Thursday, December 27, 2012

Adventures in All Grain Brewing. Boring description of what I did follows.

So all grain brewing is a new and terrifying experience, I bought some software, Beer Alchemy, but honestly it isn't helping. I found a well recommended yet basic recipe on the net and went from there.
Centennial Blonde Ale calls for 2 row malt, which we don't see much of here. After reading up on the forums it seems that Americans use it as a base malt because its cheap, available and doesn't add a lot of flavour. We have access to a lot of UK pale and NZ pale malts here. Apparently they have a little more flavour so you don't need to add as much speciality malts. But once again, thats only what I could glean from reading online forums.

I didn't want to make a full 5 gallon batch as my pot is only 30 litres and I had no idea if I would get boil over  and foamy wort going everywhere or a wave of mashed grains spilling out the sides. Oh the paranoia when starting new things it was very high. So I toned down the recipe a little using Beer Alchemy. It is Alchemy cause I have no idea how to get the software to work really well for me. Must work on magic and lead beans. Once again due to paranoia I had a kg of DME standing by incase I got really bad efficiency of stuffed up the amount of grain completely

Anyway I had 4.05kg of grain total and about 20L of water preheated to 70. I turned off my flames and dropped in my cake rack (round made of sturdy wire to stop the bag hitting the bottom) lined the pot with my grain bag and tipped in the grain. Mmmmm smells good. Had to stir for a bit to smash up some dough balls. I was aiming for a mash temp of around 66 and I got about 65.8 (HAH yeah, my thermometer is THAT accurate....not). So I wrapped the pot up in an old polar fleece blanket and left it for an hour. 

When I got back the temp had only dropped a degree so that was cool. 

I turned the heat back on to warm it up for mash out, The I pulled out my bag and twisted the top until I had a nice tight ball of grain at the bottom, this was set over to pot on a wire rack to drain into the pot and 4L of approx 70 degree water was poured through to rinse out and remaining sugar.

So after all this I think I only had about 17L of wort. Pre-boil gravity was around 1.046
I did my boil and added hops (via hop bag) at all the right intervals, even added some Irish Moss for clarity and chilled it down with my wort chiller. I though I had at east half a pot of wort there but when I poured it into my fermentor I only had 12L! (I did leave most of the sludgy stuff behind) But the gravity was up to 1.06 I was aiming for 1.04 so I topped up to 18L with water and was bang on. There is so much more gunk when going all grain. I need to probably whirlpool and siphon to leave more crap behind. 

Yeast was a new strain to my homebrew shop, BRY-97. Yes yes, give the newbie the unknown performer for her first all grain batch. I'm a sucker. Anyway I rehrydrated them and left them to their beer making business. Its a bit of a slow starter but to be honest I really could have aerated my wort more thoroughly. The home brew shop guy said this yeast is supposed to be quite flocculant so maybe it'll help stick all the gunk to bottom of the fermenter. I'll definitely be racking to secondary with this batch

Of course I decided I had things under control in the last 45 mins of the boil and decided to have a beer or two. That did not leave me very motivated for clean up, but grains and hops are in the compost and everything else is rinsed out.

My Chinese market three ring burner had left carbon all over the bottom of my brew pot and I even up with greasy black fingers after pouring the wort out. But at least its grunty enough to get it up to a rolling boil. I think it was boiling a bit too vigorously though, I had it fine tuned about halfway through to a nice gentle boiling instead of the erupting boil. 

The wort tasted good though and thats the main thing.

Some brew day pictures.
Wort just starting to boil.

Wort boiling away with my hop bag clamped to the side.

Wort chiller added 15 minutes before turning off flame to kill any bugs. Fish bin for chucked the spent grain and used bits of brewing equipment till clean up time,

Wort Chiller is go.

Wort Chilled.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Croucher, Galaxy IPA.

