Mood’s Farm Butterbean Cyser (2015)

This is one of the four fermentations that came from this years haul from moods farm. I wanted to create a sack mead with a fair amount of residual sweetness. To accomplish this I chose a wine yeast with a low alcohol tolerance. In order to create a mead that I can drink in a few months, I chose to do staggered nutrient additions. I chose to use Butterbean since it is one of my favorite meads, and I was curious what it’s soft and mellow character would do for the cyser.

  • 1 Gallon of Mood’s Farm Cider
  • 3 Lb Butterbean Honey from Harvey’s Honey
  • 1/2 tsp Pectic Enzyme
  • Nutrients: 1 g Fermaid K & 0.5 g DAP in 4 increments
  • 1 Campden Tablet
  • Yeast: Cote des Blanc (2 Packs)

Process: After sanitizing all equipment, I poured the cider into the fermenting carboy. I then heated my honey in hot water to allow it to become less viscous. I then mixed thoroughly and added my Pectic Enzyme / Campden Tablets. I then left the mixture covered with a paper towel and rubber bands. The next day I pitched 2 packets of yeast hydrated with Go-Ferm. I then added the first round of nutrients, but made a bit of a mistake and substituted Yeast Energizer for the Fermaid K. I continued this process of adding nutrients and degassing. After 2 weeks I racked from the brewing bucket into the secondary fermenter. (TO BE CONTINUED)

Mood’s Farm Wildflower Cyser (2015)

This is one of the 4 fermentations that came from this years haul of cider from moods farm. My goal was to create a dry mead and possibly back sweeten one gallon, spice or oak one gallon, and keep one gallon dry as a control. By trying different methods I can create 3 different meads from a single batch and experiment with techniques to see which one I like best for future batches.

  • 3 Gallons Moods Farm Cider
  • 5 Lb Wild Flower Honey from Harvey’s Honey
  • 1 1/2 tsp Pectic Enzyme
  • Nutrients: 4.5 g Fermaid K & 2 g DAP in 4 increments
  • 3 Campden Tablets
  • Yeast: Wyeast 4184 Sweet Mead & EC-1118 (3 Packs)

Process: After sanitizing all equipment, I poured the cider into the fermenting carboy. I then heated my honey in hot water to allow it to become less viscous. I then mixed thoroughly and added my Pectic Enzyme / Campden Tablets. I then left the mixture covered with a paper towel and rubber bands. The next day I pitched a packet of wyeast sweet mead yeast. Unfortunately after 24 hours, I saw no activity. I then pitched 3 packs of EC-1118 that I hydrated with Go-Ferm. Every other day I either added nutrients or degassed by swirling the carboy. After 2 weeks I racked into a 3 gallon carboy and did some degassing using a vacuum pump. When trying the cider, it tasted very pleasant with a hint of honey although it was a bit boozy. (TO BE CONTINUED)

Dunkelweizen

Hefeweizen has become a very popular style among craft beer drinkers. Many breweries have at least a seasonal hefeweizen available on draft or in the bottle. However, there is a is a darker, more sinister, cousin of hefeweizen that many people have never even heard of… the dunkelweizen.

Lets break Dunkelweizen down. Dunkel is German for dark and Weizen is German for wheat. Put them together and you get a Dark Wheat Beer. One key component to brewing a dunkelweiss is producing a beer that has a dark color combined with rich malty flavor. We can accomplish this through a number of methods, but I recommend utilizing a bend of various high lovibond malts. This will not only give a darker color, but will also create an interesting malt profile. Next we have to think about the weizen component to this beer. I personally prefer a near 50:50 ratio of wheat malt to barley malt but this is again about personal preference. One thing to remember is that the more wheat you have, the more challenging your sparge will be. Although it may be overkill, I like to use 1 pound of rice hulls in my wheat beers. I can say that when I use high amounts of rice hulls, I never get a stuck sparge.

This brew makes an excellent beer for the fall. It has the excellent banana and clove aromas that hefeweizen is redound for, but it has a more rich malty note that makes it perfect for colder weather. This is an excellent transition between the light beers of summer to the dark beers of winter.


Recipe: Dunkelweizen

This is a highly malty, rich beer with a beautiful hint of chocolate. It balances the banana and spice of a German wheat with the complex malt and dark sugar notes of a dark Belgian ale.This particular version is heavy in the darker malts, giving a plum and raisin flavor.

DunkelweissOG: 1.051 —- FG: 1.0** —- ABV: *.*%

Recipe: 5 Gallons

  • 5 Lb Red Wheat Malt
  • 4 Lb German Pilsner Malt
  • 1 Lb Dark Munich
  • 4 oz Carafa I
  • 4 oz Special B
  • 4 oz Crystal 90
  • 1 Lb Rice Hulls
  • 0.75 oz Hallertau (4.5% aa) at 90 min

Yeast: Mangrove Jack Wheat

Fermented at Room Temperature for 12 days, Kegged and Forced Carbonated

Quick Brews and Fast Ferments

There are many times when you just say…. “F$*K It”, I just don’t feel like brewing today… but I really need a new beer on draft.  At other times you think… “Oh S&*T” I promised a keg of beer for the party next week. We have all been there, but there is no need to let the trifling matters of laziness and lack of time stop the production of delicious beer. There are a number of ways that you can make a great beer without a lot of work or time. The key is being clever, and determining the strategic short cuts you can take in the brewing and fermenting process.

