One down, 3 to go.

Posted in Cider, Meat on March 12, 2009 by Aleforge

Last weekend I had some extra time and I thought I would get the Cider on its way. It was a fairly painless and easy process that I highly recommend everyone trying out. I think one of the great things about Ciders and Meads is how little effort and time they take to get going. If you don’t have the time to setup for a full brewday you can always squeeze a batch in here and there. I think it took my about an hour from start to finish, mostly because I steeped some grains at the recommendation of the recipe author.

cider-parts

The one thing seen in the picture below that kind of threw me off was how little water was instructed to use to steep the grains.

steep1

This was just after placing the grains into the water, it was heated up to about 154’F.  I allowed them to steep for about 20minutes at this temp, then sparged with another quart of water at 170’F.  It seemed to end up working anyways and I after tasting the wort I noticed why using the grains was suggested in the first place. It really added a nice malty, faint toasty flavor to it. I am really excited that its going to help boost the body as the result, which will keep this from being as “watery” as my last batch of cider.

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Apples, I know you like them.

Posted in Cider with tags , , on February 27, 2009 by Aleforge

Who doesn’t like apples? Well I actually do know a few people who don’t but for blogging purposes lets just say everyone does.  I know for one thing my wife absolutely loves apples, well at least the kind you have to be 21 to consume. Yes I am talking about hard cider, the delicious adult beverage that surprisingly has some very limited offerings.  If your to lazy to brew your own and have no idea what I’m talking about there are basically 3 offerings on the market. At least out here in the Midwest, You have  Hornsby’s, Woodchuck,  and  Hardcore Cider. Each has its own character and each is good in its own right. I happen to like Hornsbys Amber because its dry and my Wife loves Woodchucks granny smith just in case your wondering. Anyways the only thing apple that I have made so far is some apfelwein, which to me (correct me if I am wrong) is a high ABV, dry German version of our American “hard” cider (apple jack) in the states. Its pretty much Apples, and champagne or wine yeast, something that will allow the brew to reach a higher ABV state before getting scared quitting.  American versions tend to use a lower tolerant yeast which will leave a session able, usually sweeter beverage. I made something that was in between last year and it turned out pretty well.

Heres the recipe, I picked it up from JayHuff from the homebrewtalk forums, thanks Jay!

2 Gallon Juice / Cider – No Preservatives (except Vitamin c / asorbic acid)
8oz Crystal Malt 10L
4oz Chocolate Malt
Wyeast WLP300 Hefeweizen yeast

First thing you gotta do is steep the grains, bring 1qt of water up to 154’F. Using a muslin bag let the grains hang out in the pool for 20 minutes. While this is going on in a second pot bring another 1qt up to 170’f. After the 20 minutes is up gently pick up the bag and dunk it into the second pot. Dunk the bag gently up and down in this water for a full 5 minutes. This process is referred to as “sparging” however its a very down and dirty method to do so. You can of course steep and sparge the grains the standard way if you wish. After this is done, dump the apple juice / cider into a carboy and top off with both pots of water from earlier. Take a temp reading, if your down below 80’f you can pitch the yeast. I am thinking its going to be easier if I toss the juice in the fridge first. Add the yeast, nutrients if you bought any, pop on the air lock and let her go.

That’s pretty much it, its a very easy process and highly customizable. It should take a few weeks to ferment out, however do not even mess with it for a month. Apple juice / cider when fermented gives off a sulfur smell (rotten eggs) at first, if you let it sit a month it will go away.  Since this is a 2.5 gallon batch you will need about 1/2 cup of corn sugar to bottle carb it.

So I hear this stuff tastes VERY similar to Woodchuck granny smith. Since as mentioned its my Wife’s favorite she will be the best critic when its done. I will post the results as soon as they come in, in the mean time give it a try, its cheap and easy to make.

granny_smith_apples

Springs on the way.

Posted in Beer, Mead on February 13, 2009 by Aleforge

Now that winter is over (well not actually but lets just pretend) its time to start thinking about good times. This is the time of year where you have to start planning out how your spring / summer is going to unfold in the world of brewing. Since we got a little back this year on taxes my lovely wife and I decided on two things, one pay off some debt, and secondly order some beer ingredients. Well maybe I decided on the second, but I will admit she did give me the thumbs up. So I decided on three things to get going, 2 that will be ready by the real spring season, and the other around June, just in time for summer.  And here they are,

Irish Red

Dunkelweizen

Orange Blossom Mead

I have had great success with Irish reds in the past, and its by far the most favorite of my friends. A few good things about an Irish red; its easy as hell to make, will be ready very quickly and is easy on young palates. This will be a great brew to drag along to festivals and share with the masses.  As far as the Dunkel, well I have never made one but I have some commercial versions and really liked the style. They are German, dark and hazy, although very easy going down. Its a wheat beer, and usually at the low end of the IBU scale. Lastly a Mead, yes I will be making a mead only for the second time. My first shot at this was a down and dirty quick mead, lighter ABV although I believe it hit around 8% and fairly dry. This one will be sweater, although higher ABV (11%) so it should sneak up on you. Its going to be made with Orange Blossom honey, so it will have a nice interesting character to it. I am excited as its more of a tradition mead, and should take about 4-5 months to ferment. And will age well so it should only improve over the rest of 2009.

