like going too crazy. So, I thought I’d make a nice simple recipe. If successful, this should be ready around Thanksgiving. If really successful, it’ll be gone by then.

    Sour Cider (Mach I)

  • 4 gallons Indian Summer apple cider
  • ~2 tbsp Brettanomyces (aka dregs of 2 Orval bottles)

Update 15 June 2011
The Orval bugs are still going strong. A fresh layer of krausen has been ebbing and flowing twice a day for the past week. If/When it stalls out, I’ll bottle.

Update 09 July 2011
Bottled today. FG: 1.004
A little funkiness on the nose, smooth full body. Real easy to drink – even before the carbonation.

Elsewhere:
The Mad Fermentationist’s Sour Cider

Fermenting: Aloysius Amber Rye

image

Turns out, I’m addicted to Hopville’s Beer Calculus in much the same way others are addicted to Angry Birds. And the game play (get a group of ingredients to match a beer style) I find just as engaging.

The first of many recipes I’ve been working on is this Amber Rye in dedicated to my grandfather.

    Aloysius Amber Rye

  • 8# Briess Amber LME
  • 2# Rye Malt
  • 1# Crystal 50-60L
  • 8oz Flaked Rye
  • 0.5oz Chinook @ 60
  • 1.5oz Sterling @ 30
  • 1.0oz Ahtanum @ 15
  • Wyeast Headwaters Ale
  • Original Gravity: 1060. (Hopville estimated it @ 1074 – makes me think I could have done a better job of milling the rye.)
  • ABV: 7.5
  • IBU: 43
  • BU/GU: 0.59

This was also my first attempt at a DeathBrewer-style partial mash. It’s just the bridge I was looking for into all grain brewing. The process was straightforward and much more ‘Relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew‘ than many of the other partial mash processes I’d been reading up on (even in step 2 DeathBrewer reminds us to be comfortable).

The fermentation was strong by morning, and now – 24 hrs later is going full bore. I’m thankful this batch is in a 7 gallon brew bucket – rather than a 5 gallon carboy.

Here’s the Aloysius Amber Rye on Hopville

Update 9 July 2011:
F.G: 1.020
Medium brown in color.
Pre-carbonation: Tasting notes – Sharp black pepper & caramally-sweetness right away. Finishes clean.

This Beer Tastes Like Corn

For the past week all the commercial beer I’ve tasted has this flat, grey, toffee-textured, corn-like taste. Doesn’t matter if I’m drinking at one of many brew pubs in Wisconsin or a sixer of something imported from the 49th state.

In all cases, this taste is so strong the beer is undrinkable.

Thankfully the first time this happened, I was catching up with a friend with a history of judging beers.

He pulls out his phone and points me to the Home Brewing Wiki’s page on DMS (Dimethyl sulfide).

Dimethyl sulfide (DMS) is an organic sulfur compound present above its flavor threshold in most beers. Because of its low flavor threshold, 10 – 150 ppb, it is a primary flavor and aroma compound that makes a significant contribution to beer character, especially in lager beers. It has a characteristic taste and aroma of cooked corn or creamed corn.

Yes, I think as a general rule I’ll be skipping lagers containing 20% corn.

In Praise of Hopville's Beer Calculus

Tonight, I loaded my beer recipes into Hopville’s Beer Calculus (thanks to Mr. Hadden for the tip).

Yes, they’re all off style. Some by a little, and some so off – they’re on (the Maibock passed BJCP guidelines for American Barleywine).

In all honesty – this round of brewing wasn’t about hitting a style, it was about the confidence of building a recipe. And, turns out, becoming fixated on making the recipe better.

There’s a lesson in here about being ready for new tools & insights. The first time I read Hitchhikers – it was complete jibberish. Three months ago, Beer Calculus would have been as well.

Where I really see Hopville’s Beer Calculus excelling is in setting up the bounds for a style and helping me find my target within there.

Easily, the best homebrew resource yet.

With Basic Brewing Radio & The Mad Fermentationist coming in a close second.

