Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Homebrew Tasting: 100% Brett Drie - 100% Nelson Hops

I really built this 100% Brett Drie/ 100% Nelson Hopped beer up in my head and I think it lived up to the hype. I was so excited about it that I gave it to several people to try, plus I poured it for a QUAFF meeting to all the members. It got very mixed reviews, but I think mostly because people were expecting tradition Brett flavors from the beer. I tried to explain how this was a primary fermented Brett beer and the yeast performs differently than when used in secondary. It was the last beer poured at the meeting so attention spans were limited. I am going to have another group of homebrew friends over on June 9th to get their opinions (if you read this and want to come email me, I'll be sharing a lot of beers written about from the last 2 years).

Throughout fermentation this beer was giving off great smelling tropical fruit flavors. My initial comment about smelling like POG (Passion Orange Guava) was dead on. And once I dry-hopped the keg with Nelson hops the flavors were even more intensified.  I just kept venting the keg so I could smell it. The one issue I had with this beer was clarity. The Brett did not want to flocculate out of suspension. I cold crashed the primary keg and transferred to another keg. At that point I added some gelatin to help get better clarity and after the 4 or 5 beers then it started looking very nice (as shown in the pic above). I also think it helped to sharpen the flavors and got rid of a bit of hop astringency. See me detailed review below.

I will definitely be making more of these beers throughout the year and try new hop flavors and malt grists with my house Brett Drie strain.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cooking with Beer: Pomegranate Beer Braised Short Ribs

It has been a while since a cooked a meal using beer and I had a rare weekend afternoon free. I decided it was about time to crack open the new beer books I got last Christmas:

The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.
San Diego's Top Brewers.

The recipe that got my attention was for Beer Braised Short Ribs, I kept seeing people make these on Top Chef this season and I have been wanting to try them. Surprisely, they are very easy to make and sort fool proof.

In a big pot (or dutch oven would be better) heat oil and then brown all the short ribs
Add carrots, celery, garlic, onions, and a chile of your choice (I used Ancho, which are my favorite). And saute until tender.

De-glaze the pot with stock (your choice), Balsamic vinegar, Beer (I chose my Imperial Stout), and this recipe called for some pomegranate juice. Use your homebrewer mentality and think of flavor combinations you would like to pair with red meat.

Add ribs to pot and make sure that the liquid covers the meat. And cook at 350 for 2 -2:30 hours. The meat should pull apart with a fork when done.

When finished, pour liquid through a strainer and reduce in a small sauce pan. The sauce is a good thickness when a thin layer sticks to the back of your spoon. I could drink this stuff it was so good.

I served the meat with a side of fingerling potatoes (tossed with oil, salt, pepper and put in the oven the last 30 minutes), fresh green beans and garlic bread (melt the butter in a shallow pan, cook garlic till golden and then dip bread and broil just before serving).


  • Buy high quality meat that has a lot of marbling - more fat = more flavor + more moisture. Or use the short ribs with the bone in.
  • Use beer that already has a big richness and complexity and a low bitterness (think aged Imperial Stout, Old Ale, Belgian Dark Strong)
  • And pair your dinner with a similar beer you used in the stock (I drank my Scottish 80/- aged for a year on French Oak)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Brew Shuffle: An Online Homebrew Trade Website

I just found a new website that I think has some great potential. It is called Brew Shuffle. Currently, there are not many homebrewers signed up (at least locally in San Diego). With the number of homebrewers (AHA estimates 1,000,000 homebrewers in America) currently brewing this could be a great way to try unique beers and find new inspiration.

The site is pretty well setup and looks very straight forward to me. You start by creating a Profile page and then you start to add brews. For each beer, you add the basic details and then decide how many beers you are willing to share or "shuffle". 

I like the search function because it allows you to filter the results in many helpful ways including seeing available "shuffles" on a functional map.

Plus I also think this site will make my blog much more interactive. With each recipe I post I will make sure to post some shuffles to Brew Shuffle so readers can try beers that they are particularly interested in. 

