Friday, September 24, 2010

Homebrew Notes: Discussion with Experts

I had the opportunity to have my beer sampled and critiqued by some very experienced beer judges/home brewers (Harold Gulbransen, Paul Sangster, Dion Hallenbeck among others) from my homebrew club QUAFF. I also listened and tasted along as they critiqued other's beers which helped me just as much. I'll write the notes for my beers in each of those posts, below are just some great reminders and tips:
  • Do not sparge with water above 175 max. Efficiency should not be the most important thing to a homebrewer, buying extra grain is better than having astringcy in your beer
  • Carafa specialty malts were designed to add color and really should not be used for flavor, meaning 1 -2 oz max in a 5 gal batch
  • Make sure you filter chlorine from your brewing water
    • If using a charcoal filter you should flow around 1-3 gal/min
    • If using campden tablets then they need long contact time, often overnight
  • For thermal stability during mashing in an igloo cooler, use a higher water - grain ratio. Anywhere from 1.4 - 1.7 qts/lb will help. There are calculators online to figure out how much you can fit.
  • For competition beers it is helpful to shoot for the higher gravity range or slightly above the gravity range. You want your beer to standout when being compared to others. (more malt -> more flavor)
  • Be careful using a large quantity of hops in a beer or you may get a vegetal taste. This can happen if you are trying to bitter with a low AA hop. Don't go much higher than 6 oz of hops for a 5 gal batch.
Of course, there are exceptions to the above tips and all these can be debated. But I think these are all good points that I don't often think about.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Undercover San Diego: Louis Stelzer County Park

This has to be one of the best maintained, and conveniently located San Diego county parks. The park is out in Lakeside or Eastern San Diego County (map). The East County can get a bit warm in the summer and early fall but that is the great part about this park, it has shade.

This park and surrounding area has lots of Elderberry tress (Mexican). I was curious to try some of the berries to see if they would work in beer. Well from the looks of the pictures I was at least a couple weeks late (but not too late for rattlesnakes). They were already dried out. So now I know for next year.
The other cool part about Louis Stelzer County Park is that there are wild grapes growing throughout the creek bed. I wanted to go sample some of these and see what they taste like. I was too early for wild grapes, they were still extremely sour (Warhead sour). With a bit more research I found out that they may take till late October or November before being ripe.

The park has several trails and all are walk-able in just a couple hours. The main trail down the canyon is great and has nice signs that educate you about different plants and their Indian uses. From here you have the choice to retrace your steps or go up the hill and loop around with a stop at a great look-out point.
This is a great park to bring your lunch for after your hike. They have plenty of picnic tables, a play set, and also a short paved trail under the oak trees. There is a cheap parking fee that I have no problem paying, knowing it goes straight to the Park System. Stay tuned for a few more parks out in forgotten Lakeside.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Dreg Series: Lost Belgian Abbey Dubbel

Another experimental batch. To be honest with this one I don't have high hopes. I'm not really even sure why I used this yeast after I pitched it. But I guess if anything it is a good test. Here's why I have a doubt. I pitched the dregs from Lost Abbey's Judgment Day (This is the base beer for Cuvee de Tomme). My original reason for wanting to use this yeast is because Lost Abbey uses their house Belgian yeast. They make great beer so I was hoping it would help me make good beer. The part I didn't think about was the stress I'm putting on this already stressed out yeast. Judgement Day is a Belgian Quad at 10.5%. And I was pitching this small amount of yeast straight into a gallon of 1.060 wort.
Well, this stuff has some power, it had a nice 1" krausen in 24 hours. It was pitched and fermented warmer than I would like at around 74. San Diego has had some hot weather lately and I had no room in my fermentation cabinet.

Day 1:
Day 2:
Day 11:
Gravity - 1.035
Taste - still too sweet to judge but does have a touch of Belgian character but I smelled a touch of hot alcohol. It's really too early to tell.
So the next exciting part of this experiment is that I was given some grapes that were left on the vine too long. So they are now raisins. They were not sure the variety so I'll do some research. I think they are going to be perfect for this beer, especially color wise since they are a dark purple. I am planning to candy them a bit on the stove before adding (similar to this). Check back for an update. Below is a preview.
Update 9.22.10
The above grapes were added with 2 oz dextrin

Update 2.5.11
Gravity 1.007
Has some funk on the nose and still some nice Belgian Dubbel taste. It does have a good amount of alcohol warmth. May blend with red wine when I bottle.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Belgian Beer Series: Dubbel

The next beer in my Belgian Beer Series. The Singel turned out great and I think I'll have to write a review for that one. Having the WLP550 yeast that the Singel built up, I 'm going to pitch it into a Dubbel. For me, Dubbels seem like very complex beers but the best ones seem to smooth out that complexity. I have never brewed one before so I decided to start with Jamil's Recipe. I like that Jamil designed this beer at the lower end of the BJCP starting gravity scale. The one thing I am changing is that I want to try my hand at making candi syrup. I did a lot of reading on the matter and the consensus is that no one so far has been able to replicate the flavors from Dark Candi Inc.'s syrups. Well, this is homebrewing and I'm going for it. Look for a future post of my experience.
I am also fermenting this on the cooler side to reduce the chance at over the top fruitiness. I do like a big dark fruit (Plum, fig) taste in my Dubbels but I hope to get most of that from the Special B and dark candi syrup.

