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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Westbennetteren 12

The main inspiration Westvleteren 12
Thanks Kevin (kbm)
I've been toying around with the idea of brewing a Belgian nah Trappist-style quad since I first tried Shawn's. It was a pretty eye opening experience for me.  I was still under an anti-Belgian-style beer kick due largely to my own lack of understanding of what it meant to be a Belgian-style beer and the wide scope that one label was being applied.  Shawn's quad was fantastic and made me long to try the ultimate examples of the the style Westvleteren 12.

That day came during my late night beer session for My Funky Brother Brett (which is tasting awesome right now).  We'd had a really good night of brewing and beer so on a whim I decide to open a bottle I'd been saving for several months to share with Rick and Daniel.   Few beers have lived fully up to the hype that surrounds them, this one did.

Daniel then became inspired to brew his own version for his 2012 Anarchy Ale called Westy Southwest.  He even made his own candi syrup for it which is really cool. I think Daniel taking the quad plunge was the last bit of inspiration I needed to just go for it and hop on the Quadwagon, Shawn had also recently rebrewed his quad.

The ingredients
The inspiration for the recipe came straight from the supplier of the candi syrup I used Candi Syrup Inc. I'd come across them while reading a post on The Mad Fermentationist.  They're a US producer of candi syrups that got into manufacturing them in part to nail a Westvleteren 12 clone.  They have a lot of great looking recipes on their site including one for Westvleteren 12.  Reviewing the recipe against Daniel's and others I'd found online made the decision to go with it as the basis a no brainer.  The only changes I made was to drop a pound of the D-180 and replace it with a pound of the D-90.  I did this after reading the second page of the recipe where they talk about the process of creating the recipe and mention using D-90 and D-180 together.  The other change was a minor hop swap.

Again the main issue was finding a time to brew it.  I've been training for a half marathon and have been doing my long runs on Sundays.  On Saturday I take my daughter to Little Gym mid-morning which places a damper on my brew schedule.  To make it even more complicated my wife was also training for a half marathon and ran the Tinker Bell Half the weekend I brewed.

The solution I came up with was to use the mash time in my favor and brew on Saturday.  Having mapped out my brewday for the Double BIG IPL brewday back in December I knew when I would have to have the mashing going so I could take Syd to Little Gym.  From there it was a simple matter of working backwards.  

I borrowed some equipment from my buddy Marshall
to make brewing the second beer faster/easier
Par for my course as of late I was under OG despite taking a preboil gravity reading and using BeerSmith 2 to correct for temperature. I'm getting frustrated and might buy a temperature correcting refractometer. I'm following BeerSmith 2 instructions and have loaded my Keggle setup into for equipment. For the quad it wasn't the end of the world (-6 points) and nowhere near infuriating as the second running beer I'll talk about on Thursday.

I started the fermentation at 65 overnight and have been slowly ramping up towards the 80s.  I'll probably peak at 82 on Wednesday then start to lower back to 67F for 5 days before racking to secondary when the gravity hits 1.012.  Then it will be into the cellar at 50 for a couple of months.  Yes, I will be bottle conditioning this bad boy and plan on using Candi Syrup Inc's Simplicity to prime it with. I might even harvest some actual Westvleteren 12 bottle yeast for bottling.



Thursday, January 26, 2012

ISO: Surly Abrasive FT: Knuckle Sandwich x5

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a trade so I’m going to break that streak by talking about a trade I set up in December to collect some fresh Abrasive.

There are only a few seasonal beer releases that I make sure to jump on right away.  Not surprising for me these also tend to be Surly beers.  2 of my favorite seasonal IPAs hands down have to be Surly WET and Surly Abrasive.  Both are just phenomenal beers that are better as fresh as you can get them.