Here is the link to my Profile Page so you can choose to follow me - Brew Shuffle - Bikes, Beer & Adventures. Plus I will add a link on each recipe post.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

NHC 2011 First Round Results

This was my first time entering beers in the NHC (and stewarding). This year's competition is a hot button for a lot of brewers because of how quickly the judging centers filled up. In San Diego, all 750 entries were taken in around 2 days. This is even after they added 2 more judging centers and raised the entry fee from $6 to $10 (BOOM, 67% inflation in 1 year).
 I entered 4 beers into this year's NHC. Nothing advanced, but I think it is important for blogs to have full disclosure to their readers. Some of my beers scored badly so see my lessons learned below and help improve your chances in competition.
2010 Flanders Red - NHC Score Sheets added to Tasting Notes
Summary - 29 - Malt bill is 1 dimensional, more malt complexity, subtle and restrained - I got the impression they just thought it was OK. It has all the right flavors (at least from their notes), but didn't stick out in their mind. I think my lack of sourness hurt this beer in competition because 1) the sourness helps brighten the other flavors and 2) the others beers in the flight had much higher sourness making mine seem flat. The beer was made with 7 grains in the grist.

Traditional French Saison - NHC Score Sheets added to Tasting Notes
Summary - 41 (mini BOS) - Lemon and citrus (from Wyeast 3711 yeast), light tartness (acid malt addition), light funk (Brett C added at bottling) - needs better head retention (add more grain with higher protein levels)

Belgian Pale Ale - Achouffe Version - NHC Score Sheets added to Tasting Notes
Summary - 22 - Over the top phenols into the plastic flavors, no malt, no hops, too dry - the beer changed considerably from when I tasted this back in November. The hops are gone and the yeast phenols now dominate everything. And definitely plastic and harsh on the tongue - see lessons learned below.

Oak Aged Scottish 80/-
My Oatmeal Scottish 80/- that has been aged on .25 oz of French Oak cubes.
Summary - 27 - Easy drinking, low malt flavors, acidity, maybe wild yeast - I have never seen such a difference in judges' opinion. I tasted the beer after receiving the score sheets and the oak flavor is very dominant in the aroma and the taste has nicely balanced malt flavors. I think my problem is that most of the beers in this category are high alcohol barleywines or imperial stouts. And once the beer warms up there is some sourness that must have come from some infection during the 6 months in the bottle since I tasted it last.

By attending the judging as a steward and reviewing my score sheets I learned a lot from this year's competition:
  • Try your beer right before you plan to enter it. 2 of my 4 beers changed considerably since I've tried them. They were both from small 1 gal batches, so I didn't want to drink one and risk not having enough bottles for the 2nd round (or my enjoyment). For next year's competition I will taste my beers right before entering them (or registering).
  • Enter beers into a competition before NHC to see if it is worthy of that caliber. For me, Americas Finest Homebrew Competition the month before will be my contest. So for my new plan, I will need to make sure to save (by marking the caps "AFC", "NHC"):
    • AFC: 2 beers + 2 for before and after 
    • NHC 4 beers + 2 for before and after
  • Think about how your beer will match up to other beers that will be judged in the same category. For example, my 4% scottish ale didn't have much of a chance in wood aged beers when the majority of the beers are high alcohol malt bombs.
  • If you are only going to enter a few beers each year (which I am) then concentrate on only a few styles. If you only brew the style once a year it will make it hard or a long time to perfect that style. I am going to start focusing my efforts in Categories 16, 17 and 19. Plus more styles that don't have a category (yet) like 100% Brett beers.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Brett Series: Extra Special "Brett"er

If you have followed me for any length of time you will have noticed that I'm not into naming beers. But I have finally named a beer and I think it was pretty creative, Extra Special "Brett"er.

I have not been so excited about a beer in a long time. This beer has been in my mind for a while and I just decided to brew it a few weeks ago. It is funny how stuff happens, as soon as I brewed this beer, then I started seeing others talk about Brett Only beers

It would be nice if these styles took off as I think they open up so many new flavor palates. For this particular beer I had a very focused flavor profile I was going for. From previous experience with Brett Drie in my Best Bitter (almost a 1.5 yr ago), I know it produces some huge fruit flavors when young. Especially tropical flavors like guava, mango, papaya (think the popular Hawaiian drink POG). To follow-up with this, there are two main ways you can go with flavor blending - contrasting or complementing. I decided to go for something that would re-enforce the tropical fruit flavors - Nelson Sauvin hops.  My first exposure to these hops was in Alpine Brewing's Nelson, which is wildly popular. My first time trying it, it took me by surprise because I was expecting a big citrus hop flavor typical of many West Coast IPAs and this beer has a soft fruit flavor. And at that point the "Sauvin" in the name started to make sense because of the relationship to white wine flavors.
I was not overly concerned about the malt bill for this beer because the hops and yeast flavors are going to be so dominant. The mouthfeel may be a bit lacking because of the way that Brett does not produce glycerol, but I'll wait to see how that affects the final beer.

