Header Image

Friday, March 23, 2012

SNB can be CynicAle

Back in Dec
One of the other beers I might donate to SCHF depending on how my latest plan works out is SNB can be CynicAle.  Marshall helped me brew this beer way back in September.  It was based on a Northern Brewer Pro Series Kit for Cynic and was my first full all grain beer.  Instead of using the recommended yeast I subbed in my favorite farmhouse yeast American Farmhouse Blend (White Labs #WLP670) to guide it from saison to farmhouse.

Unfortunately the beer has been on a journey all its own.  When kegged it 4 months ago it had a pretty decent flavor but an odd slickness to it.  Shawn suggested that it might not be done yet and to set it aside for a while, which I did.  I would occasionally taste it and while the slickness seemed to fad the Brettanomyces really started to dominate.  While the exact strain of Brettanomyces used in WLP670 is not released in a beer Daniel did with it he says the flavors that have started to shine through are very reminiscent of Brettanomyces bruxellensis.

The pink foam
When I last checked it, it had turned very dark and almost muddy in clarity - a great departure from when I'd had it back in December while waxing Imperial Rhino Stout 2011. It was also very carbonated, despite not having been hooked up to a CO2 tank in months.  The flavor was completely different and while not bad, I think Daniel used the word interesting when he tasted it, it was missing something. One trick I've seen used here and there to add flavor dimensions to beer is to add fruit and give the yeast additional time to ferment.  I decided why not and asked my wife to pick up a bag of frozen fruit blend from the store.

Improvised blow-off
When I brewed the split batch porter I pulled out the frozen fruit and dropped it into some warm sanitizer. I then grabbed the keg of SNB can be CynicAle out of the cellar to cleaned and sanitize the top.  I also start the process of releasing the pressure from the keg.  Once it was ready opened the top to find a pretty sizable and fully head on the top.  I then dropped in the fruit... The fruit must have released some additional carbonation as about 3 seconds after I dropped it in the head turned pink and started rising out of the keg.  I quickly put the sanitized top back on and cleaned off the surface with some sanitizer.  Knowing that it would be fermenting for a while I fashioned a blow off tube out of a party tap attached to an air quick disconnect and a flask of sanitized water.   It was fun to watch it continue to degas while I continued on the porter.  I'll check in its progress in about a month or two to see it's worthy of representing SNB Brewing in public.



Wednesday, March 21, 2012

SCHF Split Batch Porter

The brewsheet
In anticipation of this year's Southern California Homebrew Festival, taking place at Lake Casitas the first weekend in May, I set aside a Sunday to push my system to produce 10 gallons of beer with the plan on donating half to AHP Brewclub and the other to Brewcommune. When it came time to decide what to brew I had several ideas, would it be an IPL, a mild or bitter to be severed on cask or something completely new?

Last year took up 2 beers; an English-Belgian-American Double IPA that I called Scottland's Yard and a porter with 5 different kinds of peppers called Campsite Smoked Jalapeño Porter. Both beers were a hit and I got a lot of good feedback particularly on the Campsite Smoked Jalapeño Porter. It also happened to be the first keg to kick which I took as a good sign. I realized that I actually hadn't brewed a porter since then so I figured why not brew up a double batch of porter for this year as well

Assistant Brewer in training

If I was going to do it again I wanted to develop a base porter that I could use to create 2 different beers in secondary. To one half I plan on adding 4 vanilla beans in secondary and straight bourbon when I keg it, I am calling that batch BaseCamp Dessert and the other will become a porter with maple syrup, bacon and coffee called BaseCamp Breakfast. For BaseCamp Breakfast I have already added the first of 2 maple syrup additions by adding 18oz of maple syrup that I pasteurized while the main batch was cooling. The second addition will be used to prime keg. I will talk about what I will be doing to each batch more once I move them to secondary.

When it came time to brew the beer I started by making a starter of WLP007 that I could use one vial for all 10 gallons of beer.  My plan really was to make the primary of both beers pretty identical and really create two different beers in secondary so using the same yeast was a no-brainer.  I'm also hoping to be able to use the yeast from the Dessert portion to get a house culture of WLP007 going for this years Imperial Rhino Stout whose brewday is right around the corner. At around 7% the Dessert version is right at the upper limit for reusing yeast.

Overflowing with mash
Brewing 10 gallons of the beer required the most amount of grain yet, even with the addition of 3 lbs of light DME I used so much grain that when I put the top on the mash tun the volume it displaced poured over the side.  Still after 60 minutes I held a steady 154 temp, which was about 2 degrees under my target, and got full starch conversion. There was no way my stainless spoon was going to be able to handle the job so I few days before I brewed I used an Amazon gift card my brother gave me for my birthday to buy a 48" stainless paddle.  I had planned on buying a $10 wood paddle buy they had none in stock.  I love my new paddle, though I had to close the garage while stirring as I kept hitting it.