Fifteen Minute Brews

I first came across the idea of a 15 minute homebrew while watching basic brewing radio. The idea is as simple as it is brilliant. Since malt extract has been pre-boiled, it is not necessary to do a full boil. Considering this fact, a 60 minute extract boil more or less superfluous for most beers. The big limiting factor in the fifteen minute boil is the hop utilization. The long and the sort is that your bitterness extraction will decrease with more sugar in your wort. On top of this, with a 15 minute boil, you will get significantly less alpha acid utilization than you would during a 60 minute boil. There are a number of ways to compensate for this, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. The first is to do a full boil at around 5.25 gallon starting volume. With the full boil, you will extract more bitterness from your hops but you will will have to spend more time in your brew day heating up and cooling down the wort. The alternative is simply adding more hops or higher alpha hops to boost your alpha acids. The down side to this method is the increased amount of money you will have to spend on hops. In my opinion the best option is a combination of the two methods. A 4 gallon boil is a very good middle ground between increased utilization and decreased overall cost of hops.

One Week Turn Around

I think we have all experienced times when we want to have a beer on hand but are faced with very limited amounts of time to make it. Its during these occasions that fast fermenting beers are our best bet. Generally speaking, fast fermenting beers are low alcohol beers. The less sugar there is for the yeast to ferment, the faster they will finish their project. Additionally, low sugar and low alcohol environments put significantly less stress on yeast, allowing them to ferment even more efficiently. When your looking for a beer with a quick turn around, look for something with a starting gravity of around 1.040 or less. Many styles can be brewed at either a low or high starting gravity, so there is quite a bit of room for low alcohol beers in several categories. Some examples of fast fermenting beers are: Ordinary Bitter, Mild, Scottish Light, Irish Stout, Cream Ale, Blonde Ale, Gratzer, and Trappist Single. On top of this, you could always make a “session” version of any beer style, your creativity is the only limiting factor.

Not only is it important to pick an appropriate style of beer, its necessary to treat the beer properly. There are a number of ways that you can ensure a healthy and fast fermentation. The first is ensuring that your beer has ample nutrients. You can do this by adding… you guessed it, yeast nutrient. Pick your preferred nutrients and add them as per the instructions. The next step is proper oxygenation. Yeast need oxygen in order to stay healthy, so don’t skimp when adding your O2. With the wort nutrient dense and full of oxygen, its time to pitch the yeast. Going with more yeast will give you a more rapid fermentation, but there is a limit. Don’t go over 4 packets of yeast, as this could take away from the overall flavor of the yeast. Finally, there is the question of temperature. Generally in chemistry it is understood that the higher the temperature, the faster the reaction (I know chemists, this is a gross simplification, get over it). This same idea works in brewing, and higher temperatures lead to faster fermentation. Unfortunately we need to deal with the nasty byproduct of off flavors. As tempting as it is to ratchet up the temperature to 90 degrees and let it rip, this would most likely make a highly undrinkable beer (but… what about a session saison…. think about it). I would recommend looking on your yeast’s web page and find out what the highest temperature your yeast can handle and use that a starting point.


Recipe: Quick Second English Bitter

This beer is a great recipe to brew if your in a rush and need a fast fermenter. The key to this brew is the low alcohol and punch of hop flavor. It makes a very easy drinking bitter, with delicate hop notes and a solid bite of bitterness. This recipe is based on Michael Dawson’s Boat Bitter. It’s best enjoyed with good company and simple food. 

English BitterOG: 1.041 – FG: 1.008 – 4.3% ABV

Recipe: 4.5 Gallons (Originally Designed for 5 gallons)

  • 7 Lb Marris Otter
  • 1 oz East Kent Golding (15 min)
  • 0.5 oz UK Brambling Cross (10 min)
  • 0.5 oz UK Brambling Cross (5 min)
Yeast: Mangrove Jack Burton Union

Resources

Lavender Hill Cider and Applewine

Lavender Hill Apple TreeI am extraordinarily lucky to have an aunt who has an apple tree on her farm. I’m additionally blessed that she has no interest in using the apples from her tree. The story goes that the previous owner of her farm planted the tree in order to make wine. I am not sure if he ever achieved this dream, but I am happy to take up his mantle. The tree sits in the middle of what used to be a pig pen. It hasn’t been attended too for several years and has been allowed to grow more or less wild. My aunt admitted that she has not sprayed the tree, so it is just about as organic as you can get. With all of this in mind, I started my journey by picking the apples from the tree.

2015 Apple HarvesAs I was collecting apples from the gnarled old tree, positioning my precariously placed ladder to pick the best fruit, I felt connected to the spirit of cider making. When you are not only juicing the apples, but actually picking the apples from the tree, you are truly starting from scratch and taking the cider into your own hands. On that day I was able to collect about 60 lb of fruit. I was unable to pick from the highest branches, but still felt good about my yield. From what I had read on line, you will get approximately 1 gallon of cider from 15 lb of apples, so I was looking at around 4 gallons of potential juice.