Bottle of Croucher's Beer, Galaxy IPA. Taken on my deck.

puh-chiiiiiiiiiiiii Hello bubbles and wafting aroma, already an active beer its begging to be poured. First aromas are spiced apricot, nectarine, ripe honey dew melon and some kinda funky herbaceous tree smell. Pours a sumptuous old gold colour with a bubbly head that dissipates leaving me with a lasting ring of white foam around my glass. The aromas are pretty complex and begging me to drink.

Its bitter baby and you'd better like it cause there's no namby pamby super sweet malty backbone to hold your hand afterwards. Superbly dry and refreshing it may however be too much to handle for the non hop heads. Its like drinking a tree. Sure theres a hint of biscuity malt as it first hits your tongue but don't expect them to hang around. Its quickly replaced with brain tingling resinous bitterness that is beautiful in its own way.

As the beer warms you can expect a bit more sweetness to come through but for the main part this is a beer for hop lover. I am such, this beer is for me.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Emerson's Bird Dog IPA

Mmmm bottle conditioned goodness. This beer is withheld or cellared till the brewer is happy with the way the flavours have developed only then is it sold! Small batches being released from September through to march so get it while you can.

Well hello hops, hello hello hello! Before I can even appreciate the golden amber hues of this attractive beer I find myself being assaulted by hops punching their way out of the bottle. There's an astringent note to these sappy hop aromas, it gives a real feeling of freshness and zestiness. Its almost like a sour fruit smell. Refreshing!

Lively carbonation starts us off with a puffy head that falls to a well retained thin white head, not much lacing observed in this pour.

On tasting it aggressive marmalade grapfruity hoppiness very intense and bitter, but the bitterness isn't lasting. There's some honey malty goodness and the mouthfeel is thinish but it all feels fairly balanced. The bitterness almost runs rampant, but it fades nicely after each mouthful so the overall feeling isn't too intense.

Its a beer that any hop head will love but perhaps not the best beer to use for introducing your lager loving mates to craft beer.

Its 6.5% and a bottle is equivalent of 2.6 drinks and I'm certainly feeling it. The alcohol blends in nicely with the bitterness. Not a beer to be rushed its well enjoyed at the end of a long day of christmas shopping.

This has instantly become a favourite and is a try before you die kinda beer.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA

Its hump day, feeling the downward slide to Friday in my bones and relaxing on the deck with a beer.

So this beauty is very golden and once you wipe the condensation off the glass its clear. Interestingly there's no instant "smash your face in" aroma, rather gentle. Bottled in May but long travelled may have diminished the nose somewhat. I get hints of lemon, astringent spice, citrus, vegetation, a little sweet malt or fruity hops in the background maybe. Its all very subtle.

As I try appreciate the subtle aromas an amazing thing is going on with the carbonation, thousands of tiny bubbles are continuously forming at the bottom of my glass creating a very fine super lasting creamy white head. Champagne bubbles, its beautiful! This is some masterful carbonation.

I was expecting more hoppy aroma, but a large portion of this hops have turned to bitterness. Citrus pith and grapefruit dominate in the mouth, but it balanced with some pretty competitive caramel maltiness. Overall mouthfeel is however fairly creamy yet light and lively with a dry finish.

Alcohol at 6% is adding a bit of spicy heat but can't out compete the bitter hops.

It's a sweet little beer and maybe I drink too many ridiculous IPA's these days because it was a little less than I was expecting, but I would be happy with a 6 pack of this for a weekend.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA

My nearest Glengarry has jumped on the craft beer bandwagon and is importing butt loads of American beer. The youthful Glengarry workers were keen to talk beer and recommended some excellent beers, but mostly I had my heart set on America.

Finally I'm able to taste a Sierra Nevada beer. This staple of quality American beer is always popping up on my untappd feed (Beer bragging site) even Whil Wheaton drinks it.

Pour is a golden orange with a medium off-white head, carbonation is adequate but leaves me wondering just how well this 12FL.OZ bottle travelled to New Zealand, was it a long arduous boat ride or high altitude air freight, or simply set adrift on the ocean with a message to call me as soon as it reached out shores?

