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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Costa del Sol b4

To say that Bonnie's batch of Costa del Sol hit it out of the park would be an understatement.  After few weeks on tap it hit a point of maturation that just made the hops sing!  From that point on people couldn't get enough of it.  It became on of those beers at a tasting that people would appear with a full glass of it in loo of a small taste.  I myself helped myself to plenty of weeknight pints based largely on it's low abv however the good times were not to last as just like all great beers that you only have 5 gallons it wasn't long till you poured air...  Fortunately we have the ability to make it again and set out to do just that over the weekend.

The only change in the recipe was changing the first wort hop (and primary bittering) from Centennial to Simcoe solely because I "thought" we still had enough however when I went through my bags of hop bits in the freezer Centennial was nowhere to be found.  I'm interested what effect, if any, this change will have.

We decided to run a double brewday with me brewing up Weiss the Hell Not.  So as with her the previous batch, I left her mostly on her own.  After I set everything up, I answered only a few questions here and there before heading to the gym.  I returned at the very start of her boil to see she still had things well at hand.  Since we only had one propane tank I transferred 34 to a keg (see the pictures in Weiss the Hell Not)  while I waited.

Now comes the hardest part, waiting the required 6-8 weeks till I can drink it again. For her next batch we bought the Petite Saison d'Ete kit along with some others during Northern Brewer's Buy 3 Ships Free promotion. We are thinking of taking the kit and tossing it on the yeast and bugs from Weiss the Hell Not along with some raspberry puree.  It should be fun.



Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Weisse the Hell Not

Brew sheet and starter
It had been a couple of months since my last brewday.  For the most part I've been working on figuring out what I wanted to do for a brewstand and taking the opportunity to save some money in the process.   I've made somewhat decent use of my slightly extra time by keeping the "brewery" tidy and finally bottling both of my meads (Boysenberry Riff Mead and Amy's Backyard Honey Mead aka Trilobite). Still, I was feeling the itch to brew and seeing my beer reserves tumble, especially the not 10% plus beers.

While I love all grain brewing, helping and watching Bonnie brew up a couple of her own batches (Wee Bonnie Lass and Costa del Sol b3) reminded my of a lot of the benefits for extract brewing.  To be ultra clear here, there is not a noticeable difference in flavor between a well brewed extract and well brewed all grain beer.  The benefits of all grain relay more on cost and recipe freedom than quality of the finished product. Extract brewing (when using a quality product) benefits from a shorter and less complicated brewday, perfect for someone short on time and looking to fill a keg with a quality beer.  I guess what I'm trying to say is watching Bonnie brew opened me up to the possibility of brewing an extract beer here and there while remaining primarily an all grain brewer.

It was with this more open mindset that I came across a post in the homebrewing section of BeerTrading.org - Extract - Berliner Weisse, anyone got one? I've come to really enjoy Berliner Weisse over the last couple of years.  They are a wonderful summer beer with their tart crispness and low abv (generally 2.8% to 3.8%).  I'd had desire to brew a Berliner Weisse since coming a across a video presentation by Jess Caudill of Wyeast Laboratories during National Homebrewers Conference 2012 that Northern Brewer had documented and put on YouTube.  The presentation focuses a lot on the yeast driven components of the style more than the grist (grain).  I therefore felt that this would be the prefect time to brew up an extract version and started that taking notes on the presentation.

Getting ready to boil...
for all of 15 minutes
Boy did I end up taking a lot of notes, so many that I ended up putting up them into a PowerPoint presentation containing not only my notes from the presentation but my recipe and the history of the style.  I've put the presentation online and a PDF here.  I won't summarize here but will say that putting it together definitely helped, especially in the area of recipe development.  Originally I was going with a primarily wheat driven recipe till I learned that Berliner Weisse is usually made from roughly 25 – 30% pale malted wheat. I therefore bumped down my ratio to align with what I'd learned... until I shared the presentation with the Tao of Fermentation group where Daniel pointed out that Briess' Wheat DME is 65% wheat 35% barley. He suggested that I therefore adjust my recipe to 1.75lbs Extra Light DME and 2.00lbs Wheat DME which would give me a 47% Pils, 35% Wheat and 19% Pale recipe.