A few days prior to the trade I attended the release of Bootlegger’s most recent batch of Knuckle Sandwich.  I generally like to trade like beers ie Stouts for Stouts, Sours for Sours, IPAs for IPAs etc.  I find that it helps make for a more even trade.  I grabbed 6 bottles and cracked one open at AHP with Eric on my way home.  While a good beer Knuckle Sandwich tends to really open up a few weeks to a month after it’s released.  Given that it’s getting pretty well known and somewhat sought after I figured I’d have no problem trading it for some fresh Abrasive…

Well my first post

Photo of StarRaptor
email StarRaptor | California | BA: Jun 07, 2010 | online user online

FT: Fresh Knuckle Sandwich ISO: Surly Abrasive

I'm after a couple of packs of Surly Abrasive for 4 22oz bottles of Bootlegger's Knuckle Sandwich from the latest release last week.

This should be a $4$ trade and I can expand to include additional Bruery, Bootlegger's etc.

Ideally I'd like to ship by Thursday as I will be unable to ship after that.
went nowhere… so a few days later I upped it to 5 bottles and gave it another shot.  

Photo of StarRaptor
email StarRaptor | California | BA: Jun 07, 2010 | online user online

ISO: Surly Abrasive FT: Knuckle Sandwich x5

I'm looking for some Surly Abrasive and Furious. Up for trade is 5 Knuckle Sandwiches from Bootlegger's.

I'd really like to lock down and ship my side by Thursday

Within hours I had a text from my buddy Dan saying he had me covered on this.  This makes the story of this trade a little more interesting to me.  You see the reason I know Dan is that when I showed up at 5:00 AM at Darkness Day he was the guy right behind me.  We were both flying solo so we struck up a conversation over some early morning beers.  It turns out that we also happened to be in biglobo8971’s Darkness Day In Person BIF.  We hung out all morning but lost each other after the gates opened.  We later swapped numbers via BeerAdvocate which is how when he saw my post he texted me. 

He followed it up with the following BM

Photo of UngertakerUngertaker  -[ BA Since: Apr 29, 2010

Re: ISO: Surly Abrasive FT: Knuckle Sandwich x5
Sent: Tue Dec 20, 2011 18:25 UTC,


I got you covered if you are still looking for it. How much do you want?


I sent to Dan...
We settled on 8 cans of Abrasive and 8 cans of Furious.  He let me be creative on what to send for the Furious stating “Any stouts or Barleywines work”

I really wanted to get him some solid beers so in addition to the 5 Knuckle Sandwiches I sent him out, a Maui CoCoNut Porter, Hair of the Dog Fred (Huge Want), A Bourbon Barrel Wookiee, Green Flash Barley Wine, Alesmith Old Numbskull (Want), Green Flash Double Stout (Want), Imperial Rhino Stout, Firestone Velvet Merlin, Deschutes Obsidian Stout and Oskar Blues Ten FIDY.

... and got this in return!
I vividly remember when my box from him arrived.  It was the day before my birthday and the package wasn’t scheduled to arrive till the next day. We were pulling into the driveway (Bonnie was driving) after going to the Aquarium of the Pacific (and Beachwood BBQ & Brewing).   As we pulled in I noticed a large box on my front porch, I knew instantly what it had to be and I jumped out of the car in excitement.   Not only did Dan hook me up with 8 fresh Abrasives and 8 fresh Furiouses (Furi?) as extras he included a Wild Horse ONE, Goose Island Bourbon County and a Summit Black Ale. Killer Extras if you ask me.

Fresh Abrasive is so good.  I’ve shared multiple cans with my friends and it was even the impetus of an awesome one on one tasting I had with my buddy Chris a few weeks back. 

All and all a great trade and Dan is a great trader.  I look forward to the opportunity to trade with him again.



Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Souring Halvtreds Part 2

The sour starter
Last post I went through the process of collecting bottle dregs and added it to a start wort so that I could create a culture to sour Halvtreds.  It too multiple days to get going and teetered out after a little over a week.  Once it did I put it in my fridge for 5 days to fully cold crash it and left for a business trip.  

Last weekend I pulled the Halvtreds base beer out from where it had been stored and added the decanted yeast to it.  This was a simple process of pouring off the top portion of the liquid then swirling the last bit to get the yeast cake into suspension.  I then poured it into the Halvtreds base beer via a sanitized funnel.