IMG_3128Upon arriving home with my haul, I had to determine how I would extract the juice from my apples. Unfortunately, I do not have a cider press handy, so I had to be creative with my extraction. From a previous health food kick, I had a juicer handy and decided that it would be the best way to extract my cider. With the help of my friend Kevin, I was able to  juice around 1.5 gallons of cider… until the motor died on juicer. After a moderate amount of cursing and general messing around with the juicer, I gave up and decided to try another method. I took my handy food processor and shredded my apples. I then “hand” pressed them in my fruit bag (the nylon bag I use for the pulp when brewing fruit wine). With one of us holding the bag and the other squeezing, we were able to extract a good amount of juice from the pulp. IMG_3127While this method worked, I would recommend working with the juicer to avoid some headache and aid in your yield. One note is that the cider produced from the juicer was more tannic and structured than that produced by the fruit bag method. Since tannin is what gives backbone to cider, I was happy to have this component in my juice. Finally, after Kevin went home for the evening, I was able to get the juicer working again and finished extracting the juice.

With my juice in hand, I had to decide what to make with it. Since I may not have the opportunity to ferment from whole apples again this year, I wanted to brew at least 2 different apple beverages. After waffling between English cider, Wild cider, French cider, New world cider, New England cider, Cyser, Applewine, Ice cider, and Graff; I settled on a simple new world style cider and a classic applewine. After tasting the juice I decided that the apples were somewhere between sharp and bitter sharp variety (For more information on Apple Varieties Click HERE). I was elated at this discovery, since it meant that I would not have to tinker too much with acidity and tannin.

New World CiderFor my cider, I went with my classic cider fermentation process which I have used in the past with quite a bit of success. Two and a half gallons were dedicated to this half of the project. I pasteurized the juice with 2 1/2 campden tablets, while adding 1 1/4 teaspoons of yeast energizer and 1 1/4 teaspoons of Pectic Enzyme. I transferred to the carboy and allowed the sulfate gasses to disperse for 24 hours. I then pitched 1 packet of belle saison yeast. While this is not a classic strain to use in a cider, I wanted to give the cider a bit of a unique funk. Additionally, I wanted this to cider to ferment quickly and clear rapidly, so this yeast fits the bill perfectly. The plan is to rack to secondary after 2 weeks, then bottle to approximately 2.75 Volumes of CO2 in Champagne bottles.

applewineFor my applewine, I decided to follow the basic instructions from EC Kraus with a few changes. Instead of using Cane Sugar, I went with Corn Sugar in order to dampen the possible off flavors of the latter sugar. Additionally, I decided to let the acidity and tannin stay where they were and not add any additional acid or wine tannin. If later on I find that the tannin is too low, I will put the wine on oak or add some liquid wine tannin. I pitched Lavlin EC-1118, a yeast which has a very good reputation in both dry white wines and ciders. The goal is to rack to secondary after 2 weeks, age for a month, dose with metabisulfite and sorbate, age for 2 more weeks, then bottle.

I think that what this project has taught me is how easy it is to make cider, even if you are starting from scratch. Lets be honest, our ancestors fermented this beverage successfully with much less equipment and far fewer resources than we have today. If they could make some refreshing cider, there is no reason why we cant do the same. Go out, find a friend with an apple tree, and do your best to make some tasty cider.

Pursuing the Perfect Pumpkin Beer

The Great PumpkinWith Halloween and Thanksgiving around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about homebrew for the holidays. For me, the perfect beer for this time of year is a solid pumpkin ale. It encompasses the spirit of the changing seasons and makes a perfect transition from my light summer sippers to my hearty winter ales. But what makes a good pumpkin beer? I think we all know it when we taste it. There is a strong malt backbone, a thick rich body, restrained sweetness, solid pumpkin taste, and a just a hint of spice. So, how do you get those characteristics in your beer?

It’s all about that Base

beer_flightsA great beer always needs a great base recipe, and pumpkin beers are no exception. You can load it up with pumpkin, get the ideal spice mix, and ferment to perfection, but if you have a bad recipe your beer will never be great. You have a bit of choice in the style of beer you want to start with. While a nice amber beer is the classic base for pumpkin beers, there is no need to stay within that guide line. In the past, I have made pumpkin porters, saisons, and barley wines. There are only a few guidelines I would recommend when picking your pumpkin beer’s style. First is to avoid styles which over accentuate hops, such as pale ales and IPAs. These are great styles on their own, but they can clash with the pumpkin flavor. Additionally I would avoid any beer where the style demands a sterilely clean flavor, such as pilsner or helles, where pumpkin might show up as a perceived flaw. Finally, stay away from beers that demand overly estery yeasts (bubble gum and pumpkin… yum!). Other than these three “rules” any beer is fair game for pumpkin beer. I am personally more attached to  the classic amber ale, but it all depends on your taste.

When choosing a grist, you can start to have some fun. Pumpkin beers provide an excellent template to experiment with some of the more unusual malts. For a crusty type flavor to add to your beer, consider using biscuit malt. If you want a sweeter flavor, use some lighter malts such as Crystal 10 and 20. Smoked malts such as cherry wood and mesquite can lend a phenolic edge to your beer. finally, something like special B can imbue the beer with rich dark flavors.

