Thursday, 23 October 2014

Where will you be November 1?

I know for most of my readers the asnwer will be "somewhere a long ways away from you", but for those in the London are (Ontario, not UK), you should by at Forked River Brewery for the annual "Learn To Brew" event. Myself and several other members of the London Homebrewers Guild will be at Forked River Brewing, where we will be brewing beer and showing the public how its done. Several methods of home brewing will be on display - BIAB, several different conventional mashing/lauter system, and so on. We'll be arriving early to set up our kit, with the doors to the brewery opening to the public at 11 AM - so come learn to brew, and take home some tasty craft beer when you are done!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Tasting Notes: 2014 Harvest Ale

A month ago I brewed a wet-hop ale using cascade hops I grew in my ya balard and a mix of 2-row, crystal 40 and chocolate malt. A month later and this beer has peaked. So how did it turn out?

Aroma: The cascade notes were not as strong as I expected; in their place is a more generic hop aroma. The normal citrus and resin notes are there, but faint. There is a clear malt note running along side the hops.

Appearance: I forgot to take a picture, but this beer is brown-red; a little darker than I had planned, but the red hue is quite enjoyable. The beer pours with a creamy white head that lasts the whole pint (and well into the second).

Flavour: This beer has a fatal flaw - in my planning of the beer I forgot what I was trying to implement. I like crystal malt character, and so I built a malt base to emphasize that - forgetting the goal was to let the fresh hops be the lead actor. The malt character is fantastic; a creamy beer with sweet crystal notes. But the crystal note is strong enough to hide some of the hop character - in another beer this would be a fantastic malty beer, but its not quite what I wanted. I also overshot the hops; as with the aroma the hop character doesn't scream "cascade", but instead is a mix of more generic hop tones, underlayed by a bit of an astringent vegetal character. I think that vegetal character is a sign that the amounts of hops I added was excessive, meaning next year I may drop 100g or so of the wet hops from the hop bill.

Mouthfeel: This is spot-on. Medium bodied, medium carbonation and smooth on the tongue. Dead-on for any sort of English-style pale ale or stronger bitter, but a bit more malty than the American variants.

Overall: This is a really, really good beer. Malty, good balance of bitterness and maltiness. Eminently drinkable, pint after pint. Aside from the mild vegetal character there isn't much to detract from this beer...except for the fact that the very character I was aiming to emphasize (fresh hop flavours and aromas) have been swamped by an overly aggressive malt bill. The fix here is simple - brew this beer using English hops to make a killer pale ale...and design a different recipe for next years harvest ale.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Upgrading a Costco Kegorator

I'm not sure how far Costco has penetrated into the regions of the world where I have blog readers, but my Canadian and US audience at least can appreciate the wonder and the horror that is Costco. Big warehouse store, which sometimes carries the odd gem. I know many brewers bought the Danby Kegorator that Costco carries one or so a year. I bought mine in the summer of 2012, and two years later have made a number of upgrades that I think greatly improve this fridge. These could be applied to any kegorator or keezer, so I hope you find them useful. Click for larger images

This is an obvious one - the kegorator fits two corney kegs (pin locks and ball locks fit). So a two-tap tower is a fairly obvious upgrade. Not shown here is making sure you beverage lines are 3-4 m (10-12') long will help provide smooth pours.
I always struggled with my long beverage lines getting in the way. Coiling them with pull-ties helped a little, but it turns out the real secret to getting your lines out of the way is a couple of feet of 3-conductor wire left over from a reno (yellow, more obvious in then full-sized image). First, wrap a bit of the wire around the coiled beverage lines, and then make a small "hook" at the end of the wire - this will let you hang the lines against the cold-plate, hooking into any of the multiple convenient cut-outs in the cold plate.
A gas manifold greatly aids in controlling CO2 flow to your kegs.
But wait...why a 3-way manifold?

Adding a 3rd line to the manifold, along with a MFL connection, allows for a "special uses" line. In my case I have three ends - a ball-lock gas-in for use with a carbonation cap or if a friend brings over a ball-lock keg, a pin-lock gas-in for purging the headspace of a filled keg or temporarily hooking up a 3rd keg, and a liquid-out pin-lock for purging kegs prior to filling and for use during carbonation (to bubble the CO2 through the beer)
Of course, no kegorator would be complete with some custom tap handles.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Thor's Hammer - Norse Porter

Todays brew is a blast from the past - a recipe which I developed way back in 1998, and which was my most brewed beer (or, at least, base-recipe) for the better part of 10 years. This beer goes back even farther - in the early 90's there wasn't much of a craft beer scene in Western Canada, but this one beer store used to bring in the odd European beer. There was this porter, from Norway, they'd bring in a couple of times a year - the name was unpronounceable (and long since forgotten), but it was good. In fact, it was the beer that started my love-affair with the porter style. Through a lot of trial-and-error (this was before there were many good online brewing resources) a friend and I managed to make a fairly respectable clone of the beer...but could never get it just right. We knew it was a baltic-style porter, and we did everything we could to learn about the style to find our error. One day a chance encounter with a Norwegian brewer online solved our problem - unlike most baltics, this brewery used an ale yeast instead of a lager yeast. Vola - the next batch was spot-on.

From there this brew evolved a lot - substituting English for noble hops, removing the darker malts, brewing an all-Munich/Vienna base malt version and the addition of cherries were all tested at one point or another - and each produced a fantastic beer.

Todays brew goes back to the first "eureka - we got it" recipe; the closest to cloning that one great beer that brought light to an otherwise fairly dark beer-decade.

EDIT: forgot to add, this brew makes use of the Nøgne Ø yeast, kindly provided by Sam of Eureka brewing (also, yeast #113, my commercial yeast bank). Historically I used the old wyeast Scandinavian ale yeast - which apparently was just goold ol' ringwood...

Recipe below the fold.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Its Cider Time!

A third of this years cider haul
Its early October, the evenings are starting to get cool, and the leaves on a few ambitious trees are starting to change colour. That can mean only one thing - its cider season! This year my brew-club arranged a buy from a local farmer, receiving in total 729 litres of fresh-pressed cider! This years cider was a mix of 5 or so apple types, and had a S.G. of 1.047 - on the higher end for ciders!

This year I am brewing 15 gal of cider, using three different recipes. The first is the same cider I brewed last year - simple, quick and fantastic. The second batch is an apple wine, its constitution girded with frozen apple juice concentrate and table sugar. The last is a brew for my wife - a wine/cider mix which will be stabilized & back-sweetened once fermentation & aging is complete.

L->R: Apple wine, Cider-Grape Cooler, Imperium Brettania
Front: Classical cider
Recipes & details below the fold...