You might recall my frustration with the efficiency I'd been getting and more so to the point that even as I'd been lowering my efficiency I was still missing my target OG. I mentioned last time I brewed back in January that I had an idea where my problem was, my equipment settings.  Between then and now I spent some time looking at what variables others with similar equipment were using.  It turns out the default evaporation setting for a keggle (boil kettle made out of an old keg) was way off.  If I recall correctly it was set at almost 20% and when I looked online most people where getting 10%.  Adjusting this setting made all the difference in the world and I ended up with a 10 pt efficiency gain, pushing me into the 70s.  I also got to test out the refractometer that Shawn gave me when I bought his old grain mill. The flap is broken off but it still works great you just have to hold it in place.  I calibrated it against my hydrometer and ended the value in to the calibrate refractometer section of the brewing app I use.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Stone's 2012 March Madness Homebrew Competition & AHA Rally

Welcome Sign
This past Saturday I competed in Stone's 2012 March Madness Homebrew Competition & AHA Rally with my Scott's BIG IPL. This was the second time in a row that I took part in the competition and the first time I really planned for it.  Last year I found out about it mid-February and with only a month till the competition I had nothing put together for it so I decided to brew my Hopped Up Hef (my photos from last year).  This year I knew I wanted to do it again and really wanted to enter the Scott's BIG IPL.  This rally/competition was the reason I brewed Scott's BIG IPL both Alchemy Guild (All Grain) and Excelsior (Extract) back in December, so that I would have a complete 10 week cycle to get it ready.   Honestly I think the BIG IPLs could have benefited from another couple of weeks of lagering and it seems to be that they moved the rally up a week this year, but in the end I had no choice and got ready to go.

Gearing up for the event I looked at which of the two versions I wanted to enter.  For some reason neither seemed to be 100% what I was looking for and neither seemed to clear.  This represented the first time I was unable to brew a crystal clear lager.  During my tastings I mixed samples and found the mixture of the two to be greater then the sum of it's components.  This phenomena was seconded by my wife, Daniel and Marshall in taste tastes.  I therefore decided to blend them 50/50 at kegging.  Once I had them blended I decided to try and use gelatin to clear the competition keg of beer.  Even though I followed the directions to a t it failed to clear after a week.  Fortunately the gelatin had the same effect on the taste as it did the clarity (the reason I only did it to one keg) so I was set.

An Impressive list of Beers
Daniel had volunteered at the rally and even though they never contacted him he still volunteered to give me and my set up a ride down in his Prius.  We got down there around 11:20 and I was surprised to find everything pretty much set up and only one other jockey box. Last year 90% of the draft beer came out of jockey boxed this year, only 2 with everyone else using cobra taps.

In total there were 40 entries, 22 bottles and 18 draft.  As a sign of my early entry this year I was number 23, the first of the draft beers (the year before I had been 38). To take part in the competition, as both a competitor and a consumer, you have to be a standing member of the AHA (American Homebrewers Association). The event is free to AHA members and you can register or renew at the door.  The basic set up of the competition is simple, all 400 AHA members in attendance (they actually had to close the event online this year do to capacity constraints) are given a ballot with 3 spots to vote for their 1st, 2nd and 3rd favorite beer.  The votes are then tallied and the 5 top vote getting beers advance to a final tasting panel made up Stone personnel.  Stone then announces 4th-1st with the winning beer becoming the next Stone Collaboration. 

Pirate's Breakfast from Chism Brewing Voyage
Of the 40 beers available (I didn't try them all) some of my favorites were, Pirate's Breakfast (8.0 Imperial Breakfast Stout made by Curtis over at Chism Brewing Voyage who I got a chance to meet and hangout with), PP Steeze Imperial Coffee Vanilla Porter (10.5% Oak-aged Stout) and  Mango Habenero IPA (by far one of the best aromas I've ever smelled on a beer - super mango goodness).  Mint beers seemed to be a theme this year as four were present, the best of which was Ken Schmidt's Pillow Mint at the Ritz (Ken won the first Stone Homebrew Competition and would go one to win this one with this beer).  The other theme seemed to be bad beers as Daniel went through a particularly bad streak dumping over half the beers he tried, the worst of which was a beer called Lactic Lupulin which was a "dry hopped sour mash ale." I'm using quotes it as it was questionable whether it was a beer at all.  Not only was it a drain pour but it stained our glasses with it's sink requiring a very strong stout to get it back.