Never one to miss an opportunity to sample one of my beers I pulled off a sample to check gravity (1.018) and give it a taste.  While I was at it I also sampled the decanted liquid from the sour starter.

Pouring it in
Halvtreds Base Beer: Clean nose, malty backbone, nice level of sweetness and is crystal clear.  It comes off as a really nice mellow red ale (yet is a lager).  It hides the fact that it is 7% very well.  I wonder how it would taste overly dry hopped? This one would play very well with those would dig malty beers (maltsters) and if it was a style I was into it would be something to brew again and not sour.  

Halvtreds Sour Starter: Really nice mildly sour aroma. I pick up the citrus (lemon?) sourness from the Batch 50.  On the aroma there is a nice bit of funk and I pick up a little bit of the leather aroma from the Duchesse. I didn't get a chance to really let it warm before I had finished drinking it.  I'm really hopeful that both the flavor and aroma will carry over well and become a lot more amplified.

With the bugs pitched I'm going to let it go for a few months before I add the fruit.  I know what fruit I'm going to go with (you'll have to wait to find out) but I can't decide if I want to fruit the whole batch or just half.  I guess I'll decide after I see how the beer develops over time.



Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Souring Halvtreds

The Selected Line-up for the Experiment
Having missed another opportunity to get my hands on some East Coast Yeast, I decided it was time to go with plan 2 (really plan b but blogger will only let me do numbered lists) on souring Halvtreds.

Wait you mean to tell me you had backup plans? Hey, it's me.

So basically I went in knowing I had three options for souring the beer post primary/lager.
  1. A vial from East Coast Yeast.  I was eying (and still am) ECY01 BugFarm, ECY02 Flemish Ale, ECY04 BRETT Blend #1, ECY05 BRETT Blend #9 and especially ECY20 Bug Country.
  2. Harvest dregs from select sour beers into a starter wort. 
  3. Grab a vial of White Labs sour mix.
The Harvesting Station
The reason I went with the second option as my backup plan is that I wanted to create something a little bit more funky and in your face sour.  Everything I've read online suggested that to do this bottle dregs from similar level beers was your best option.

I selected three beers for my experiment in harvesting dregs: The first beer I selected was Batch 50 from the Bruery. It has a nice level of clean sourness to it and contains ECY04 BRETT Blend #1 as a bonus.  Next came Oude Tart, again from the Bruery, which is a Flanders Red Ale and one of the inspirations for Halvtreds. For the final beer I brought out her highness the Duchesse de Bourgogne.  The Duchesse as I call her is my favorite Flanders Red Ale and having it back to back with Oude Tart really showed off how young the Bruery is when it comes to it's sours.  Both are exceptional beers but the Duchesse has a level of sour complexity that is in another league when compared to Oude Tart.

After all the Dregs were Pitched
With the three beers selected it was time to find someone to help be drink them.  Fortunitly my brewbrother Daniel was available to stop by for several hours to help me enjoy them, I know, tough work. 

Just prior to Daniel coming over I put together a quick pint starter using a 1/4 cup of wheat DME and 16 oz of water.

Given that I wanted to preserve the yeast and keep it uncontaminated I devised a system for opening, pouring and then harvesting the yeast in a santiary way.  To start I whipped up a fresh 5 gallons of StarSan.  This allowed me to fully submerge (carefully to not disturb the yeast) to sanitize the bottle prior to opening.  To open the bottle I used my metal mickey opener which I kept in a bowl of StarSan.  Once opened I pour most of the contents into three glasses, I then cover the top with a paper towel soaked in StarSan and swirled the bottle to free the yeast.  I then poured the liquid into the beaker of starter wort via a sanitized funnel.

Aerating the Additional Wort
I ended up pouring a little bit more beer then I had planned on so I whipped up another pint starter to add to the flask.

