I haven’t posted anything recently, primarily because I’ve been too busy and overwhelmed at work to have any free time to write.
Unfortunately, I’ve also been too busy to run.. and this is a ultramarathon blog.
I really miss running; it is the best thing for one’s physical and mental health and well-being. I guess until I start running again, I will try to write about other stuff.
Yesterday, I just assessed the inventory of my homebrew. All of my carboys are full. This is a serious problem. I can’t brew more until I open up some more fermentation space. I need to get some of this bottled or kegged.
Mead Fermenting or Aging In Carboys:
1) Pear Melomel– this will be dry and still- it was aged on medium-toast oak which has given it a delicious creamy vanilla and almost buttery character, which compliments the pear.
2) Raspberry Melomel– Honey and raspberries are a classic combination- this will be semisweet and still
3) Berry Pyment Melomel– I wanted to make something big and fruity- like a complex red wine. This will also be dry and still.
It is both a pyment because I used wine grapes and also a melomel because I used berries.
I was expecting it to be good so I made 10-gallons instead of the usual 5-gallon batch. It was made with the juice of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, Merlot grapes, Black Raspberries, Black Cherries, Black Currants, and Elderberries- plus our own home-raised honey of course. I aged it on medium toast oak.
So far, it IS good. I’m glad I made a ten gallon batch.
But it’s probably already down to only 9-gallons because of taste-testing.
4) Ginger Metheglin– my goal with this mead was to create a mead version of an extra spicy ginger ale- but with alcohol- so it will be for grown-ups only.
Right now, I have it aging in the secondary on about a pound of sliced fresh ginger roots. Once the ginger flavor is strong enough, I plan on adding lemon juice and then back-sweetening with honey.
It is a relatively low-alcohol for a mead- ABV only 7%- such a low alcohol mead is called a hydromel. Eventually I will keg it and carbonate it.
Beers Fermenting or Aging In Carboys:
That’s it for the meads in my carboys… I have the following beers in carboys…
5) IPA– This will be a stronger than usual version of an IPA, but not quite strong enough to call it a Double IPA. OG 1.070 I used Warrior hops for bittering and then Cenntenial, Citra and Simcoe for aroma.
Once primary fermentation is over, I will use Citra and Simcoe for dry-hopping.
6) Belgian Saison– this is the same recipe I’ve brewed 3 years in a row. I’ve won medals for it in homebrewing competitions. Although I frequently tinker with recipes in pursuit of an even better brew, my Saison recipe is the exception. I’ve continued to brew the same recipe unchanged because it is just so darn good.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Right?
I love the complexity of Belgian Saison yeast. OG 1.059
7) Kolsch– “the ale that’s like a lager.” I brew some version of Kolsch every year. It is a light, smooth crisp brew. It is a perfect beer to enjoy after weeding the garden on a warm summer afternoon. OG 1.048
On Tap and Drinkable Now…
8) Munich Helles– this is a light lager, it is somewhat lighter and less hoppy than the Kolsch. For years, I’ve struggled to brew a light lager that met my standards. They were good but just didn’t turn out as smooth as I intended them to be.
Finally I realized it was probably the water. Our well water is absolutely delicious right from the tap. It is great water for brewing dark beers such as porters and hoppy, malty beers such as IPAs. But our water is high in minerals and carbonates; which is something to be avoided when brewing lighter beers.
For this recipe, I used 70% distilled water. That seemed to do the trick.
I think I will use distilled or reverse osmosis water for all of my light lagers and ales from now on.
9) Bavarian Doppelbock– I have brewed some version of this recipe the last three years. Doppelbock is a malty dark high-alcohol lager.
One can only brew a true Doppelbock by using an all-grain recipe. The reason is because brewing a doppelbock requires a traditional brewing technique known as a “decoction brewing.”
A small amount of the mash (grain and water mixed together) is removed and then heated and boiled before returning back to the main mash. This caramelizes the mash somewhat and adds rich meaty flavors to the beer. Decoction brewing is much more time consuming and traditional brewing. One must also take care that the temperaturre of the main mash stays in target. If the mash is overheated, the naturally occurring amylase enzymes may get denatured before the starch is fully coverted to sugar- interfering with the success of the brew.
The first time I brewed this, I took my time and did five decoctions. Last year I was short of time (and I admit maybe a little bit impatient) so I did only three decoctions. Even though it still won a medal, I noticed a difference. This year I did five decoctions; I am much more pleased with the results.
Sometimes good things really do take time and cannot be rushed.
10) Raspberry Sour Weisse– I must confess: as a rule, I don’t like most fruit beers. They lack complexity and are often sweet and overly fruity for me.
If I want a beer, then I’ll have a beer.
On the other hand, if I want fruit, then I’ll have a glass of wine or a fruit mead, thank you.
However, I do love sour beers. Sour beers have become more trendy as of late. Some people love ’em and other people hate ’em. There seeems to be no middle ground. I’m in the former group. I LOVE sours.