One interesting interaction occurred that day when I suggested to one gentlemen that he try #23. He scoffed and remarked that he was "pretty sure it was the same guy that won the Karl Strauss competition the year before" as if that alone was a reason not to try it.  I then told him that I had first hand knowledge that it did indeed win the Karl Strauss competition as I had brewed both. I explained a few of the challenges that went into brewing the Strauss batch and insisted and if he had tried that version (Karl's) he owed it to himself to try my version there. Pretty funny if you ask me.

Yes, I am doing my "Greg Face"
As much as I really wanted to win or at least place, I had deep doubts if I'd see anything.  It wasn't the best batch of BIG IPL I'd done both in clarity and taste.  So as we waited I really didn't think I'd hear my beer mentioned.  Turns out I was wrong as the first beer that Mitch Steele announced was "number 23, Scott's BIG IPL a Double India Pale Lager". This placed me in forth. Stoked, I made my way to the front and onto a bolder to shake hands with both Greg Koch and Mitch Steele while posing for photos.  I even had Greg snap one of his famous self shots of us with my camera.  I also scored a certificate for dinner for two at the Stone World Bistro and Gardens, which is pretty damn awesome. Rounding out the top 4 were the PP Steeze Imperial Coffee Vanilla Porter in 3rd, Mango Habenero IPA in 2nd with Ken Schmidt's Pillow Mint at the Ritz winning the day.

After the lack luster Scott's BIG IPL w/Citra and the clarity and flavor issues I'm detecting with the latest batches, I was having a lot of doubts about my ability to recapture the magic that was my second batch of Scott's BIG IPL.  So while I didn't win, placing 4th is a competition with some seriously good beers really lifted my spirits prepping me to go back to the lab and make the next batch of Scott's BIG IPL the best one yet.  

As for next year, at this point I don't know what I'll enter.  It could be another batch of Scott's BIG IPL (under a different name), a monster Triple IPL I have floating in my head or even a big stout.  At this point I don't know the only thing I do know is I'll be back.



Friday, March 9, 2012

Pliny the Younger

Younger at Slater's 50/50
So apparently the "cool thing" to do if you have blog focused on beer is to do a review of Pliny the Younger so I figured, why not.  Of course if you are a beer connoisseur (read beer geek) the other hip thing to do is to talk about how you feel Pliny the Younger is overrated.  I don't know if it is meant tongue in cheek and I am very guilty of passing on Pliny the Elder for a lot of other Double IPAs but I love Younger.   Bare in mind that both Younger and Elder are ranked 1 and 2 on Beer Advocates Top Beers - American Double / Imperial IPA. Honestly I've had better Double and Triple (which is technically what Younger is) IPAs but it is definitely up there as one of my favorites.

A quick little history on Pliny the Younger.  The name comes from the fact that the real life Pliny the Elder Pliny the Elder had a nephew (and adopted son) Pliny the Younger.  Once Russian River learned this they knew they had to do some sort of spin on Pliny the Elder and name it Pliny the Younger. When Vinnie Cilurzo first started toying around with brewing Younger he originally planned to make it smaller beer then Pliny the Elder it ended up being a bigger beer. 
... I actually considered going the other direction.  I thought about going from 8 percent abv (Pliny the Elder’s alcohol level) to 6 or 7 percent and raising the hop quantities. The thinking here was that with a lower abv, more hops would blast through the mouthfeel as there would be less of a malt foundation for the hops to sit on. - Vinnie Cilurzo in his article Brew a Double IPA published in Zymurgy July/August 2009
I got my first taste of Younger last year at the Crow Bar in Corona del Mar.  While a couple of my friends lined up at Hollingshead for several hours, I rolled in around 10:30 for an 11:00 opening.  Going in there was a vague idea that they were getting a keg and they only announced it via Facebook the night before.   I was a nice chill experience and I was able to get 2 glasses before it kicked. At the time I thought it was one of the best DIPA I've ever had.  I was really torn between it and Abrasive for the title of best DIPA.  Since that time I've had so many just outstanding DIPAs.

Given that Russian River only brews it once a year there is only a small window to get it and even then you have to contend with the lines.  At this point with so many other great beers out there if you're not up for standing in line for any period of time just skip it.  To me, the line and the once a year timing make it a great annual experience to look forward to.  The days of Younger being on for multiple days outside of the main brewery, which intentionally only taps a few kegs a day, are gone. People online need to deal with it and move on.

This year I was fortunate enough to have it twice, I would have had it more but I missed a text message from my friends that it was going on at one location and was out of town when it his the Crow Bar and it seems every other OC spot.  I did buy some tickets to Beachwood's Pliny Fights Cancer Raffle but came up with nothing as a result.  This year I had it down at Churchill's Renaissance Beer Fest and a week later at Slater's 50/50 in Anaheim Hills.  I thoroughly enjoyed both pours and can't wait to get it again next year.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...