Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Snow Shovel Blonde

Not too long ago, someone asked me "have you ever brewed a normal beer?".. I had to sit back and think about what they meant by "normal".. To me, an IPA is pretty normal, or the Porter I just put on tap. Those are about as normal to me as beer gets. But I thought about it, and a "session" type beer came to mind. I read through some books and dug around on the internet and found Blonde Ales to be one of those more normal type beers. Here's what Wikipedia has to say:

Blonde ales, also called golden ales range in color from that of straw to golden blond(e). They are clear, crisp, and dry, with low-to-medium bitterness and aroma from hops, and some sweetness from malt. Fruitiness from esters may be perceived but do not dominate the flavour or aroma. A lighter body from higher carbonation may be noticed. The lightness in the use of hops and malt can make blonde ales a good introduction to craft industry beers for consumers only familiar with mass-marketed beers.

So basically, I'm making a lawn mower beer in the middle of winter! I figure by the time this is on tap, I'll be shoveling snow. My thoughts drifted back to last winter. I woke up on a Saturday morning to about a foot of snow. I threw on some boots (and clothes if I remember right), and first things first, stomped through the snow to the garage (DRB) and turned on the heat. I knew after shoveling, I was going to need a day of r&r. I spent a couple hours shoveling. My neighbor was out supervising his kids shoveling, which also wore him out. We retired to the garage where we enjoy a few (several) pints of homebrew and played a couple rounds of chess.

By the time we get hit with a big snow, I'll be ready. I don't plan on bottling this one, I think it'll all go straight to keg. Here's the recipe:

23 lb. American 2-row
1 lb. Crystal 20
2 oz. Willamette 5% AA (beginning of boil)
Yeast: White Labs California Ale (starter)
OG: 1.050 / FG: 1.011 - 5.2% (though my program has me coming in at a 1.060 OG, 6%)

Can't get any easier than that. I did some preparing last night. I made my starter with DME this time (I had been using LME), and boy what a difference that made. I didn't get any boil overs. I just checked it and there's already activity starting.
I also milled the grains last night and brought my hot liquor tank in as well as my mash tun, to keep them at room temp. Not much else to do but fire up the strike water and get this brewday going!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Porter & Christmas Ale

11.75 lb. 2-row
1.5 lb munich malt (only I didn't use munich - see below)
1 lb. crystal
.75 lb chocolate malt
.5 lb black patent

60 minute Kent Golding 5%AA - 1.75 oz.
15 minute Fuggles 5%AA - .75 oz.
0 minute Kent Golding - 5%AA - .75 oz.

White Labs London Ale (starter)

I realized last night that I didn't have any Munich grains. I forgot to get them last time I was at the homebrew store. I did a post on Beer Advocate asking for advice. Some said to just up the 2-row, the Munich isn't necessary. One guy, at like 3 in the morning posted, saying to try toasting the 2-row to make something a bit similar to a Munich. I'm not sure if he was right or wrong, but I didn't feel like driving to Dundee. I threw a couple pounds onto a cookie sheet and put them into the pre-heated oven for 15 mins, more like 20. I stirred them every few minutes. My house smelled amazing. When they were done, I tasted them then tasted the regular non-toasted. Big difference. I hope it adds a nice toasty flavor to the beer.. we'll see!
The base for this recipe came from Brewing Classic Styles book.
OG: 1.072

Christmas Ale
12 lb. two row
1 lb. crystal
.25 lb. black malt

Hops - 1 oz. Horizon - 13%AA 60 min.

White Labs London Ale (starter)

The grain and hops are pretty close to the same as the recipe in Brewing Classic Styles. I used my smaller mash tun for this one and it worked well. The beer came out looking like a brown ale and smelling sweet.
OG: 1.074

(spices to come later)

The day went pretty well. Jason at Adventures in Homebrewing suggested trying to keep a layer of water on the grains when you sparge at all times. I had previously been draining the wort all out - then sparging. He explained when you do that, the water doesn't get to travel through all of the grains, it creates almost like tunnels for the water to travel down, since the grains became so compacted from the first sparge out. So, I did it that way this time and it seemed to go well. I ended up with about 7 gallons of Porter (pre-boil) and about 6 gallons of the Christmas Ale. The boil went well, a couple of boil overs on the Christmas Ale (I need another keg boil tank!).
Excellent day for brewing too, 74 degrees today!! Aaron stopped by and supervised brewing for a while.
After I was finished brewing I kegged and bottled my Hop Head IPA. So far it tastes wonderful, nice and hoppy. By Saturday I should be able to kick back and have a pint to see how it is cold and carbonated.