Monday, December 14, 2009

Brew Day: Super Jim Lager

Today we're brewing our second lager, and are dedicating it to a good friend of ours who passed away. He loved his American lagers, and the very first beer we brewed over a year ago was an extract lager that we named after him, calling it Jim Style. Unfortunately, it was Kool-Aid beer - warm water, extract, sugar, dry yeast (the Cooper's kit). It wasn't all that great. Now we're doing it right, or at least better, with some all-grain action.

The recipe is based on the American Premium Lager recipe from Brewing Classic Styles by Jamil Zainasheff. As usual, we've upped the hops slightly to quench our hop teeth. The recipe only called for 1.25oz of German Hallertauer at 60 minutes, but since we have 2oz, we'll likely toss the rest in when there's around 20 minutes left in the boil.

Below we'll breakdown the brewing process:

5 days ago: Made a 2 liter starter of Wyeast 2007 Pilsen lager. Hopefully it's enough, our LHB only had one pack. It actively fermented the entire time (we added some yeast nutrient), so it should be good. We'd feel better using a starter with another smack pack (like last time, which worked very well), but oh well - we'll just have to see.

9:45am - Mash in. Hit our target temp of 152F (maybe 151F by the time we had the lid on, close enough). Now we wait 90 minutes.

11:15am - Only lost 1 degree during the mash - success! Now to set the grain bed and start sparging. We use the fly sparging method using a colander in the top of the tun (slowly sprinkling water over the entire grain bed). Our goal is to collect about 8 gallons, which will take quite a while.

12:15pm - Might be sparging a little too slow, not even halfway there, speeding it up a bit. Being very careful to not let the water level fall below the grain bed.

1:00pm - Sparge complete. Time to move outside to boil.

1:11pm - Shooting for a pre-boil gravity of 1.040, we got 1.039 - not too shabby.

1:22pm - We're boiling. Got to love the propane burner. When we were doing this on our stove-top it would take almost 2 hours just to get to a boil.

1:50 pm - Bittering hop addition: 1.35 oz. Hallertau.

2: 30pm - Added .65oz Hallertau. Also added wort chiller (to sanitize w/ heat) and whirlfloc (to help all the protein/break material settle to the bottom so it doesn't wind up in the fermenter).

2:40pm - Added yeast nutrient.

2.50pm - Turn off heat, and begin cooling. A reading for the Original Gravity (OG) showed we were off our target of 1.053, we had 1.046. Perhaps we didn't boil vigorously enough, which was intentional because we didn't want any carmelization to darken the beer's color. Regardless, it'll still be good. We scaled this beer to a mash efficiency of 75%, and we came out at 74%.

Below are some pics of our new cooling process. After cooling as much as we can with the garden hose hooked to the immersion chiller, we switch over to a cooler full of ice water (and snow this time of year) with a sump pump, and hook that into the immersion chiller. This works very well.

3:30pm - Temp down to 45. Sanitizing fermenter and letting break material settle to bottom of boil pot.

3:50pm - Transferring wort to fermenter. Decanted and pitched the starter at 46F. Most of the foam you see below is just from aeration - trying to get as much oxygen into the wort as possible to help the yeast reproduce. There a little Star San foam in there too. This will be our first time using the new fermentation chamber, a Sanyo SR-4912M with a Johnson A419 temperature controller. There was a soda can dispenser on the door, which we just cut out so we could fit our carboy w/ milk crate in there. You can't see it, but we also propped the milk crate up 3/4 inch with some boards we cut to fit under the crate, so that the lip on the door could slide under the crate and close wo/ issue. We'll ferment this at 50F for a few weeks before moving onto lagering at 40F or so.

Now for the hardest part - waiting for signs of fermentation, which was 3 days with our last lager. Wish us luck! Cheers.

