Archive for February, 2011

200 Year Old brew found in shipwreck to be brewed again!

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011
Bottles pulled from a shipwreck prove to be the oldest drinkable brew yet found. Scientists are determined to bring it back! The local government of the Aland island chain where the wreck was found has commissioned the scientific study to unpick the beer’s original recipe. Full article.

What beer did the President serve at his Super Bowl Party? Homebrew.

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011
Along with several other microbrews, President Obama had the White House brew up a honey ale for the festivities brewed with honey collected from the White House bees (I didn’t know they had bees either. Does that make them The First Bees?). Truman put in a bowling alley, Obama serves homebrew. It seems a natural progression. Read more about the Presidential brew here.

Letters to a Young Brewer – Happy Accidents

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Rarely does a brew day go by with out something going wrong. Normally it’s small things that don’t make a difference such as misplacing a second thermometer or forgetting to retrieve a piece of gear from the closet. Other times it’s a real screw-up. New brewers can easily become discouraged by missing a particular temperature or not hitting their gravities, but as you move along in your experience, you find that these errors can increase your brewing knowledge as much as reading any brewing book or blog.

Last weekend I brewed a Caskadian Dark Ale. Since it has been several weeks since my last brew season, I figured I was going to have some rusty moments and I was not disappointed. I gathered my equipment and sanitized my gear, but as I began to collect my grain I realized that I was short 1.3 lbs of Munich malt. Considering there are only 3 specialty malts in the bill, this was going to be a problem. Munich adds a mildly sweet, malty characteristic that I use for base malt notes. Since I did have 0.7 lbs of Munich I decided to augment that with Victoy malt to make up the difference. Victory is a dryer, more nutty/biscuit flavor malt, but I thought that may add some interesting character to a roasty, big hop forward beer like this one. After tasting the wort, I think this may become a permanent change to the recipe.

The second, and far bigger problem came toward the end of my brew session. It turned out that I was not going to have enough time to do a proper wort chilling before I had to leave the house, so I decided to take a chance. I transferred the wort directly to the fermenters, then put them into my fermentation fridge and dropped the temp to 40 degrees. Upon returning 4 hours later, the fermenters were both hovering around 75 degrees. I reset the temp control to 66 degrees and pitched the yeast. Obviously, this was far from ideal, but the fermentation kicked in and is going strong. I wont know what will come of this batch for at least 4 weeks. I could have some lingering DMS flavors due to the slow cool-down, but I’m betting at it doesn’t throw it off too badly. In fact, each time something like this has happened and you read the “boogieman report” of worst case scenarios, you find that they seldom come to fruition. Some of this has to do with the size of the batch. Much of the worst case concerns come from information gathered from large scale brewing operations. These sorts of flaws don’t seem to scale down to the home brewer level with the same detectible results in the finished beer.

So what to make of this? While maintaining strict sanitation practices and being careful to keep bugs out of the wort is still essential for making great beer, overly fretting about brewing hazards and hitting exact numbers should be downplayed. I definitely keep notes on these discrepancies and missteps, they may point to practices you may want to change in future brew sessions, but sometimes they lead you on a road to a new bit of brewing technique or knowledge you may not have come to by other means. So don’t panic, keep notes and share your experience with other brewers. You may just find a technique that sets you apart!