Archive for April, 2011

Hop Maddness! -or- There Are Other Kinds of Beer, You Know!

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Hop Monster!Mrs. Brewer does not like extra hoppy beer. She’ll drink a Sierra Nevada, but that’s about as far as it goes for the hops. IPAs are right out. So about every third brew session I try to make something that she would like. Now this doesn’t mean I brew her nothing but blond ales or pilsners, she’s actually quite fond of ambers and reds, or anything more malty than bitter. For this round, I chose to make a Dusseldorf-style Altbeir. I mentioned this in post a while back and I bring it up here to illustrate that once you’ve hopped yourself into alpha acid nirvana, there await a massive variety of complex, enjoyable beers that don’t rely on a five-addition hop schedule for their flavor profile.

This is in no way to disparage hop-heads, since I’m one of them. This is about rounding out your pallet and by extension, your understanding of malt character. In the same way you play with hops in the boil to create different levels of bitterness and aroma, so too can you play with grains in the mash tun to promote certain malt characteristics. Brewing TV just did an outstanding show on decoction mashing. I’ve always been shy of doing a decoction because even after reading serveral articles about it, I just didn’t get it from a step-by-step perspective. Now after being shown how, I plan to do a full decoction soon, because I love the rich character and flavor of dark lagers. Again, not a hop-centric beer at all, but one rich in complex malt characters.

But you need not extend your brew day by a few hours to get some of these types of flavors and character from your grain bed. You can do some simple infusion mashing by mashing in at a low temp like the low 140s for twenty minutes, then stepping it up to the mid 150s by either adding some hot water to your mash tun, or even pulling some of the wort and heating that up to the desired temperature, then pouring it back in. In this way, you can maintain your mash thickness. Either way, you then let the mash coast to your normal 60 minute rest period and then sparge as usual. This will get you a more fermentable wort with the added bonus of increasing the more complex sugar strains that will add richness to the finished beer. Give it a shot with one of the beers you normally brew with a single-infusion. You’ll taste a real difference!

So let the hops chill in the freezer once in a while and mess with your malt! It’s worth it!

Pardon the Interruption

Friday, April 15th, 2011

The blog was down for a few days due to a misunderstanding between me and my host provider. I misunderstood that they wanted money and they understood that to mean, “shut down the blog”. I have corrected the misunderstanding and this shouldn’t happen for 24 months when I again forget to pay them… circle of life.

That said, I’m brewing this weekend! I don’t quite know what I’m in for, but I’m on my way to the homebrew shop at lunch. I’m thinking a lighter summertime ale… or something with a ton of hops… haven’t made up my mind.

Lagunitas – Little Sumptin’ Sumptin’ Ale

Friday, April 8th, 2011

The summer beers are beginning to hit the shelves in numbers now. I don’t normally look forward to this quite as much as I do with the fall/winter seasonals, just because summer beers tend to be more about restraint and drinkability. While there’s nothing wrong with that, per se, it tends to be a little less fun to write about. That is, until you crack a Little Sumptin’ Sumptin’ from Lagunitas. I tend not to be a fan of wheat beers. They’re so often too sweet, or almost hollow, with odd flavors that just don’t sit well with me. Some of it has to do with the fact that wheat beers are not meant to sit around and age and are prone to going stale quickly. But this beer is far away from all that. It’s packed full of all the “C” hops, but all done for aroma, which is huge on this beer. The bitterness is evident, but balanced and the wheat gives it a really smooth texture. There’s some caramel and roasty flavors to it as well, which I think is what gives it that depth that I find missing in most wheat beers. These are a bit dangerous at 7.3% ABV because you can really down ’em, but that’s just as it should be with a summer beer. Little Sumptin’ Sumptin’ is definitely at the top of my list for the summer music festivals this year!

The Point of it All

Monday, April 4th, 2011

This is my 100th post, so it got me thinking about why I brew? It just so happens that I am currently fermenting a Alt Bier. That has some significance to me because the very first craft beer I ever had was a St. Stan’s Virgin Amber Ale – their alt bier. St. Stan’s is a brewery in Modesto, CA, where I grew up. Before walking in the door for the first time in 1993, I had never had a craft beer and had no idea what a brewpub was. Suffice it to say that it made an impact on me. Sadly, St. Stan’s is a shadow of its former self, but in it’s glory it was a great brewpub. It had 5 to 7 house ales on tap at any time, which included a seasonal, and by my recollection, they were all very good. At this time, I had no idea what homebrewing was. My second “awakening” came in my second year at Cal Poly.

Some time in 1995, my roommate came home one evening with a 3.5 gallon stockpot, some buckets and what looked to me like 50 yards of tubing. He never actually brewed a single beer on that thing – he was a bit impulsive with hobbies – but I now knew you could make this stuff at home! When I moved to San Francisco in 1999, I was just across Golden Gate Park from San Francisco Brewcraft, my first home local homebrew shop. I started brewing in order to brew beers that I wanted to drink. I started brewing clones of my favorite beers and later formulating my own recipes. But from that first day at SF Brewcraft it was on! I’ve been brewing ever since and rarely a month goes by without at least a 10 gallon batch of something in the fermenters. I love this hobby and still learn something new each time I set up and brew. So there you have it, my 100th post and a little walk down memory lane (at least for me). Happy brewing everyone! Thanks for reading!