Monday, December 31, 2012

2013 Brewing Goals

This has been a great year for me both personally and in the beer world. A few highlights from the beer side:

  • GABF - This was my first time attending and won't be the last. We had a well planned out trip and it couldn't have been more entertaining with a balance of beer and hiking. I got to so many sour and farmhouse beers that really helped guide my palate to what I want from my homebrews. Our Plan. Our Experience.

  • Barrel Project - For year's I have wanted to age some beer in a barrel and this year it came together. With 5 other members from my homebrew club (QUAFF) we brewed an American Saison and fermented it in a freshly racked Chardonnay Barrel. Brewday here. Bottling here. Tasting here.

Brewing Calendar:

Split Batch: Berliner Weiss (5 Gal) - Belgian Single (5 gal)

Belgian Grand Cru - using homemade candi sugar for the color and flavor
Belgian Quad - Hopefully a Collaboration with Jeff B
Split on Cognac soaked oak and Grand Marnier soaked oak

Biere De Garde - A Possible Collaboration with Lewy Brewing and Danny at Deeper Roots Brewing

Table Saison - Using a new grain type and multiple Saison strains
Flanders Red

Traditional Saison
1 gal batch – St. Somewhere dregs

Dark Saison

100% Brett Beer Experiment - Still acquiring strains

Homegrown Hops Pale Ale

English Dark Mild

Big Body Stout for Blending

HUGE Barleywine

Other Goals
  • Setup 4 tap keezer in the new garage
  • Acquire a couple barrels for some group projects
  • Host a big blending session
  • Find time to brew

Cheers and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Homebrew Tasting: Chardonnay Barrel American Saison

Barrel Aging is worth it. This beer is easily one of the better homebrews I've had. I have done other oak aged beers, but this is the first barrel aged. It is hard to nail down exactly what is different. I think it just tastes more "finished". The flavor complexity is there, but it is subtle and makes the beer easy to enjoy. I ended up sharing a couple bottles with a wide audience of beer drinkers and it was universally liked. The hardcore beer drinkers could pick out the individual flavors (as discussed in detail in my tasting notes) while the novice drinkers thought it was "smooth" (a description I hate, but translates into the flavors meld together well).

My detailed review using the BJCP Score Sheet:

We are still deciding on the next brew for this barrel, but we are leaning toward a pale beer with lots of tropical hops and 100% Brett Custersianus fermented (thanks to Don at Small Place Big Brews).

Monday, December 17, 2012

Beer Event: Stone Vertical Epic Ale Festival

My two longtime buddies and I attended the Stone Brewing Co's Vertical Epic Final Chapter event on 12.12.12. The three of us have been interested in this project since we were awakened to the San Diego Beer scene around 2007. The idea behind it was so clever that we immediately got hooked. So we  made sure every year to buy a few bottles so that we could enjoy some fresh and put some away. We don't have the entire collection, so we knew that come 12.12.12 Stone will have an event with them all.
When the announcement of the event was made months ago, I asked Dan and PJ about attending. No Response. Then just a few weeks ago, I asked again. No Response. And then an email pops into my inbox with PJ's receipt. Well, I guess I know what the wife is getting me for Christmas. Our big hesitation came because of the price tag - $150. This is steep and afterwards still not sure it's worth the price, but I had one of my better beer experiences ever.

We arrived around 3 (the earliest I could get off work since 12.12.12 conveniently landed on a Wednesday) to a pretty relaxed atmosphere especially for the Stone World Bistro. This place has really erupted in the past years and is always packed. The three of us were trying to decide the order of our Epic tasting, I took the initiative and asked the expert. I twated Dr. Bill, the Beverage Supervisor at Stone Brewing, for his opinion - "Oldest first, while your palate is the freshest". So that was our technique, but I heard others do it by the food pairing options (appetizer, main course, dessert).