Perfect Portion of Pumpkin

Here comes your next big choice in planning your pumpkin beer, fresh pumpkin vs canned pumpkin. This debate is really about personal preference and, let’s be honest, how lazy you are. Canned pumpkin, while considered by many to be the “cheater” method, but it actually yields very nice results. Not only will this allow you to skip hours of tedious labor, but it also eliminates the risk of a bad product. It’s important to remember that pumpkins are an agricultural product and flavors definitely vary from patch-to-patch and as a result your beer will vary from batch-to-batch. Canned pumpkin, as a processed and homogenized product, eliminates some of this risk. The most important thing to remember is to pick a product with no preservatives as this which can interfere with your yeast. Now, if you want to be hard-core and make your pumpkin puree from scratch, you have to keep a couple of things in mind. The first is your choice in pumpkin. Make sure to choose a pumpkin which is designed for pumpkin pie or savory dishes. This means that your kid’s carving pumpkin is not going to fit the bill. There are many varieties of pumpkin which can be used, but a few of the easiest to find are sugar pumpkins, cheese pumpkins, and cinderella pumpkins. A full list of pumpkin varieties can be found HERE. Now comes time to roasting your gourd, a good simple technique is to split the pumpkin, remove the guts, and bake face down in a 400 degree oven for about 30-45 minutes (till a knife easily pierces the flesh). Next scrape out the flesh and add it to your mash or boil. The key here is the roasting of the pumpkin, allowing for caramelization and maillard reactions. I would recommend staying away from uncooked pumpkin, since raw pumpkin can be sharp and give a very vegetable like flavor.

One of the biggest mistakes a pumpkin beer brewer can make is adding too little pumpkin to their beer. Pumpkin has a very subtle flavor and can be easily lost in beer. Many people take this to mean that there is no point in adding pumpkin and instead focus on the pumpkin spice. Now, a great beer can be made with spices alone, but with a little bit more effort you can have both rich pumpkin flavor and complex spicy notes. The key is adding ample pumpkin to your beer. My personal minimum is 1 lb of pumpkin per gallon of beer, but I would not be opposed to adding much more. The timing of pumpkin additions is also crucial. Pumpkin can be added to the mash, the boil, and during fermentation; each one of these additions gives a different aspect of pumpkin flavor. I personally prefer to made additions during the mash and the boil and skip the fermentation addition. This is more due to a personal hang up on infection risk rather than a disbelief in the efficacy of the addition. At the very least, I would recommend adding pumpkin to both the mash and the boil.

Spice up your Life

One of the factors which can really make or break a pumpkin beer is the choice and ratio of spices. Of course the easiest method is to pick up a pre-made spice mix. One thing you get with a pre-made mix is consistency, so you can easily replicate the results time and time again. McCormick makes a very nice pumpkin pie spice mix with the classic cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice. While this is definitely an acceptable method, part of the fun of home brewing is experimentation with flavor. Creating your own spice mixture allows you to think outside the box and create something unique. The classic pumpkin pie spice mix is Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, and Allspice usually in a 12:4:4:1 ratio. That being said, there is no need to stick to this mix. If you like more of a hot/spicy then kick ramp up your ginger. If you’re into a deep nutty flavor, then make nutmeg your number one spice. Now, just because these are the classic spices, it doesn’t mean that you can’t go wild raiding the spice drawer. Vanilla complements pumpkin beer very well, giving a great mellow backbone. Fresh “raw” ginger gives a more sharp and vivacious note to your brew. You can even go hog-wild and try fenugreek, which gives a maple syrup like note to your beer. My only word of caution is to use moderation with your spices. Too many spices can give you a muddled flavor that brings your beer from complex to over complicated. My suggestion would be to stick with 4-5 spices at most and experiment with one variable at a time.

Sources definitely vary in the amount of spice which is appropriate to use in your batch. Some people say 1 teaspoon while others use as much as 1 tablespoon. One of the most important things to remember is that you can’t take the spice out once it is in. A safe amount would be 1 teaspoon but up to 1/2 tablespoon would still be reasonable. If you are uncertain about the amount of spice you want, start small and work your way up. Remember, you can always add more spice later!

Personally, I am highly conservative with my spices, since a heavy hand can ruin a beer. Unfortunately, too little spice can also lead to a less than desirable beer. One way to remedy this situation is to make a tincture to add post fermentation. Simply take your preferred spice mix and add it to vodka, then allow it to soak for around 2 weeks. Once the flavor has been extracted, simply add as much of it to your beer as you like. Using the tincture method allows for more precise control over your beer and can decrease the risk of a disappointing brew. You can find an article on making tinctures HERE.

Thinking Outside of the Gourd

Now, here is where things get interesting. Once you have established your base beer, you have a number of different options ahead of you. One very popular technique is fermenting inside of a pumpkin. The theory behind this is that you will be extracting even more “pumpkin” flavor. In my opinion (which is by no means the final word on the subject) is that this presents more problems than benefits. For one, the control over microbes is pitiful in this technique and you have the recipe for a nasty infection. Secondly, raw and uncooked pumpkin has a very sharp and vegetal taste which will do little for your beer. If you are interested in the novelty of using a whole pumpkin, I would suggest serving your homebrew in a pumpkin. This is technique is both fun, safe (for your beer), and can even add some extra complexity if you flame the inside of the pumpkin. A very good article on making a pumpkin cask can be found HERE.