Aroma is hoppy, nothing too piney though, its mostly fruit and flowers. Slightly green nectarine, tangy pineapple and sticky sap notes.

You can smell and taste the dry hopping in this little bottle. In the mouth it's delightfully bitter, with an oiliness that not only coats your tongue but the whole inside of you mouth leaving you tasting it for some time after. A nice lingering moreish bitterness which is satisfying on its own making the enjoyment of the brew last even longer. The hoppy bitter notes remind me of grapefruit and bitter orange, aka the usual suspects. Plus the pine finally comes through.

Malts are in there, sweet and caramel blending in nicely with the fruitier hop aromatics to round out the bitterness.

The alcohol on this is 7.2% adding a little heat and spiciness to the flavour but is well blended with the other flavours and I could have mistaken the beer for being lower in alcohol.

Overall an enjoyable IPA that was easily lingered over in the hour before dinner.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Epic Zythos

Today is brew day and as I toil in the kitchen a cold beer is required to keep the joints well lubricated for such a strenuous task.

My beer of choice is Epic Zythos, because after yesterdays disastrous tasting of Mayhem I figured I need to give epic another chance.

The wort is happily boiling away so I'm taking a moment to really savour the beer.

I like the colour, its a lot lighter than the Mayhem, and the head is a little whiter to.  Pours with a nice head and leave loads of lovely lacing and maintains its carbonation. I'm starting to feel like the mayhem was really let down by the lack of carbonation, it really didn't work too well as a flat beer. So I'm delighted with the staying power of the Zythos.

Aroma is grapefruits and fresh crushed green pine needles. Sappy and sweet a nice light refreshing balanced aroma.

The flavour of Zythos is something else, I want so say wintergreen, buts its not quite as a strong as that. Its light a pine flavoured malt candy. Very very tasty. Hints of grapefruit and citrus zest. Its got a resinous syrupy finish. Great mouthfeel with a comforting sensation of fully coating the tongue with flavour. Some lovely biscuity malt notes in there too.

I much prefer Zythos to Mayhem, its moreish and better balanced. The carbonation is more on target and remains tasty to the last drop.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Epic Mayhem

So I've spent the afternoon spreading homebrew joy at the work Christmas party. Two hits and one so - so. Not bad for the novice homebrewer and its good to note that not everyone loves hops as much as I do.

But dammit, my love for hops is all consuming, so on the way home I had to stop at Forest hill liqourland and shout myself some kind of hoppy craft brew as a Friday treat. I really wanted a Green flash West Coast IPA but there was none in stock, so I happily purchased my second choice. Epic Mayhem.

I want the mayhem.

So the label states 'Best in Class BrewNZ 2006' well that was six years ago, we're come a long way since then with brews in New Zealand. I wonder how it holds up.

The colour on this brew is astounding! Beautiful dark copper/amber, very clear. Lacy off white head, big big bubbles, that quickly settle down to almost nothing. The head disappears fairly quickly and leaves a clear beer with slight carbonation.

A hoppy aroma, upfront dominant overripe tropical fruits,sweetness,hints of citrus and a little pine or resin at the back.

Its creamy and syrupy on the tongue then I get the typical grapefruit bitterness from the hops. There's a little toffee in there, malts are right upfront and a little cloying. The after taste is a little metallic. Its okay, but it feels a little off balance.

The alcohol is 6.2% and fairly noticeable adding some "spice" to the mix. Some higher alcohol beers I've tried are a little more subtle somehow. Once again it comes down to balance and this beer is slightly off kilter.

Is it just me or is every beer from epic starting to taste the same or am I simply not drinking enough to appreciate the nuances? This beer felt a little one dimensional, it was good, but not great. I've really enjoyed all my epic beers to date but this one just made me feel tired and at 10.99 for the experience a little jaded too.