Sunday, October 24, 2010

SR5: Delicious Digression³

"It tastes so fresh."
That was the best thing my wife could have possibly said to me. It tastes fresh.
It does, by the way. It really does. It's a wet hop ale. It's a single hop, wet hop ale. It's a dry hopped, single hopped, wet hop ale. It's Centennial hops from beginning to end and it is good.
I wanted to give SR5 another week to bottle condition, but I think it's ready. Tuesday is the next DC Homebrewers meeting, so I cracked open a couple to see if the beer is ready to drink. Man, is it. I really couldn't be happier with how it came out. It has a good bitterness that's well balanced by the crystal malt (20). The grassy flavor of the fresh Centennial hops comes right through, and the five ounces of dried Centennial hops make the beer stinky good.
I was worried that the wet hop flavor would be muted because of the number of days it took to get the hops from the field to me. But I hand it to Rebel Brewer, they were still fresh (it would've been nice if they remembered my SuperMoss so the beer would be more clear). It didn't help that Derek from myLHBS crapped on the idea of mail order fresh hops after I'd placed my order, but I guess he can suck it.
Nevertheless, this should be the last time I order wet hops from Rebel Brewer. With any luck, my own hops will be producing next year. If so, I can either look forward to a wet hop IPA with a combination of the Centennial, Willamette and Cascade hops I planted, or enough hops from each vine to do three single hops batches. Whatever the case, if the beers turn out as well as Digression³ did, then I'll be happy.
Digression³, by the way, is the name of the beer. Dry hopping a wet hop beer seemed like a digression from the concept (dry, wet, get it?). It's also a digression from the line of IPAs I've been working on. And I tend to digress a lot in my writing and conversations. The cubed refers to the three ways Centennial hops were used: bittering, flavor and aroma.
On a minor note, I got the carbonation right. The last couple batches, JDP1 and SR4, the beers were either under carbonated or not carbonated at all. I'd come up with all sorts of reasons why -- too much alcohol, not enough yeast, etc. -- but I started getting worried that I was screwing up something more fundamental, which would be harder to fix. So when I heard the wonderful tsst sound when I popped the cap on Digression³, I was pretty damn happy.
I also like the color. As you can see from the photo, it finished with a soft orange, brown color. That's more or less what I've been going for with the other SR beers. The difference between this beer and the other beers, in terms of malt, is the use of pale malt verses amber malt. Digression³ has no amber malt, while the other SR beers are almost all amber. I like the flavor of the amber malt, so I'll stick with it, but I'll swap out some for pale malt when I get around to making SR6.
For now, I have plenty of beer to drink.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

JDP2/FW1: I have a lot of beer

That's my fermentation room/basement beer closet. At present, it features five cases of beer: two cases of SR5, two cases of FW1 and one case of JDP2. It's fair to say that I'll be good for beer when all this homebrew is ready to drink come November.
On Friday, I bottled the FW1 cafe con leche stout and the JDP2 American scotch ale (which turned out to be more of a scottish ale due to the 6.4% A.B.V.). Now they'll need a few weeks in the bottle before they're ready. I'm hoping for a lot from the bottle conditioning.

I took this photo with my iPhone because my digital camera was on the fritz. Later, I went online to see if I could fix it. Most of the advice was to slap the lens. Sure enough, one good whack later and the camera was back in business.
The stout still had a sour taste, but I asked around about it and that might not mean anything. Evidently, many stouts, including Guinness, have a sour flavor (in fact, I picked up a four-pack of Guinness' new Foreign Extra Stout and sure enough there was a sour component). Still, I want the flavor tamed a bit. The additional dry malt I added for bottle fermentation and a few more weeks of aging may help.
The other issue I had with the stout was poor attenuation. After nearly two weeks of fermentation, the stout went from an original gravity of 1.072 to a final gravity of 1.042. That's only 40% apparent attenuation. I was expecting around 70%. I don't mind that the A.B.V. is 4%, but I am disappointed in how poorly the yeast performed. I do wonder whether I should have let the stout ferment even longer, and what effect the lactose had, but all that is moot now that the beer is in the bottle.
On the bright side, I did get a distinct coffee/espresso flavor from the beer. So I'm hopeful that the beer will be drinkable next month.