Another option you have at this point is the addition of oak to your beer. Oak, with its rich vanilla and roasted flavors blends wonderfully with pumpkin and pumpkin spice. If you are only making a small amount of beer, I would suggest going with simple oak chips. While these cheap little guys are very one-dimensional in taste, their cost outweighs their simplicity, especially on a small scale. For the pumpkin beer connoisseur, I would suggest oak cubes or spirals. With a larger amount of surface area and greater selection of styles to choose from, these oak products are perfect for those who want some serious oak in their pumpkin beer. Finally, If  you are lucky enough to find a bourbon barrel or just freaking love pumpkin beer, an oak barrel is the perfect vessel to hold your brew. I would suggest saving the full barrel for a high gravity or imperial pumpkin beer since a longer time will be required to extract the most out of the barrel. As a rule of thumb on oak, the higher the toast provides more smoke and vanilla while the lighter the oak will provides butterscotch and coconut flavor. American oak is more aggressive in flavor, while French oak has a more subtle tone.

Finally, and possibly most controversially, you can consider using something other than pumpkin in your pumpkin beer. “Gasp, you blasphemer!” says the crowed. Alright, hear me out on this one. Pumpkin is a great gourd, but it is far from the most flavorful species in the squash family. In fact, the pie industry caught on to this and actually makes many of its so called “pumpkin pies” from butternut squash. I know how you feel, but the sense of betrayal will soon wear off. Going outside of the pumpkin can be a bit intimidating, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. Good substitutions for pumpkin include sweet potato and butternut squash. Give it a try some times and when people ask what makes your pumpkin beer so flavorful, just give a wink and say its your secret ingredient.


Recipe: Pumpkin Beer

This is my most recent attempt at a pumpkin beer. I loaded up the pumpkin and used ample amounts of pumpkin spice. I used a classic amber base and mashed at higher temperatures to give some residual sweetness.

OG: 1.052 – FG: 1.0## – #.#% ABV

  • 9 lb Marris OtterBeholdthepumpkin
  • 1 lb Crystal 60
  • .75 lb Crystal 90
  • .5 lb Flaked Wheat
  • 10 lb Pumpkin Puree (1/2 in Mash, 1/2 in Boil in the last 5 minutes)
  • 0.75 oz Willamette (60 min)
  • 1 oz Mount Hood 30 min
  • 0.25 Willamette 15 min
  • 1/2 oz Pumpkin Spice Flame Out
Yeast: Wyeast 1272 American Ale II (With a 1 liter starter)
Notes: I mashed at 155 for 1 hour to provide more body and residual sugars. Mash was a bit sticky so I added some rice hulls in order to aid in lautering.

Resources

Tincture Brewing

IMG_2866First off, what is a tincture? A tincture is simply an infusion of a spice or herb in an alcoholic solution. Traditionally these were used for medical purposes, extracting and preserving the healing properties of herbs and spices for use at a later time. A happy extension of this practice is the infused alcohol which we enjoy in cocktails (think rosemary infused vodka martini or the infamous Jägermeister). For our purposes as brewers, we can use these tinctures to improve our homebrew. Tinctures allow a quick, precise, and relatively easy way of adding a unique and exciting boost of flavor to your beer.

Advantages of Tinctures

Tinctures provide the home brewer with a number of distinct advantages over simply adding the flavoring agents to the beer. Firstly, tinctures allow for a precise amount of control over the amount of flavor added. When added at the end of fermentation or before bottling, the brewer can add small amounts of a tincture and taste the beer with each addition. This prevents the risk of adding too much or too little flavor and can cater the taste exactly to your personal preferences.

The next great advantage is the reduced risk of infection. While many herbs and spices, hops included, have inherent antimicrobial properties, there are still some which may harbor bacteria. By soaking your flavor addition in an alcoholic solution, you are significantly reducing the chances of a rogue microbe getting into your beer. The alcohol not only extracts flavor but sanitizes at the same time.

The final great advantage is the shorter time frame associated with tinctures. This is especially true when working with oak. When aging on oak, the time required for full extraction can be along the lines of months to even years. On the other hand, you can make an oak tincture (with either vodka or bourbon) and have it ready for addition within 2 weeks time. While it is true that this can take away from some of the complexity associated with oak, its time advantage can definitely outweigh this disadvantage.

What Spices/Herbs to Use

Any spice or herb can be used as a tincture. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the flavor of your tincture should compliment the beer you put it in. While sage may be delicious in a saison or Belgian wit, its flavors may clash with a malty porter. I’ve outlined a number of spices/herbs you may want to try, and the beers that they could go very well with.