Lets get right into each course and our commentary:

Stone 02.02.02 Vertical Epic Ale - Tasting Notes
Paired with Quince, Granny Smith Apple and Cherry Crisp


 Stone 03.03.03 Vertical Epic Ale - Tasting Notes
Paired with Truffled Deviled Egg
 Stone 04.04.04 Vertical Epic Ale - Tasting Notes
Paired with Milk Chocolate Mousse

 Stone 05.05.05 Vertical Epic Ale - Tasting Notes
Paired with Duck Confit PB&J

 Stone 06.06.06 Vertical Epic Ale - Tasting Notes
Paired with Milk Chocolate Truffle

 Stone 07.07.07 Vertical Epic Ale - Tasting Notes
Paired with Mashed Potato Pierogi
 Stone 08.08.08 Vertical Epic Ale - Tasting Notes
Paired with Traditional Lobster Roll

 Stone 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale - Tasting Notes
Paired with Braised Short Rib
 Stone 10.10.10 Vertical Epic Ale - Tasting Notes
Paired with Pleasant Ridge Reserve Cheese

 Stone 11.11.11 Vertical Epic Ale - Tasting Notes
Paired with Pork Crepinette

 Stone 12.12.12 Vertical Epic Ale - Tasting Notes
Paired with Spicy Quail Knot

 Stone Vertical Epic Ale - Cask and Wine Versions - Tasting Notes

 The cask version of a few of the beers really missed the mark for me. I just don't think that Belgian style beers work with the lower carbonation levels. The complex flavors got muddled and the perception of dryness was gone.

However, the wine barrel aged versions were my favorite of the night. The oak flavors were present, but I don't think they over powered. I declared at dinner that I might just need to oak age all my beers from now on. These were just the beers needed to cap off a great night.

 It was a fun experience and I'm looking forward to trying the bottle versions at a tasting in the coming months.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Barrel Project: Bottling Chardonnay American Saison

It has come time to bottle our American Farmhouse Chardonnay Saison. We were expecting a pretty quick turn-around on this barrel for a few reasons:

1. This was a fresh Chardonnay barrel and we didn't want too much flavor extraction
2. A Saison with Brett does not need the extended timeline as true sour beers with bacteria. The Saison yeast is capable of fermenting a large portion of the sugars, which reduces the rick of the Brett over-carbing the beer once it's in the bottle. (This beer finished at 1.005)
3. We are going to cork and cage the beer - so high carbonation is just fine.

The difficult part about these projects is communication. Our group has used an email thread to organize who is bringing what and discuss ideas on the best way to accomplish the task. One thing that we learned from this process, is that with 6 people trying to communicate it is difficult to keep up with the all the information. With our group there ended up being confusion on how many bottles we needed and who was bringing bottles. So tips for next time:

  •  Create a Google Doc or Forum so the ideas and tasks can be better organized
  • Have 1 person get all the ingredients 
  • Start getting the ingredients several weeks before the bottling session (we had a tough time finding appropriate Belgian beer corks locally and even online)

We decided to bottle half and to keg half of everyone's share. Below is a list of all the supplies we needed to bottle 1 - 60 gal barrel (55 gals of beer):

The other trick to this process is to get a good assembly line going. First, crack open a super nice bottle of beer like Lost Abbey Veritas 011 (thanks Chris - this also solidified me brewing a strong malty Brett beer aged with Cognac since trying Crooked Stave Sentience in Cognac)

Clean your bottles. Rinse with the faucet attachment and then the bottling tree is a huge time saver.

Get a couple people filling bottles (we used a bottling bucket and a beer gun from a keg).

Then the bottle is passed to the corker (it takes some adjusting at the beginning to get the correct insertion distance (TWSS)). Then put on the cage and give it 7 twists. (use a pencil or other round object to twist the wire)

We didn't quite get the full volume we were expecting. Mostly because we were a few gallons short when filling the barrel. In a last minute audible  Steven got some of his year old Berliner Weisse and we blended it half and half for the final 5 gals.

Expect to see a tasting of this beer shortly as I have heard from 2 of the guys that the beer is carbed and tasting fantastic. Also I have 5 gals in a keg I'm considering to mess around with, let me know if you have any ideas.

We are still working on the next beer to fill the barrel. There is still a lot of Chardonnay flavor left, so we are leaning towards a pale base and going full sour.
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