Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Lighten up!

I enjoy my own Pale Ale. I'd drink a couple pints of it every night if I could. The problem is that I don't get home from work until about 11PM and I need to be up at 6 to take my daughter to school. If I stay up to savor that 6.3% glass of heaven I usually regret it in the morning.

So, as part of the solution to my problem, I brewed a beer using the exact same proportion of each grain and hops. But I extracted the same volume from the mash. The bitterness was also adjusted to reflect the same malt/bitterness ratio. I'm shooting for 6 gallons of 3.75 percent ABV with the same flavor and body as the 6.33 percent version.

I know the beers are not likely to be exactly the same. The lighter beer will have less body and be even less likely to have any alcohol flavor in it. That's good because the stronger version does not exhibit a strong prescence of alcohol anyway. If these are the only differences between the beers I'll consider the experiment a success.

I checked the fermentation vault this morning and the beer looks good through the glass of the carboy. I think I'll let the yeast clean up any off flavors for a couple more days before I package it.
Now if I could just somehow stop time at 11 o'clock at night to enjoy it more.

Another project is yielding some favorable results. I have several hop cones on my container grown bines. When they are harvested and how they are handled for making beer remains to be seen.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Schlafly makes the grade

While on vacation in St. Louis last weekend we decided to try out the beer and food at the Schlafly Bottleworks. I wanted to see their full line of beer before I passed judgement on them as a whole.
I have to say I was fairly impressed from the moment we arrived. The facility looked great from the outside, even as we looked for a spot in the full parking lot. The bar and gift shop had an attractive look and a comfortable feel. Lots of wood and medium lighting. They were right accross the entry way from the bottling line that is easily seen through a wall of glass both inside and out.

In the past I've not been a huge fan of Schlafly Pale Ale (one of the few Schlafly's I could get here in the South). I mean it's a well made beer and all but it just never wowed me before. To be fair, I am a bit partial to the up front bitterness and citrusy flavor of west coast style pales. But I try always to ignore this predisposition when tasting any pale.
We ordered the sampler flight and got six good beers. There was a Pilsner, a Hefeweizen, an Oatmeal Stout along with what appeared and tasted like a Dunkelwiess (they called it No.15), their flagship Pale and what they called Dry Hopped APA.
The Pale tasted better than I remember. The Dunkelwiess was really nice. My wife made me get a six pack to bring home to Memphis. The Hefe, Stout and Pilsner were all good too. But the "Dry Hopped Pale" was really nice. It had a nice aroma and came on strong from the start with what tasted like Amarillo hops and a good malt profile. The hops are up front here but not overwhelming. The beer wasn't too heavy on the alcohol either. But it goes down so easy that you could still get in trouble with it. I felt compelled to leave with a six of that beer too.

The menu was wide ranging with several selections made with beer in the recipe. The food was delicious, the service was excellent and they accomodated our 5-year-old.
When we're back in St. Louis, we'll go again.
Now, I promise to turn my attention back to Memphis beer.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

There are numerous opinions about the proper size for a yeast starter. Formulas and calculators abound. I made an American Stout last Friday and pitched a starter I'd made two days before. I intended to make the beer on Thursday but with chores to do around the house I just couldn't get it done. I put the well fermenting (and quite large) starter in the fridge until I began the mash on Friday morning. I thought 4 liters of yeast might be a bit much for a 6 gallon batch but I pitched the whole thing for 3 reasons.
First, I made it from a 3 week old yeast cake I had saved from my latest Brown Ale. I have not begun washing and culturing yeast yet so I just left the spent hops in and mixed it up with a cup and a half of boiled dry malt.
Also, I didn't get it into the wort as it was at the height of fermentation. I chilled it for a day first.
Finally, this was a 1.072 beer. I wanted to err on the side of having more healthy yeast to help with the attenuation. I'd like this beer to finish out at 1.014 or less with a fairly clean flavor. The relatively high alcohol content will work against a low finish with California Ale yeast.
I have great confidence in Jamil Zainasheff's pitching rate calculator at http://www.mrmalty.com/ but I did it this way anyway. My only concern is the gravity change that a starter this size will do to the beer.
I'll be starting my study of yeast management soon.