Tag Archives: Homebrewing

New Year, New Brew

Last year my main resolution was brew more of the beer that I drink.  It was a simple resolution, and one that I achieved further than I would have believed.  With this added experience, I have gotten better at brewing and anticipating what a beer will taste like before it has finished.

As many of you who homebrew may know, there is such a joy in cracking open that first bottle of a batch to discover that all the hours of work and months of waiting have yielded something delicious, and in many ways, something better just because it was handmade.  While many of my beers this year have contained flaws, there are a few choice batches that come to mind that I will have a hard time forgetting.

So while I plan to continue to experiment, this year I am going to focus developing a set of recipes influenced by Belgian ales, utilizing the same yeast and implementing techniques and designs I’ve learned this year.  I’m brewing my first batch today of what is to be a brown session ale infused with hibiscus and orange peel.  From this I will use the yeast to brew another recipe, higher in alcohol.  And I will continue to step it up with these recipes.  Right now I am looking at a portfolio of 4-5 different brews, some being alterations of those I did this past year.

I will follow up on the recipe for today’s brew soon.  Now I must attend to the boil.

To a new year, full of new ideas, experiences, and joys!

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Filed under Beer Philosophy, Brewing

Hop Terroir and the Non-Northwestern-United-States

There’s an interesting post over at Beervana.com about the recent rise in hop-growing in states that aren’t Washington or Oregon.

Hop acreage in these states is miniscule by comparison to the Pacific Northwest. (Oregon has 4,600 acres under cultivation and Washington a booming 24,300; Colorado has 75 and Wisconsin and the Northeast similarly measure their acreages in the tens, not thousands.)

Still, these are real numbers. An acre of hop fields produces over 2,000 pounds of hops, so that wee Colorado planting is going to produce around 150,000 pounds of hops. That’s not going to go far at Budweiser, but these growers aren’t working with In-Bev, they’re working with craft brewers.

The article goes on to describe that these small farmers are supporting and being supported by small brewers, but what piqued my interest is that these hops being grown elsewhere in the US will develop their own terroir.  Just as a tomato grown in my back yard in Michigan is going to taste different (not to mention fresher) than a tomato grown in California, boxed and shipped to a local supermarket, hops grown in different areas of the country are going to have different qualities than if they were grown elsewhere.  It’s one of the many beauties of life.  It makes me thankful that our state has great resources like The Michigan Hop Alliance.

Last week, two friends of mine (Mitch and Chris) and I brewed an IPA with hops grown in Australia and New Zealand–Pacific Jade, Rakau, and Galaxy.  It’s currently sitting in secondary with some dry-hops, waiting until next week for us to bottle it.  I am very interested to see how these different hops contribute new flavors, and I’ll be sure to post a review/recipe when it’s done.  If it’s anything interesting like the Nelson Sauvin (another New Zealand hop–very grape-like) and Vienna Malt SMaSH pale ale I did last winter, it’s going to be a hit.

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Filed under Beer, Hops, Terroir

To Boldly Go

As one of the world’s oldest beverage, beer is a well-trodden path.  The use of plants–grains, herbs, fruits, sugars—by humans to produce alcohol has been well covered, reproduced and discussed.  And yet, here I am, creating another document on beer and the making of it. Just as music was howled out primordially and raw, just as it became movements, as new instruments still wet from the womb were plucked and slapped and pounded, as people met in groups to perform and celebrate, as this music was formed and reformed with new attitudes—so has beer brought us together, challenged our tastes, and given us reason to celebrate.

When contemplating the purpose of this blog, I came to the conclusion that I did not want it to be simply another blog on homebrewing, nor did I want to wear down the  paths of beer culture and history. There are a great deal of people who know more on all of these subjects than I. Instead, I will speak from a personal perspective—this is the beer I make, these are my thoughts on the brewing of it, and to a larger degree, my beliefs on our relationship with it. So I’ve decided to take this plunge into putting it all down in words.

To exemplify this endeavor I have poured a bottle of a sour ale I brewed last December, knowing very little about how to make a sour ale and how much time should go into it. It is certainly sour, like biting into a lemon, and while it would benefit from carbonation, as well as less acetic acid (think vinegar), the smell of it brings me back to the time I brewed it and watched it bubble away in the fermenter. It brings me back to the first time I took a sample, and subsequently shared that sample, smiling at the puckering faces of my friends. This batch was a couple of firsts for me: I did not use malt extract and extracted the malt sugars myself, and I used brettanomyces and souring bugs for the first time. Here’s the recipe:

Red Beauty

Malt bill:

4lbs. Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)

3lbs. Munich Malt (9.0 SRM)

2lbs. Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM)

1lb. Wheat Malt, Bel (2.0 SRM)

8oz. Aromatic Malt (26.0 SRM)

8oz. Special B (180.0 SRM)

Hops:

1oz. East Kent Goldings (4.5%) for 60min.

1oz. Whole leaf Cascade dry-hopped

Yeast:

White Labs WLP650 Brettanomyces Bruxellensis

Dregs from Jolly Pumpkin La Roja and Bam Biere

Mash at 154 for one hour. My efficiency was low on this, so my target gravity was 1.050. Fermented hot, around 85 degrees in a bucket primary for four weeks, then transferred to a glass carboy for two-and-a-half months aging, or until fermentation has completely ceased. This stopped at about 1.008 for me, and did not move.

To say that my approach to beer is experimental is completely true. My tastes are often exploratory, and while I enjoy a well-crafted brown ale, I am more likely to try to make something that allows me more creative freedom. While I try to stay away from the gimmickry and extremism that many US craft brewers are guilty of, I want to explore, piece by piece.  My intent is not to be excessive or kitschy, but unique, with my ears to tradition and my eyes toward the horizon.

So here’s to knowledge and experience, here’s to new challenges and adventures–beer is just another (delicious) vehicle.  Here’s to enjoying it together.

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Filed under Beer Philosophy, Sour Ale