Talk about the easiest brewday I've had since I moved from Mr Beer to extract. With no steeping grains and a 15 minute boil the longest part of the day was bringing it to boil. From there is a almost a mad dash to find, put together and sanitize all the pieces of my chilling equipment.  It's almost funny as the chilling worked so well, cooling it down too low for my intended fermentation cycle, that I had to speed up the run off to warm it back up.  I still think I'm fermenting it a couple of degrees to cold.  At some point this week I'll put together an additional starter for clean yeast and pitch it this weekend.  If you have no idea what I'm talking about I suggest reading my notes or watching the video.



Friday, June 7, 2013

Firestone Walker Invitation Beer Festival 2013 #FWIBF

Hanging out with my favorite brewer Todd Haug of Surly
I've been to a bunch of beer related festivals over the years and my hands down favorite is the Firestone Walker Invitation Beer Festival held annually in Paso Robles.  This is actually the first year I could use the word annually in the correct context as last weekend happened to be it's second annual.  It really is a fantastic fest both in concept and in execution with one of the greatest selection of breweries I've ever seen at a fest.  The basic concept is that Matt Brynildson, Firestone Walker's head brewer, reached out to brewers he knows and respects from across the country and invited them to participate by bringing a minimum of two beers, something rare and something session (low abv generally below 4%).  Also included with the ticket is a great selection of food offerings

For this year I was joined by my stepfather Hugh Hamm and my good friend Daniel Fernandez. Once inside we headed straight to Surly were I had hoped to bump into Todd and Linda Haug however they we're out and about doing their own exploring. While I was enjoying my first beer, Schadenfreude (a dark lager and one of the few Surly beer's that I'd never had) the OC's premier beer blogger Greg Nagel of the OC Beer Blog found us.  The four of us then set out to explore the tremendous offerings that had been selected.

My beer of the day
Brandy Barrel Hunahpu
The first time I lost Hugh was when I stopped by to talk to Linda at the Surly booth.  While I was catching up she asked if I had ever met Mikkel Borg Bjergsø (Mikkeller) and Tore Gynther (To Øl), when I said no she asked if I wanted to. I've had a lot of really cool experiences over the years but having Linda introduce me to Mikkel and Tore was pretty damn awesome.  To it top off Mikkel himself grabbed me a glass of Lil' Mikkel and let me have my picture taken with him.  He also took a picture of me with Linda.

After I found Hugh we headed over to listen to Todd's Behind The Beer Session hosted by the Brewing Network. Ok I'll admit it, with Surly being one of my favorite breweries Surly, while not the main focus, was a big part of this years fest for me. Also, I did get to ask Todd a brewing related "homebrewer nerd" question on the difference between mash hoping and first wort hoping which I had been interested in for some time.  You can see the whole interview here with my question coming in at the 14:08 mark.

For the rest of the day we worked our way around the fest trying tons for great beers and food.  I lost Hugh again when he took off to use the restroom while I manned the abandoned Dogfish Head booth which I used to serve up "barrel aged high fives".  Once I found him we tracked down Greg and Daniel to finish the fest.  We ended up hanging out in the back with Linda and Todd culminating with me talking to Gabe and Julian of Beachwood BBQ & Brewing.  I'm trying to get Julian to be a part of QuadFest 2013 as his  Jean-Quad Van Damme is a nice clean example of the style.

Greg Nagel of the OC Beer Blog on assignment
It should come as no surprise by now that one of the highlights for me was getting to visit and hang out with my friends from Surly Brewing.  I love that in true Surly fashion they brought two of the lower abv beers to the fest; Bitter Brewer (a great american style bitter) and Schadenfreude.  Hopefully next year they'll pull out some Surly Mild and some Bender variants, who knows maybe even some Darkness? On the beer side, my favorite of the day was Brandy Barrel Hunahpu.  There was some much wonderful stuff going on in it with tons of vanilla and cinnamon mixing in and out with the brandy and the wood aromas, truly a wonderful beer. The main highlight however was bumping into and hanging out with friends within the community some of which were in from out of state.  There are two breweries I would love it see invited next year, Squatter's and Noble. I think they would be a prefect fit and I might even put up a post in the future outlining why.

I really can't wait for next year!



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