Edit December 15, 2009: We had fermentation going in less than 24 hours, wooo-hooo!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Stone Arrogant Bastard

One of the beers we really miss not being able to get in IL is Stone Brewing Co.'s Arrogant Bastard. We've had the pleasure of having this on tap in other states, but grabbed a bottle for review on our trip to Wisconsin.

If you haven't read the label on this beer, check it out as it's rather funny. They flat out tell you that you won't like the beer. Well...I guess they were wrong!

Aroma: Malty, slight chocolate, subdued hops.

Appearance: Pours a deep amber with a thick, foamy off-white head.

Flavor: To quote Matt: "Awesome." There's a prominent Chinook hop flavor, which makes it pretty darn bitter. But it's also got some toasty malt to it. Basically, it's a very complex and potent beer.

Mouthfeel: Creamy and easily drinkable. Finish is a little "hot" and alcoholic.

This is definitely not a a beer for the lighthearted. But if you're brave and can find it, never pass up the chance to sample the bastard.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Review: Three Floyds Alpha Klaus

I love Three Floyds beer - it's that simple. There's something about the hoppiness of their beers that always makes me smile. That being said, Alpha Klaus, their Christmas Porter, is my favorite of their brews.

From the bottle: "Alpha Klaus is Alpha King's festive cousin. A big American Christmas Porter brewed with English chocolate malt, Mexican sugar and of course, tons of strange American hops."

Very roasty, with a slight hint of chocolate and citrus hops.

Appearance: How much more black could it be? Moderate carbonation, topped with a thick, tan foam.

Flavor: An amazing blend of roasty chocolate malt and citrus hops, with a very bitter finish.

Mouthfeel: Very heavy and stout-like

This is indeed "Not Normal" as the bottle claims. If you're a fan of the sweet, malty holiday beers on the market, this may not be for you. Hop-heads - this is the holiday brew for you. Grab a few bottles, as the Alpha Klaus doesn't stay around for long.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Estate Brewers Harvest Ale by Sierra Nevada

Chico Estate IPA features malt and hops grown on premises by Sierra Nevada. Much like the wine industry, Sierra Nevada is trying their hand at growing everything that goes into their product. This experiment began in 2003 and we are seeing the first release in 2009.

Appearance: Red amber with a thick, tight off-white head. Good lacing - bit cloudy. Great looking beer.

Aroma: Clean, malty - not the hop bouquet I was expecting, maybe a little pine in there. I would be curious to try this on draft as I bet it would have more of hop nose.

Flavor: Very well balanced - features both the malt and the hops, has the unique Sierra Nevada taste. Clean, drinkable - hop bitterness is present but not overwhelming.

Palate: Very drinkable - not too heavy or light. Creamy, well carbonated - almost melts in the mouth. Not too sweet and has a lingering hop-bitter finish.

Overall, a great house ale that I could drink all night. Their Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale remains my favorite, but this was solid and a perfect compliment to the fresh kielbasa/vegetable bake we had that night.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Kiss the Lips IPA by Lake Louie Brewing

Another 'sconsin beer here, from Lake Louie Brewing. From the website: "KISS THE LIPS India Pale Ale: Old school version of an IPA. Still balanced; not a ‘one trick  pony’ pale. Named after the country song “It’s hard to kiss the lips at night that chew your ass out all day long.”

Appearance: Pours a cloudy golden yellow orange, nice foamy white head that clings to the glass.

Aroma: Malty, clean and crisp. Not much what I expect from an IPA.

Taste: This tastes like a balanced pale ale. It makes Meg think of a hoppy lager, which I can see. It's very clean and crisp - refreshing. Bit of lingering bitterness towards the end. This would be a great summer beer.

Mouthfeel: Bit of a malty and citrusy finish. I could really toss this back.

Overall, while this my fall within the style guidelines for an IPA, taste-wise I would put this more into the Pale Ale category. This would be great beer to serve with a meal, and would be my go-to lawnmower beer in the summer. As far as hoppy Wisconsin beers go, nobody's beat Ale Asylum yet.