My biggest hangup now is the bottling situation, should I or shouldn’t I? I really should take advantage of my keg setup however I like how easy it is to send bottles home with people. Most parks and events wont allow glass bottles either, however I might be able to get away with a couple growlers. Then again I could bring a keg on ice to a gathering and really be a hero. Luckily I have a month or so to make up my mind, its going to be a tough choice.

Stay tuned I will post some pictures up of the next round of brewing, hoping next weekend we will have good weather!

EPIC FAIL – But hey the ciders good.

Posted in Beer, Cider on January 20, 2009 by Aleforge

Well I got to try out my Wee Heavy over the weekend to see if it had any hope at all for making the grade for this weekends competition. I had my doubts so I wasn’t shocked, the yeast just didn’t seem to finish up and with my recent move I had to skip the secondary or possible re pitch and just bottle the batch. It looks great, but that’s pretty much where it ends, since the yeast crapped out at about 1.030FG its overly, well … sickening sweet. Which 1.030 is acceptable for the style, however the SG is usually much higher then 1.094.  So I got this great looking pancake syrup, with a 8% ABV kick. Now what? Well there is a slight chance, (although slight might even be pushing it) that aging with help smooth things out. However once the yeast stop, they stop. So the sweetness has almost no chance to chill out. So I am just going to leave it in the basement conditioning for a year or so and give it one more taste. If there is no change I got the suggestion to use the stuff in a BBQ sauce, or meat marinade. Which actually might make the loss easier to handle.

On the lighter note the hard cider turned out fairly well. Its a touch over carbonated, which is causing the apple flavor to hide even more, but its light and bubbly and has a small kick after a few glasses. This stuff will be really tasty on a hot summers day, that is if any makes it that long. The great thing about it is how easy it is to make, so I will be making a new batch and will change up the yeast type to try for a slightly different flavor profile.

So I am a little bummed but sometimes you just get bad batches, it happens. Now I have as with most winters a lull in my brewing ambition, but I know it will come surging back once the temps climb out of the teens. So I have plenty of time to try and nail my next adventure and as of today I am having a hard time deciding on what to make.  I most likely will get my kegerator going again and toss a few lighter session brews on tap for the spring season.

Cheers!

Wee Heavy.

Posted in Beer on November 24, 2008 by Aleforge

Category one complete, now all I have to do is be patient and hope that the yeast work their asses off! OG = 1.091 its got some work to do! The day did not go over without any problems though, I have never used this much malt before. After the additions of the malt I was near run over on my pot, and this was before I fired it up. Luckily a co-worker had hooked me up with a keggle over the summer. However I had never used it out of laziness. So after my friends and I gave it a quick thought I went down and dragged it out. Scrubbing and washing it the best I could.

This was “before” the malt additions!

smpot

Much better!

kegsm

After disaster was averted things went pretty smooth, the garage smelled awesome although our wives didn’t agree. I had to make some small adjustments however to get the immersion chiller to fit, but it ended up working out as well.

chiller

dump

The Competition is 2 months away, I’m just going to cross my fingers and hope for the best! Now I have to decide on whats next, German Alt or American Amber. I have never made either style, but both take much less time then the Wee Heavy.

family

 

Thanks Brad and Chris for hanging out and helping with the transfers. I would of made a huge mess with out the extra hands!

Pumpkin Rack.

Posted in Beer on November 21, 2008 by Aleforge

Well so my idea to dump 5 large cans of pumpkin into the boil was a huge mistake. I was warned by several people, but then It also came suggested by many others. In the end I lost 2 gallons of brew, I racked off the massive amount of sludge last night. I am getting a FG reading of 1.015 which seems to be on par with what it should be, however it tastes very light.  I am thinking since I lost so much to the sludge, especially when it moved from the pot to the carboy that it just didn’t turn out right. Does it taste undrinkable? No not really, it just lacks much of anything. The spices come through a touch, the pumpkin only slightly and hops seem to of went on vacation. I am going to go ahead and let this secondary for a few weeks then bottle. Who knows maybe it will ripen.

So the weekend approaches, and I have batch one of three to complete for the competition in January. Lets see that’s about 2 months away, and what style am I brewing? Scotch ale, my all time favorite! But wait not just any scotch ale, a Wee Heavy! YES a freaking WEE HEAVY, with only 2 months to spare! I am such an idiot, I honestly forgot how much more time is needed for this style to come into its prime. Its too late now as I am ready to go and got my recipe tuned in. It should be drinkable, but usually Wee Heavys peak 3-6 months in! Wish me luck.

Brew Day.

Posted in Beer, Cider on November 10, 2008 by Aleforge

I setup in the garage and got brewing this past Sunday. It felt nice getting back into the swing a things, and my good bud Chris participated in the festivities with me.

It was fairly cool, around 45’F and a brisk wind so we fired up the fire pit and set the burner up just inside the garage. You had to be on top of the fire pit, or against the propane burner in order to not get the chills, so we migrated between the two all afternoon.

firepit-medium

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