Sours are more challenging to brew because they do not only use the beer yeast Sacchromyces cervisae but also wild yeast and bacteria, that can be less predictable and take more time. The tarness comes from lactic acid and other acids that are made by the wild yeast and bacteria- think sourdough but as a beer.
After having mastered every other brewing technique I finally mustered the courage to venture into making sours. I was cautious, not only did I not want to screw up and entire batch of beer, but I also didn’t want to accidentally infect all of my brew equipment and make 100% sour beers from now on.
For this beer I used a wheat beer recipe as my foundation. There is a sour beer category, “Berliner Weisse.” However, my recipe is technically out of style for a Berliner Weisse because that is a low alcohol beer- only aobut 3% ABV- whereas my beer is about 5%.
Using a sour mash technique (ever heard of sour mash whiskey?) I had read about in the book “The Complete Joy of Homebrewing,” I added Lactobacillus cultures and let it ferment at about 100 degrees for two days.
Lactobacillus is the same bacteria used to make yogurt- and that is what it smelled like- sour milk. Yuck!
The recipe cautioned to not become too distressed by the smell- and reassured me that it would go away with time- which it did.
I am very familiar with Lactobacillus, I use it when making yogurt and cheese. It is the exact same bacteria that makes Sauerkraut sour and which is also growing in my sourdough culture. Gotta love Lacto!
After the mash was suffiently sour to taste, I sparged and boiled the wort as usual.
I pitched an American Wheat yeast; I avoided Bavarian Wheat yeast because I didn’t think the banana-like esters would go well with the tart fruitness of a sour beer.
Once primary fermentation was done, I added 12 lbs of raspberries. It took about 8 months before it was ready to keg. It is still slightly cloudy but that is not considered a fault in a sour beer.
Although the Raspberry Sour Weisse is kegged, I have the beer line disconnected most of the time. This beer is SO darn good, it would be very easy to go back for seconds and thirds, and ending drinking the entire batch ourselves after a few months.
I’d really like to have some to share at our Oktoberfest. Thus, I only connect the beer line when drawing off a small glass and then disconnect it again.
11) Mosaic Dry-Hopped Hydromel– I love the complexity imparted into Belgian beers by the yeast. This character has been described as spicy, peppery, clove-like and earthy.
With this low-alcohol sparkling mead (hydromel), my goal was to create something remniscent of a thirst-quenching complex Belgian beer- to be enjoyed on a hot summer day- but which wasn’t actually a beer.
I used homegrown honey of course and fermented with Wyeast Belgian Ardennes yeast.
After primary fermentation was over, I added crushed coriander seed and orange peel- just like a Belgian Wit beer.
Then I dry-hopped using the Mosaic hop. Dry hopping is a technique of adding hops to the beer (in this case, the mead) after active fermentation is over. Dry hopping imparts the aroma of the hops but without adding much bitterness, compared to if the hops were boiled. Because there is no maltiness in a mead to balance the bitterness of hops, I decided to dry-hop.
The Mosaic hop is a newer variety of hop known for its complex fruity aroma which has been described as having mango, lemon, citrus, earthy pine, tropical fruit, herbal and stone fruit notes.
The Mosaic Dry-Hopped Hydromel turned out better than expected. It’s really good and quite unlike any mead I’ve ever brewed before. The Belgian yeast and complex hop aroma seem to blend together well.
I have hopes for winning future medals with this mead.
So that’s it for my current inventory. I do have a variety of meads in the bottle from previous years, as well as my Black Magic Double Imperial Stout.
To my surprise, I won three medals at the Mazer Cup this spring (A Gold and two Bronzes). The Mazer Cup is the international competition for both home and commercial mead-makers. I will write more about that in anothe post.
So what am I thinking about making in the future? Hard to say. I have a few ideas.
The second most fun part of homebrewing is creating and perfecting recipes. (The most fun part is sharing with friends and enjoying a glass yourself).
I have the ingredients and have created a recipe for making a Sour Cherry Braggot. A Braggot is a mead made with barley malt- think of a beer/mead hybrid.
To make this recipe even more complicated than brewing a traditional braggot, I’m planning on making it another sour using the Wyeast Roeselare Ale Blend culture #3763 . This Lambic style culture consists of a blend of yeast/bacteria cultures including Belgian style ale yeast strain, a sherry yeast strain, two Brettanomyces strains, a Lactobacillus culture, and a Pediococcus culture. It will take 1 to 2 years before it is ready. Good things come to those who wait.
Fermenting a sour mead is not commonly done- why shouldn’t I be one of those few who do? I love mead and I love sour beers- I expect that a sour braggot will combine the best of both.
However, I cannot brew this recipe or any others until I bottle and/or keg some of my current stock. I don’t have any more empty carboys to ferment and age them in.
Yes, it is a difficult situation: too many ideas of future brews to make, with too few carboys to store them in.
I guess another option could be to just go out and buy another carboy… or two or three… But our house is already full of carboys lined up in rows and tucked into spare corners.
I think bottling and kegging it will be…
Until next time, be well.