Monday, February 25, 2008

Make mine a Funky Dubble

Rodney and I have been thinking about making an interpretation of a Dubble for a while now, and we're about ready to brew it in the next few weeks. We've been talking about flavor profiles and what we want to achieve.

A Dubbel is a very sneaky beer. Rich malts, fruits and chocolate with a velvety mouth feel. Complex beyond belief (at least the good ones are). A good Dubbel should be very attenuated and drinkable, but not thin, rich and warming.

We have a pretty good arsenal of tricks up our sleeves. One in particular is the use of Belgian Candi Syrup. As far as getting close to traditional, this is the stuff that is actually used. It is more or less a product of centrifuged caramelized beet sugar. Sugar is traditionally used in Belgian beers to increase the alcohol without increasing the body too much. These sugars and syrups also lend a ton of complexity to the brew.

So it has been decided to make a simple Dubble recipe, and to carry on our habits of experimentation lately, split the batch. Half will be left alone, corked and bottle conditioned. The second half will be taking the train on down to funky town.

5 gallons will be inoculated with a Lambic culture of all sorts of funky little critters and micro biota to age and sour over the course of a few months. After the first couple of months a concoction of cherries soaked in Bourbon, then reduced and caramelized and added to everything else a la Tim Hayner's Burnt Bourbon Cherry Stout, (I like to call it Haynerized, or Haynerizing the syrup). I present to you : Maker's Mark and the Funky Bunch.Not to be confused with these guys...

I'm hoping to achieve big fruit profiles in this beer, with a subtle tartness to balance out the richness and dark fruits with a hint of bourbon in the back ground. This may turn out to be a disaster, but it could be off the hook.This is what I love about brewing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


We brewed a variation of a Robust Porter last night, lots of British Chocolate malt, with a tad of Roasted Barley and a nice addition of East Kent Goldings hops to balance things out. The 10 gallons were split between an Wyeast 1056, a neutral ale yeast and White Labs 002, an English ESB yeast. Kind of an experiment, we will compare the flavor profiles between the two. I am definitely expecting the 1056 to finish clean and really showcase the chocolate and roasted barley, and attenuate pretty low. The WL002 should finish a little higher and have a much more fruity taste. Time will tell. Hope to put half on tap and half and bottle half and give to friends.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Washington Homebrewers Association launched

At long last the WAHA website has been launched. There has been much activity in the past couple of meetings and things seem like they are coming together. With a very knowledgable and kind dude named Steve Antoch, I will be assisting him with the educational aspects of WAHA. Basicaly touching on things such as theory, recipe formulation, techniques, equipment...all that good stuff. Steve came up with a great idea of a mentoring map. Someone who is just starting out can contact an experienced brewer via an online push pin style map that is in their area. The two parties can agree on a date and get together and brew a batch. Another cool idea is to have a Trouble shooting/ Evaluation Program that integrates the map as well. If someone wants objective feedback for a certain beer or is having problems with off-flavor, they can be set up with a judge in the area to help them out. I'm excited to be part of this and to try and help out! Big Al took me under his wing a few years ago and I have made it my mission to try and do the same for others in the name of good beer. Check out the website and the yahoo group. Join up and get brewing.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Catching Up (finally) and a matter of style

What a whirlwind month and a half it's been. I have been resurected from my gimp like state and am now back on my way to being a strapping,somewhat young lad.

Competition season is right around the corner, and there are lots of plans for entering a couple of beers that are now ready, and also plenty of oppurtunities to hone the judging skills.

I was thinking the other day, and taking the BJCP study courses and then the exam has been the single most important thing I have done as far as brewing goes. It isn't all about making sure every beer tastes exactly the same and then ridiculing others that are sub par.It shouldn't be perceived as pretentious or snobby, and it isn't a secret beer society gestapo. The test is extremely hard and I'm sure others agree with me, there is a certain satisfaction when finished, and I came out of the classes with some people I didn't know previously who I am proud to call friends.There are always certain personalities (as with anything else) that can give something fun and educational a bad name.I've kind of started to notice though that they are the ones that haven't brewed anything to enter, or don't brew anymore. Hmmm.Competitions and the BJCP are a good thing(and lots of fun!), and there is a whole new group of judges coming up that are going to be very helpful and offer good feedback. After all, we will be judging each others beer in the same competition!

Coloring out of the lines (as Tim says) is extremely important, and is one of the things I like so much about brewing. Being artistic and having the balls to go for it. Push the envelope. Throw caution to the wind.Sometimes you have to go for it and learn what works and what doesn't.No one wants to be stuck drinking the same amber ale day in and day out.A couple beers we have made have turned out pretty awesome from a crazy spice addition or pushing the limits of the yeast.

I think it is very important to research the style (or base style) of the beer one is going to be brewing. Rodney and I will usually sit down with a couple of good commercial examples and discuss what we like and don't like about it, and come up with some ideas on how to achieve the flavors, aroma, and body that would make the beer drinkable and enjoyable. I try and research the history of the beer and learn about what made it how it is today, how it has changed, what others have done to improve on it as far as yeasts and brewing techniques.What is a good base recipe to start with? What characteristics will certains specialty grains contribute or hinder in this beer? What kind of hops do I have access to and will they be too cloying and cause this to be unbalanced?

Yeast management, propagation, and good fermentation techniques are key as well.If you have access to plenty of fresh, healthy yeast, or the ability to build up your own, you've halfway won the battle. Vinnie of Russian River has written a few times, and said to Adrian and I while touring the brewery, is you have to know what the yeast can and can't do for you.

If you have the ability to duplicate a beer to style time after time, then you have no excuse not to put your own twist or signature on it.Sure, it can get boring drinking textbook beers, but I have come to respect someone who can do it. They have done their homework and researched the history of the recipe. The same goes for someone who takes a shot in the dark and ends up hitting it out of the park. It's a fine line I suppose...

I can sum up what brewing means to me in a quote I read and is kind of my mantra, and hope to have this painted on the wall of my brewery someday....

"He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands, his head and his heart is an artist."
-St.Francis of Assisi

Cheers everyone.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Berliner Weisse Brewed

After a rather long break from brewing, we brewed our Berliner Weisse on Sunday. With only 11 lbs. of grain for a 10 gallon batch, it was our smallest beer to date with an original gravity coming in at 1.030. This beer was not boiled, but brought up to a temperature around 210. 10 year old Hallertauer hops were used at first wort (beginning of sparge) to add some preservative qualities, but little to no flavor and bittering.The wort was then cooled with our new monster immersion chiller, and then inoculated with a blend of a clean german ale strain, lactobacillus, and brettanomyces.This should be ready to drink by late spring and should be fully matured by summer. A perfect refreshing low alcohol beer for a hot day.

I will be updating very soon. Lots of cool beer stuff happening lately!