  • Sage: With a fresh yet potent aroma, sage screams out spring. It makes an excellent addition to saisons and Belgian wits but I would recommend using it with a light hand as it’s flavor can get overpowering very quickly.
  • Rosemary: This is one of my favorite herbs and it lends itself very well to beer. I personally enjoy using rosemary in my saisons, but I could see it being an excellent addition to a Belgian golden ale or possibly even a dry cream ale.
  • Mugwort: Said to ward off evil spirits and promote vivid dreams, this unique herb possess a sage like aroma and intense bittering potential. This is one of the ancient bittering herbs used for gruits. Try it today ind rich porters or northern English brown ales.
  • Heather: This herb is common to the Scottish highlands and was commonly used in old school scotch ales. With the high taxes associated with hops (usually grown in more southern climates) the Scotts often turned to this bitter herb to mellow out the malt in their beers. Heather possesses floral and earthy notes. Try adding a tincture of heather to your next scotch ale.
  • Cinnamon: This favorite spice can be found in almost every pantry across America. Obviously cinnamon imparts a cinnamon type flavor, but what many people don’t realize is that cinnamon lends a unique spicy heat to the beers it is put in. You could experiment by adding just a dash to your next stout or English mild. I’ve had a great deal of success adding cinnamon to Irish Red ales.
  • Vanilla: We all know vanilla from various experiments in baking. Its flavors go very well in stouts, particularly milk stouts. For something a bit beyond the pale, you could try adding this to a blond or cream ale. If you want to try an example of this, Forgotten Boardwalk’s Funnel Cake Ale is a Cream Ale brewed with lactose sugar and vanilla.
  • Cocoa Nibs: Cocoa nibs are just dried and fermented cocoa beans. They lend a rich chocolate flavor to your beer. For a pure chocolate flavor, add these to a neutral spirit such as vodka. For something a bit more extraordinary, you could add them to either rum or bourbon. Stouts would be the classic beer to add this tincture to but Triptych Brewery’s Golden Oatie adds coffee and cocao nibs to their blond ale with very unique results.
  • Pumpkin Spice Mix: The types of beer that you could put this mix into are endless. My personal favorite style is a rich and malty amber, but I have put it in stouts and saisons as well with varying levels of success.
  • Gingerbread Mix: I generally like putting this mix in brown ales but it really could go into anything. Check out the recipe below for my Gingerbread Beer Recipe.
  • Winter Spice Mix: Generally consists of allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger but other permutations are more than possible. I have heard of cardamom being used as well as mint. Generally this mix is associated with very full bodied malty beers. You could try them in an old ale, a stout, or a porter

How to Make a Tincture

IMG_2863

While this is not the only method of making a tincture, it is a great starting point for the newbie willing to experiment. The following pictures are from an experimental green tea tincture I decided to make.

Clean Equipment Step 1: Start by thoroughly washing your container. While sanitation is not essential for this process, it is important to make sure there is no dirt which could lead to off flavors in your tincture. As far as choice of container, I personally like using canning jars. In regard to size, I would recommend either 4 oz or 8 oz jars. They are large enough to provide almost any size tincture, but small enough to easily fit into any space for storage.

Add Spice/Herb to JarStep 2: Add your spice or herb to the mason jar. For wet herbs, I would recommend shredding them lightly to increase surface aria and release some of the essential oils. The amount that you use is completely your prerogative and is a matter of personal choice. At this point, it would be hard to go overboard with the amount since you will essentially be diluting this mixture later.

Step 3: Add the alcohol to the jar. Make sure that the spirits are completely covering the spice.

IMG_2873

Store the TinctureStep 4: Store the tincture in a dark place. The warmer the location, the faster the extraction will occur. Every few days give the jar a shake to mix the herb/spice and disperse the flavor. After 2 weeks, the tincture will be fully extracted. Longer wait time will only increase the potency. A combination of tasting and trial and error will let you know when its finished extracting.

Straining TincturesStep 5: Once you have decided that your tincture is finished extracting its time to take the extract off of the herb/spice. There are a number of ways to do this. One is to purchase a fine mesh bag and squeeze until all of the tincture is separated from the left over gloop. Another way is to use plain old coffee filters. While less efficient than a mesh bag, coffee filter’s convenience and price point makes them a reasonable alternative. Store in a cool dark location. Shelf life should be good for several months before flavors begin to diminish.


Recipe: Gingerbread Brown Ale

This beer is the perfect winter brew, combining the rich malt of an English brown ale with the warm spice of gingerbread. This makes an excellent gift to family or friends for the holidays. Although the spice diminishes slightly as the beer ages, the flavor still gives the beer a unique twist.

Gingerbread BrownOG: 1.060 —- FG: 1.015 —- ABV: 5.9%

  • 6.6 Lb Gold LME
  • 0.5 Lb Carapils
  • 0.5 Lb Crystal 80
  • 0.5 Lb Biscuit
  • 0.5 Lb Chocolate
  • 0.5 Lb Marris Otter
  • 3/4 oz (East Kent Golding) – 60 min
  • 3/4 oz (East Kent Golding) – 20 min
  • 8 g (Gingerbread Spice Mix) – Flameout
  • Gingerbread Spice Tincture to Taste

Yeast: Wyeast 1318 (London Ale III)

Notes: Gingerbread Spice Mixture as Follows (2 Part Cinnamon : 2 Part Ground Ginger : 1 Part All Spice : 1 Part Clove : 1 Part Nutmeg)

Next time I will consider dialing back on the darker malts in order to balance the profile and make the beer a bit lighter in both body and color.


Resources

House Blond Ale #1

I’ve recently been looking for a solid house blond that I could brew repeatedly and nail down. My goal was to create a recipe with a pleasant malt base, restrained bitterness, and an overall high level of drinkability. I decided to go with a high alpha hop and a later addition in order to get the best of both bittering and flavor. Citra, with its unique and pleasant characteristics in addition to its high alpha content, made a great choice for this beer. I chose honey malt since it would provide a level of sweetness, a hint of color, and a level of “what is that taste” to this brew. I decided against carapils for this round, but I may use them in the future to bulk up the body and add a bit of stability to the head.