In terms of flavor, JDP2 came out better. It's certainly not nearly as malty as JDP1, but I think I went to far the other direction. The beer was almost too dry, and I missed the brown sugar. In fact, you can see from the light color of the beer that it's not quite right. A scotch ale should be a dark amber. This is much more of a Scottish ale in color and alcohol content.
The reduced malt did allow the flavor of the rye to come through, so that's working well, but I'm didn't get much of the smoked malt. That may change after the beer finishes bottle conditioning. For the next batch, I think I add the brown sugar back in and maybe another pound or so of pale malt. I'm getting close, but I'm not quite there.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

SR5/JDP2/FW1: Three beers and one long day

Saturday was a long day. It was a good day. A lot of beer was made and bottled on Saturday, but it was a long day.
Initially, I planned to bottle SR5 on Saturday. Just a quiet few hours sipping beer and bottling my wet hop IPA. No muss, no fuss.

Then I found out my buddy Andy got a homebrew kit, so I decided to go ahead with the next version of the JD Project and show him how to brew a batch of beer. I needed to do this anyway if I'm going to have the recipe worked out by the time the bourbon barrel is ready. Not a big deal though. Because I'm still tinkering with the American Scotch Ale recipe, I only make 2.5 gallon half batches.
A small batch of beer and then some bottling; eh, it'll be busy, but easy.

Then I got an email from my buddy Mike Roy. Turns out he's having trouble firing his kettle at the brewpub and is giving away wort before he has to dump it out. Well shit, I'm not going to turn down free wort. It's the most expensive part of the brewing process. Besides, it's for a stout, a style I enjoy, but haven't made yet. So last Thursday, Savannah and I headed over to Franklin's with my carboy. The catch was I needed to get it reboiled and fermenting as soon as possible. That meant adding it to Saturday's to-do list.
So what was to be an easy bottling day turned into a double brew day and bottling. Good thing I had an extra pair of hands. Andy was also good enough to shoot all the photos for this post. His camera is exponentially better then mine.

Let's start with JDP2. I cut 2.5 pounds of extract from the recipe, as well as the brown sugar. I kept the secret ingredient (rye), the crystal malt and added smoked malt. The subtraction of the extract made a huge difference in the O.G. JDP1 started out with a monster O.G. of 1.130, while JDP2 came in at a more manageable 1.066. Frankly, I think that might be a bit too low, so the brown sugar might return in the next batch. I'm also very curious about the smoked malt. I was concerned that it would dominate the flavor, but when I tasted the wort, I could barely detect it. As the beer ferments and the sugars are processed, the smoke flavor might come through a bit better. Otherwise, I'll increase the amount next time.
Speaking of JDP1, I entered it into a homebrew contest a few weeks ago. The contest was part of the inaugural D.C. State Fair. The whole thing felt a bit thrown together (I had to leave the competition to run and get the judges some cups to use), and I knew JDP1 was far from being perfect. Still, it was an opportunity to have a few unbiased opinions. The good news was, the judges picked up that it was a scotch ale. The bad news, they thought it was too boozy and sweet, both of which I knew. Next year, I'll be better prepared for the contest. Hopefully, the organizers will be, too.

In addition to JDP2, Andy and I worked on the wort Mike gave me (FW1: Free Wort 1). Because it was free, I screwed around a little with it. Rather than finish making a stout, which I would have done if I were starting from scratch, I decided to do an espresso milk stout, a cafe con leche stout, if you will. I also decided to punch up the alcohol percentage a bit. The wort was at 1.050 when Mike gave it to me. By the time I was done, the O.G. was up to 1.072. This was a result of adding an extra half pound of pale dry extract and reducing about a gallon of the wort by half to concentrate the flavors. I also added a quart of espresso and half a pound of lactose. All of this was on top of Mike's original grain bill of maris otter, crystal 120, roasted barley, chocolate malt, black patent and carafa III.
Generally, I feel pretty good about all of this. However, the wort had a slightly sour flavor when I was done with it. Now, I don't know if this was a result of the espresso or the lactose, neither of which I've worked with before, or reducing the wort as much as I did. As long as it's not an infection and gone by the time I bottle, I'll be happy. Still, I'm worried that the two days the wort had to sit before I could boil it again might have damaged it. We'll see.
Finally, there was the bottling of SR5, the dry hopped, wet hop, single hop IPA. That beer smelled fantastic. The color was a beautiful light orange and should be great by the time I crack into it on Halloween. I am starting to rethink the use of whole hops for dry hopping. It's a pain in the ass to scoop out the hops before bottling and I'm always concerned that I'm adding extra particulate to the beer. For my next IPA, SR6, I think I'll try using pellets and a hop bag.

Now it's back to waiting. I'll bottle JDP2 and FW1 next weekend and open them up in early November, a week or so after SR5. Hopefully, juggling so many projects in a single day didn't result in me screwing up all three of them.