After several days of no activity, swirling the flask when I walked by, I was worried I'd have to go with option 3 but fortunately after 5 days I started to notice positive pressure and bubble formation.  After letting it continue to ferment the starter with additional swirling activity started to slow after a few days.  I'm heading to Canada for a few days this week and before I leave I will cold crash the starter.  One I return I'll decant it and pitch it into the beer and set it aside to age for a few months before I add fruit to it.



Thursday, January 12, 2012

Oak Glen Cider Run Cider 2011 Update

Kegging up this years blend
Another thing I did on my birthday was to combine all of the various 2011 Oak Glen Cider Run Ciders that I had going on into a keg.  The first thing I did was sanitize the outside of my cider keg that still had a slight amount of last years cider in it.  I then combined all of that years cider (the 3 gallon tamed batch and both of the 1 gallon wide versions) into the better bottle the 3 gallons were in. Once combined I popped the top of the keg and transferred it all together.  

Last year when I kegged it up I had saved the yeast dregs for the bottom of that years of wild cider and eventually pitched it into a half gallon of Trader Joe's unfiltered organic cider. I had used this cider the year before to back sweeten the 2010 cider.  I try a sample and was pretty pleased with the taste so I'd decided to grab another to pitch the wild yeast in. By the time I got around to tasting it, it had probably been 8 months but tasted grate. I therefore pulled off of a half gallon from the keg as it was at capacity to fill it with the wild Joe cider.  

As I did last year I sanitized a couple of old yeast vials and filled them with the last bit of yeast and cider for later use.  In comparing the two wild ciders this years was much more mild in the funk department then the previous' years.  Still I have 2 vials of each that I'm sure I find a purpose for in the future.

I'm quite happy with this years blend as it definitely brings more sour and funk notes with it. It was a bit clearer then last years but I think the cause of my haze from both years probably has to do with the addition of the very hazy Trader Joe's unfiltered organic cider. Now that it's kegged and carbonated I'm going to let it sit for a few more months to condition.



Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Happy Birthday to me!
As long as I've been working I've always set out to not work on my birthday, it just doesn't seem right to me. This year however I felt that it would be fun to spend 6 hours brewing, which is technically working but not to the same level.  I think it's really telling about how much I enjoy brewing when it's something I want to do on days I set aside doing nothing.

When I set out to craft the recipe for my birthday brew I had a couple of thoughts in mind.  I wanted it to be big with agability, nothing below 10%.  This opened the doors to Imperial Stouts, Old Ales, Barley Wines and American Strong Ales.  I also had a bunch of oak chips and cubes that have been sitting on various spirits since summer that I wanted to play with.  My plan would be to brew it on my birthday, ferment it and bulk condition till July, then age it in 1/2 - 1 gallon growlers on the various oaks till December when I'll blend it back together and keg it.  I'll enjoy the first glass on my next birthday when I finish up brewing next years batch.  

I spent a lot of time reading various recipes online, in various magazines (BYO, Zymurgy etc) and in my books but nothing seemed to be jumping out at me.  The previous year I'd toyed around with brewing an anniversary beer based on Stone's Double Bastard but decided I really wanted a stout as I really like how Imperial Rhino Stout came out. 

The Grain Landscape
On my way back from Houston I happened to catch Mike's (the Mad Fermentationist) tasting notes on his Kate the Great clone.  Apparently Todd Mott, Portsmouth's head brewer, sent a brewer a clone recipe for his infamious stout who then posted the recipe up onto Homebrewtalk. After reading through the couple dozen pages and the various versions it produced (including Mike's) I decided that I had found my recipe.

The next obstacle would be to determine how I would brew it.  I really wanted to do it all grain for several reason however I ran into a slight problem as my mash tun won't be able to hold the shear volume of grain that would be require for a 5 gallon batch. If you ever wonder about that check out this link. I therefore decided to sub-out part of the two row for 3 lbs of light DME.