Overall, I found this to be a good first try in creating a house blond. It is what I would consider to be an IPA lover’s dream blond ale. It comes at you with a very pleasant floral bouquet, and imparts strong flavors of cooked pineapple. It is most certainly a highly drinkable beer, but I am not thrilled by the hop selection. Next time I would like to go with something a little more subtle, allowing the malt bill to shine. However, I am hugely fond of the base of this beer and think it is a keeper.


Recipe: House Blond Ale #1

This beer has a pleasant malt base, restrained bitterness, and an overall high level of drinkability. The citra hops come across as a melange of tropical fruits with pineapple taking the lead. This recipe could be adapted to any taste with the substitution of another high alpha hop for the citra.

Blonde AleOG: 1.047 —- FG: 1.0** —- ABV: *.*%

  • 9.5 Lb Brewers 2-Row Malt
  • 0.5 Lb Gambrinous Honey Malt
  • 1 oz Citra at 15 min

Yeast: Wyeast 1099 (Whitbread) with 1800 mL starter of 2 days, cold crashed

Mashed at 152° F for 60 min, Whirlpool 10 min, Rest 20 min

Fermented at 67° F for 11 days, Cold crashed at 40° F for 3 days

Notes:

  • With the starter, this beer took off like crazy and finished fermenting in around a week
  • 1099 flocculated amazingly, it formed a very compact bed at the bottom of the fermenter and left very clean beer behind
  • The flavor has mellowed with time to become more of a subtle hop character

Saison du BUFF Clone

All_BUFFs.previewWhen I first tried Saison du BUFF, I was astonished by the amount of flavor that was packed into this beer. It was a fantastic expression of both a solid saison base and a floral earthy bouquet. It’s what I would consider to be a gruit beer light, combining herbs and hops for a fantastic and unique combination. One of the cool aspects of this beer is that it was brewed at Stone, Dogfish Head, and Victory; with each brewery putting on a unique spin to the base beer.

This is the recipe from stone that I chose to use as a starting point: Recipe Base. I went a bit outside of the recipe for this beer, just to compensate for efficiency and taste preferences. I’m pretty happy with how this beer turned out, it has a nice similarity to the original but with a bit of a twist. It’s most certainly a solid base for a saison and I will definitely be using it again for future saisons, with a little bit of variation.

OG: 1.048 — FG: 1.002 — ABV: 6.0%

Recipe

  • 5.5 Lb American 2-Row
  • 5.5 Lb American Pilsner
  • 1 Lb American White Wheat
  • 1 Lb Flaked Rye
  • 2 oz Aciduated Malt
  • .25 oz Centennial – 90 min
  • .25 oz Amarillo – 45 min
  • .25 oz Amarillo – 30 min
  • .25 oz Amarillo – 15 min
  • .25 oz Amarillo – 5 min
  • 7 g Parsley – 1 min
  • 1.5 g Sage – 1 min
  • 3 g Rosemary – 1 min
  • 3 g Thyme – 1 min

Yeast: Wyeast 3711 French Saison

Notes

  • Appearance: Slightly Hazy, Pale gold, Honey Blond, Great Head Retention
  • Nose: Sage and Rosemary, Slightly Sour, Earthy, Herbal
  • Mouth Feel: Well Carbonated, Dry
  • Flavor: Herbal, Subtle malt, Low hop, Tart, Flavors and aroma are well blended, Huge bouquet
  • Overall: A very nice beer but definitely not for a beginning drinker, very complex.

Cider: The All American Beverage

https://www.etsy.com/listing/176648039/translucent-american-flag-apple-led-logo?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=macbook%20retro%20apple%20logo&ref=sr_gallery_19What could be more American than… Cider? Surprisingly, cider is one of the most patriotic beverages which you can brew. In fact, it was more likely that the earlier settlers tankards were filled with cider than with beer. During the founding of America, beer was a drink of immense luxury, mostly due to the deficit of readily available barley. Instead the Neo-Americans turned to locally available sugar sources. As the old poem went “If barley be wanting to make into malt, We must be contented and think it no fault; For we can make liquor to sweeten our lips,
Of pumpkins and parsnips and walnut tree chips“. Americans were desperate for safe sources of hydration, and cider provided an excellent source.

The wholesome vision of Johnny Appleseed, planting orchards from his bag of seeds, proves a little more saucy when we think about what those apples were used for. Apples (much like hops) do not grow true from seed. In other words if you plant the seed of a red delicious, you will most certainly not get a red delicious apple in 10 years time. In fact, every one of that apple’s seeds will grow into a completely unique and most likely inedible apple. So… what would be people be doing with these inedible apples? Making Cider of course!

Apples come in many different varieties, most of them quite difficult to eat. The main categories of apple are Sweets, Sharps, Bittersweets, and Bittersharps. Each category is defined by the level of of tannin (bitterness) and acidity (sharpness).

Sweets: These are your every day edible apples, containing low acidity and low tannin. These varieties make a great snack, but often lend very little to your cider. Varieties include Golden Delicious, Johngold, Macoun, Gala, Fuji, Braeburn, and Honeycrisp.