I just had a long, difficult conversation with the Out Like a Lion. We both agree that things have to change, no one’s at fault, and we’ll both try harder next time.

Fermenting: "GnomeMower" – Biére de Garde

After a three batches of beers with 6+ month fermentation timelines ( “Marley was Dead“, “Out Like a Lion” , “Sour Suburbanite” ) I wanted something with a slightly, faster turnaround.

And – less, um, experimental.

So, I pulled together this Biére de Garde Golden Strong Ale.

Simple and straight-forward ingredient list.

  • Original Gravity: 1050 ( ~6.5% ABV though, I’m pretty sure that’s a low reading)

Update 1 April 2011
After a day of being quiet – re-attached the blowoff tube last night. Woke up this morning to a hose full of new krausen. Golly.

Update 7 April 2011:
I moved it to the secondary today. Kinda flat. Hmmm.

Update 3 May 2011:
According to the Hopville’s Beer Calculus – I completely missed both Golden Strong & Biére de Garde. Not off by much on the Bier de Garde – and that’s what I’m really in the mood for any way right now.

Update 16 May 2011:
Bottled tonight.
Final Gravity: 1.002
Tasting notes from bottling: medium body with a sugary grapefruit notes in the nose and aftertaste. I’ve also renamed this ‘GnomeMower’ since it’s so far form a Golden Strong.

Update 23 May 2011: Fantastic. The carbonation gives it a perfect head – and it lasts for the entire pint. The grapefruity-ness has subsided considerably and the body is much more forward. There’s a little off-sweetness on the nose but the finish is clean. Turned out to be quite the nice beer.

Fermenting: "Sour Suburbanite" – A Bitter Lambic

  • Original Gravity: 1050

Update 22 May 20100
Bottled today. Final Gravity 1004.
Pre-carbonation tasting notes: Amber in color. Tastes like pure 100% grapefruit juice. Real sweet & citrusy nose. Just the faintest hint of a body. Both a sour and bitter finish. Definitely not what I was aiming for. Once carbonated – I suspect this will be very refreshing. Though – definitely not what I was hoping for.

Fermenting: "Marley was Dead" Barleywine

“Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.” – Charles Dickins, A Chrismas Carol

Last night Jon came by to help me brew the Christmas barleywine recipe I’ve been working on for month now. It went super smoothly. And rather than sticking the boil pot in the snowbank to cool it off (doesn’t work), we shoveled snow into the sink (also doesn’t work). Either way, I had a great time.

    “Marley was Dead” Barleywine recipe

  • 12# Northern Brewer Organic Light Malt Extract
    This is my first experience w/ Northern Brewer’s house extract, sounds like this Organic Light is a little darker than pale – exactly what I was looking for.
  • 4# Maris Otter
    Seems like the right adjunct grain for the English side of the recipe.
  • 2oz. Spruce essence
    I’m hoping this provides a touch of Christmas to the overall flavor. Prior to the popularity and availability of hops for preservation & bitterness – young growth spruce was commonly used in beer. Particularly in Colonial America. For an inspiring story on using actual spruce in a barleywine – I recommend: Spruce Barleywine, Part 1
  • 2oz. Galena @ 60min
    a fruity, citrus-y, high alpha (13%) bittering hop popular in American ales.
  • 2oz. Galena @ 30min
  • 2oz. UK Kent Goldings @ 15min
    Traditional English aroma & dry hop – with a sweet floral nose.
  • 2oz. UK Kent Goldings – Dry Hopped
  • WYeast’s Headwaters Ale Yeast
    The new strain from Midwest Supplies designed for big American ales – alcohol tolerance is 10%.
  • Original Gravity: 1110
  • Potential alcohol content: 15% (far higher that I’d like – I’m trusting it’ll fall).
  • Bottling scheduled for: November 12, 2011.

Update 3 June 2011: I couldn’t wait until November. It’s June – and already I needed the reminder of winter’s chill – so I bottled.

Final Gravity: 1.030.
ABV: 10.7%
IBU: 94.1
Here’s the recipe on hopville: http://hopville.com/recipe/641796/american-barleywine-recipes/marley-was-dead—test-2011