When it came to my birthday I got a more relaxed start than my last several all grain days, it was my birthday after all.  Bonnie was nice enough to bring me a breakfast sandwich and we set Sydnie up with a table and chair so that all of us could hang out together, which was a great birthday treat for me.  I took a gravity reading after I finished sparging and found I was right on target.  It also happened to be one of the tastiest wort's I've ever produced, so tasty in fact that I poured myself a glass of it to enjoy while I brewed.  

5 Gallons of Stout
The only real issue I had came as I was bringing my pot up to boil.  I noticed that my burner was quieter then it should be and sure enough ran out of gas shortly there after.  It was nothing that a quick run to Home Depot couldn't solve but I really should invest in a backup tank.  The only disappointment came when I took my OG reading, which despite nailing my pre-boil gravity came up 8 points short of target grrrr.

For yeast I used a massive starter that I had put together several days ahead.  I also used a more generous amount of nutrient and hit it with triple the O2 at each oxygenation step. I'll keep it in primary till it get very close to it's target FG then move it to secondary for a while.  I'm really looking forward to this one.



Thursday, January 5, 2012

Scott's BIG IPL - Excelsior aka Bonnie's First Brew

Taking her First Hydrometer Reading
I mentioned in my last post that I had pulled a double brewday over my vacation brewing up two 5 gallon batches of Scott's BIG IPL two ways; Alchemy Guild (All Grain) and Excelsior (Extract).  This is the story of Excelsior.

After my slight disappointment Scott's BIG IPL w/Citra I decided I needed to go back to basics and brew a control extract version to compare the all grain version against. This was a simple matter of going back through my notes in BeerSmith to identify the correct version.   I was actually amazed at how little Amarillo was in it given the fact I had just bought a pound of it thinking it was a key ingredient up there with Simcoe.

The biggest surprise to be came when my wife Bonnie told me that she wanted to brew up the extract version.  It was a big help and relief to me as I didn't have to run back and forth between the garage where the all grain version was going and the kitchen where we steep the grains for the extract version.

Oh how I've missed the speed and efficiency of a extract batch.  Not only was it done in half the time but it nailed it's gravity, something that has driven me nuts over the last several all grains.  It also pared really well as the second half as I was able to utilize my old equipment and the kitchen to get it going.
Bonnie had a blast and wants to be even more involved (I had brought it to a boil and watched it) and do her own beer.  She just has to decide what she want it to be.

The next time I brew a BIG IPL will be in mid-February for the 2012 SCHF.  I haven't quite decided how I will serve it (beer engine, over mangos etc) but we have several months to decide.



Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Scott's BIG IPL - Alchemy Guild

The grains
After Christmas I took a few days off to hang out around the house and catch up on some projects.  One of the things I really wanted to do was spend a couple of days brewing, including a double brew day where I brewed up two recipes of Scott's BIG IPL.

The first of the IPLs I codenamed Alchemy Guild.  Alchemy Guild revisited the All Grain malt bill that I had come up with for Scott's BIG IPL w/Citra and returned to the hop bill of the original 2 versions.  I did this because I was somewhat let down by the way the Simcoe and Citra seemed to interact in the last batch.  I also dropped my efficiency down to 60% in hopes of nailing my targeted 1.078 gravity.

The IPL Double Brewday Schedule
I had to get a pretty early start on it as I was doing two batches back to back and I wanted to be done around lunch time.  To keep myself on track I created a gantt chart in excel outlining all the major steps and time I estimated each step would take.  The was to determine when specific pieces of equipment would be free primary the main burner.   From there it was a simple manor of working backwards for the other IPL, which I'll go into more detail on Thursday.

For the most part the schedule went really well, there were I few items that I had failed to take into account but I was able to make up the time at later steps (mostly by combining my batch sparges).

Almost par for the course with me and All Grain I came up a little under my gravity (1.073) which is getting pretty frustrating.  I need to spend some time really studying how people are mashing as well as take a look at some other factors I think are at play.  I'm going to stick with batch sparging as I've read it helps cut down time and most only experience a few additional points of efficiency yet an hour or two more time commitment.



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