Sharps: These are very interesting apples containing low tannin and high acidity. These are mostly for major consumption but can have some value if you want to add a bit more acidity to your cider. Varieties include Granny Smith, and Rhode Island Greening.

Bitter Sweets: Highly inedible yet extraordinarily useful in cider, these apples are high in tannin and low in acidity. These are the darling of the American cider seen, giving the fermenter a sweet base with a substantial amount of tannin for backbone and aging potential. Common Varietals include: Dabinett, Yarlington Mill, Tremlett’s Bitter, and Nehou.

Bitter Sharp: These beers are the classic crab apple varietal, they contain high levels of both acidity and tannin. These are pretty much the Cadillac apples of the cider world, often being used as a single varietal cider. They are quite disgusting as a raw apple, but their juice is prized for its ability to be used as a single apple cider, with no need for addition of acid blend or wine tannin. Common varietals include: Kingston Black, Foxwelp, Herefordshire Redstreak, and Porter’s Perfection.

Even with the wide variety of apples available, most of us will be fermenting our ciders from pre-blended juice, apple cider concentrate, or locally purchased juice. The juice is often a solid blend of various grapes, making a palatable yet complex unfermented cider. These juice blends often provide a solid base for your cider, but if you need to make some adjustments you can use both wine makers acid blend or wine tannin. Alternatively, you could use oak to add tannin to your cider.


1 Gallon Cider Equipment & Additives

  • Cider Equipment1 Gallon Glass Jug
  • Air Lock and Bung
  • Racking Cane
  • Yeast Nutrient
  • Hydrometer
  • Funnel
  • Graduated Cylinder
  • Optional: Wine Tannin, Acid Blend, Oak

Cider Making Instructions:

1) Sanitize your Equipment: Follow your basic sanitation procedures. For more information click HERE.

Sanitize Cider

2) Pour your Juice into the Fermenter: Oxygen at this point will only add fermentability to your cider. Simply pour your cider through a sanitized funnel into the primary fermenter.

Pour Cider

3) Take a Hydrometer Reading: Most cider will come out to about 1.045 original gravity. If you would like to increase your alcohol potential, you can increase your ABV by adding corn sugar (1 lb of corn sugar will increase the alcohol of 1 gallon of cider by 5% or 5 gallons of cider by 1%).

Hydrometer Reading Cider

4) Add the Yeast: At this point you have a lot of choice. If you are looking for a very clean and very dry fermentation, I would recommend going with Pateur champagne yeast. If you are looking for interesting aromatics, try a Belgian yeast. If you want a classic and clean fermentation, try a yeast that is designed specifically  for cider. For my part, I really enjoy a nice dry white wine yeast.

Pitch Yeast Cider

5) Wait and Allow to Ferment: Cider generally takes 1 – 2 weeks to ferment out fully. Your goal is to keep the cider at about 70º – 75º F during fermentation. You will most likely notice that there is a great deal of suspended protein and yeast even after fermentation is complete. This is perfectly normal and just requires time to settle out.

Fermenting Cider

6) Rack to Secondary Fermenter: After your beer is finished fermenting, its time to rack to a secondary container. You simply move your cider from its original fermenting container to the secondary (either a 1 gallon, 3 gallon, or 5 gallon glass carboy).

Rack Cider

7) Wait 2-4 weeks: Your goal during this time is to allow the cider to clear, if you find that the cider is taking to long to clear, you can try a clarifying agent such as gelatin, super-kleer, or isinglass.

Clarify

8) Bottle and Prime: One of the down sides to bottling cider is that you can not back sweeten. This creates a very dry cider which is very tasty to some, yet highly undrinkable to others. I have heard of people trying invert (un-fermentable) sugars such as splenda to the cider to allow for some final sweetness in your cider. I can not vouch for that procedure but would be interested to know other people’s results. In general if you want a very  carbonated cider (think champagne), go with 1 oz per gallon of priming sugar (corn sugar), if your more interested in a beer type carbonation, try 0.75 oz per gallon.

9) Wait 2 Weeks and Enjoy your Cider: Put your cider in a cool and dark location for 2 weeks, during this time, your cider is going to produce carbon dioxide to carbonate your beverage. After that long and tempting time, chill down to 45 degrees, crack a bottle and enjoy your patriotic beverage.


Sources:

Cider Apple Compositional Data: http://www.cider.org.uk/appledat.htm

Cider Apple Guide – Bittersharps: http://drinks.seriouseats.com/2013/10/cider-apple-guide-bittersharp-apples-kingston-black-foxwhelp-herefordshire-redstreak-hard-cider-tannin.html

Cider Apple Guide – Bittersweets: http://drinks.seriouseats.com/2013/10/cider-apple-guide-which-apples-are-in-hard-cider-bittersweet-dabinett-yarlington-tremletts-nehou-ciders-to-try.html

Cider Apple Guide – Sharps, Sweets, and Sharp-Sweets: http://drinks.seriouseats.com/2013/09/cider-apple-guide-american-varieties-sharp-sweet-delicious-gala-fuji-granny-smith-greening-jonathan-pippin-gravenstein.html

Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan

Making the Best Apple Cider by Annie Proulx

New England’s Annoyances: http://www.poetrynook.com/poem/new-englands-annoyances


Special thanks to Keg & Barrel Home Brew Supplies for providing the yeast for this project!