This beer used the second runnings from my 2012 English Barleywine. I capped the mash with 1 lb of acid malt, which has been proven in Chad Y's research to help with Brett Only fermentations. I also added about a lb of Extra Special Roast on top to help with color and a little malt complexity (I'm not sure if it will make a difference).

Extra Special "Brett"er
100% Brett Drie / 100% Nelson Sauvin hops
O.G.-1.048  F.G.-1.007   IBU-19 
Size -5.0 gal    SRM-12   ABV - 5.5%   

Grain Bill :

2nd Runnings:
22 lb Golden Promise Malt (96%)
8 oz  Crystal 155L (2.4%)
8 oz Crystal 55L (2.4%) 

Mash Cap:
1 lb Acid Malt
1 lb Extra Special Roast Malt

.25 oz Nelson Sauvin, 12.5%, pellet, 60 min 14.4 IBU

.5 oz Nelson Sauvin, 12.5%, pellet, 15 min 7.7 IBU 
.1 oz Nelson Sauvin, 12.5%, pellet, Dry Hop - 2 weeks
Brett Drie 

4 oz -> 16 oz -> 32 oz 1.040 Starters each for 6 days
Brew Day:
Brewed: 4/15/12


50/50 Blend of San Diego tap water and Distilled

Mash Details:
H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.25 qt/lb
Mash Volume: 6.5 gal
Sacc Rest. Temp/Time: 152F @ 60min
Sparge Volume: 2.5 gal
Sparge Temp/Time: 170F

Boil Details:
Boil Volume: 6.5gal
Boil Time: 60min
Post Boil Volume: 5.0 gal

Ferment Details:
Ferment Temp: 68

If you want to try some please let me know. I plan to drink this beer while it is fresh and it should be done in a couple more weeks after I let the dry-hop finish.

04/29/12 - 1.007 
Added 1 oz of Nelson Sauvin hops. Took a sample and this beer is what I was hoping for. It has that same POG flavor I remember. The beer is still very cloudy and will need some cold crashing.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Big Beer Series: 2012 English Barleywine

I have been aging my Old Ale for way too long (since Jan 2011) and needed something to take its place. My evolution in beer flavors has taken me to really enjoying barleywines, mostly english varieties. And within that style towards the sweeter and less hop aroma/flavor side. I also like the ones I have had with just a hint of oak character to make you think it has a lot of age on it (plus I really like the flavor of oak).

So I started where I normally do for the first time I brew a new style - Jamil's Brewing Classic Styles. These beers are supposed to be simple grain bills because with such a big malt flavor you don't want it to get muddled. I also made one tweak to use British crystal malts because I like the flavor much better and its more authentic.

Plus, this was also a chance to try my new grain mill (Crankandstein 2S w/ homemade hopper) and bulk Golden Promise malt. I figured with this kinda of beer I don't care too much about my efficiency with a new mill because what's the difference between a 10% or 12% barleywine.

Recipe: 2012 English Barleywine
O.G.-1.101(actual 1.121)  F.G.-TBD   IBU-52 
Size -5.0 gal    SRM-15   ABV - TBD%   

Grain Bill (60% Efficiency):
22 lb Golden Promise Malt (96%)
8 oz  Crystal 155L (2.4%)
8 oz Crystal 55L (2.4%)

1.4 oz Horizon, 9.1%, pellet, 60 min 48.6 IBU
.5 oz EK Golding, 5.5%, pellet, 20 min 3.5 IBU
.5 oz EK Golding, 5.5%, pellet, 0 min
19 g (~1.5 packs) of Nottingham dry yeast

Brew Day:
Brewed: 4/15/12


Mash Details:
H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.25 qt/lb
Mash Volume: 6.5 gal
Sacc Rest. Temp/Time: 152F @ 60min
Sparge Volume: 2.5 gal
Sparge Temp/Time: 170F

Boil Details:
Boil Volume: 6.5gal
Boil Time: 90min
Post Boil Volume: 5.0 gal

Ferment Details:
Ferment Temp: start at 66 for 4 days then 68F

Well, my efficiency (73%) was much better than I planned (60%), so this is going to be a huge beer. I'm planning to move this beer over to an aging keg and add 1 oz of French Oak cubes.

And I also made a very interesting "small beer" from the 2nd runnings - I'll post shortly about my 100% Brett Drie and 100% Nelson Sauvin hop batch.
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