Recipe: Belgian Dubbel
O.G.-1.066  F.G.-TBD   IBU-22.5
SRM-17(?)   ABV-6.7-7.4%%   Cal-215

Grain Bill (76% Efficiency):

9 lb Pilsner Malt (72.7%)
1 lb  Munich Malt 10L (8.1%)
8 oz Aromatic Malt (4%)
8 oz Caramunich I (4%) 
6 oz Special B (3%) 
1lb Homemade Candi Syrup (8.1%)  

.75 oz Saaz, 6.8%, pellet, 90 min 22.5 IBU
150-200 mL White Labs WLP550 (From Belgian Singel)

Brew Day:
Brewed: 9/5/10
Kegged: TBD

San Diego (Alvarado) Tap Water
1 campden tablet for 5 gal.

Mash Details:
H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.3 qt/lb
Mash Volume: 3.67 gal
Sacc Rest. Temp/Time: 149F @ 60min
Strike Temp: 162F
Batch Sparge Volume: 5.5 gal
Sparge Temp/Time: 170F @ 30min

Boil Details:
Boil Volume: 7 gal
Boil Time: 90min
Post Boil Volume: 5.5 gal

Ferment Details:
O.G.: 1.060 + candi syrup
Ferment Temp: 65-68F
Length: 21 days in primary (added 1 lb of candi syrup on day 5, still active fermentation)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Cooking with Beer: Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin

I guess the name could also be Pig with a Pig Jacket. I was just finishing up my keg of the Black California Common and wanted to cook a dish that would pair well. This was my first attempt at this dish so please read the next time suggestions at the bottom. So I went back and forth between braising the meat or slow roasting. I decided to roast it because I really wanted the drippings to flavor and cook my potatoes.

Pork Tenderloin or Loin
1/2 lb Bacon to wrap pork
Oil from browning meat
1/2 Onion to saute in pot after browning meat
2-3 Carrots chopped for Mirepoix
2-3 Stalks of Celery chopped for Mirepoix
~4 Potatoes sliced and roasted under the Pork
2 Dark Beers add to deglaze pan after Mirepoix and Roasting Pan

Wrap the tenderloin with as many bacon strips as needed. Using tongs, drop the loin into a hot dutch oven or large pot. Brown all the way around the piece of meat to get a nice crispness to the bacon. Meanwhile, set the oven to 375 F. And start slicing the potatoes, cut enough to fit along the bottom of your roasting dish. Also start cutting up the carrots, celery and onions. Add this Mirepoix to the pot after the pork is removed. Scrap as much goodness off the bottom as possible.
Put the pork into the oven, the only good way to know if pork is done is with a meat thermometer. You are aiming for 145 and with a 10 min rest it should creep up to 150-155.
Caramelize the Mirepoix and then deglaze with a nice dark, roasty beer. Let this simmer covered on low.
Turn the potatoes after about a half hour. And then they should be removed when they a suffienctly cooked through and have a nice crisp (45-60min).
When the pork is done set it on the cutting board and cover with foil. Take the roasting dish, remove the potatoes and hold it over a burner on your stove. With a stiff spoon or spatula deglaze the roasting pan with the other beer. Then add this to the other sauce pot. Here is where you have options, you can strain the gravy or blend it. I tried to blend it in the food processor and was not a big fan of the results.
After allowing the meat to rest for 10 min, slice and serve. And let your guests go crazy with the great beer pan gravy.
Tips for next time:
-Use a thicker pork loin (more juice for sauce and potatoes, plus easier to not overcook, more meat-same amount of work)
-Strain the pan gravy (could sub half the beer for beef stock (wife's suggestion))
-Use kitchen string to improve presentation (needed on thicker pork loin)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Prickly Pear Syrup

I was inspired to look into more interesting ingredients for my beers and I came across this thread at (thread). They started talking about prickly pear and I was out on a ride that day and started seeing ripe fruit everywhere. Soon after, a nice fellow QUAFFer, Jeff, had some leftover fruit from his yard. His variety of prickly pears are huge, but that makes less work. I plan to try some of the smaller fruit to see how they differ. He told me his way of breaking down the fruit into a syrup, so having no prior experience that is what I went with.
I started with just over 3 lbs of fruit. I held the pears over the stove flame using tongs to burn off the nasty hairs/needles. Be very careful and it would be best to wear gloves in addition to using tongs. The hairs can be very annoying and difficult to remove. (I got a few in my hand while cleaning up). After burning the hairs I cut off the end that had most of the hairs. And then I sliced and diced the rest of the fruit and threw it in the pot.
With all 3 lbs in the pot I added about a cup of water just to insure the fruit wouldn't burn on the bottom. The fruit will produce a good amount of juice on their own. Per Jeff's recommendation I boiled the fruit for 2 hours. This helps to break down the mucus that is found in the fruit.
After boiling I poured it through a strainer and push out as much juice as possible. From there I poured the juice through the some muslin cloth. It happened to be about 16oz and fit nicely into an old water bottle.
I measured the pH to be about 4 and the gravity to be 1.050. The taste was interesting and a bit difficult to describe. It was similar to watermelon but with a little more sour twang. It did have a bit of a cooked flavor which I didn't enjoy too much, so I'm going try to get another variety and use it fresh. I haven't decided if I'm going to add this to a Berliner Weiss or to my sour pale.
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