Saturday, November 26, 2016

Session IPA on Game Day

The Bitter turned out well, as expected.  It's in the keg and pouring well.
Today's glass features our friends at Bosco's Memphis.
5 years in Nashville and we still miss you guys.
The Octoberfest and RyePA are conditioning in the beer room.
And I'm making Session IPA on a beautiful college game day.
This beer has been a winner for me.  Less alcohol. Great flavor.
The grist seems a little busy.
I think the first version of this beer was limited by the grains I had on hand.
But it turned out well so I'll make it the same way.
Finally, with Thanksgiving still fresh on my mind, Im looking at my beer fridge.
I see a collage of what I'm thankful for.
My wife, my daughter.

And, of course, beer.
Colorado plays at 630 central.
Good Beer To You

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Nice Easy Beer on a Nice Easy Sunday

No, I'm not having one just yet.  It's not even noon.
But I am making one.  A favorite style of mine.  Ordinary Bitter.
I love session beers because I love big taste and small alcohol.
This beer has a few rich grains in it.
But to me the base grain (called Maris Otter) is what gives it the taste I love.
The mash came in a bit hot at 156 but I'm not worried.  I want this to be sort of a dry beer.

English ale is the yeast.  I made this beer a couple of times in the Spring to get me through the Summer.
They went fast.
This one probably will too.

Next I'm thinking about making a Vienna Lager.
Sam Adams or Devil's Backbone style.
Suggestions on a recipe are welcome as I have never made a Vienna Lager before.

Good Beer To You

Sunday, October 23, 2016


This post will look suspiciously like one from a year ago.
I make Maerzen every October.
Yes, I know its normally made in March and consumed during October but as it gets cool around here I can ferment ales in the house and leave the temperature controlled vault for lagers.
This beer looks good so far.
Expected efficiency.
Good color.
I hope the fermentation is healthy.
With ales I get lots of activity within a few hours.
With Bavarian Lager yeast the krausen starts much slower.
It makes me nervous.  I hate to put so much work into a beer and have it go astray.
After hearing other brewers talk about the viability of this yeast I might shorten the fermentation by one week.  It will probably be finished in 21 days.
I'll raise the temp to about 70 for a couple of days near the end just to make sure.

This is an old recipe and a good one too.
But I don't want to ignore the possibility that it could be even better.
Maybe I'll turn the yeast around and re-brew with new grist and hop schedules in November to see if I can improve this beer.
Good Beer To You.

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Session IPA I started drinking last month is almost gone already.
I guess that means I'll make this one again.  This may become my standard IPA recipe.
Make room for a Rye-P-A.
I bought a couple of pounds of Rye and threw this together last weekend.
I have never made one but have enjoyed many.
It tasted pretty good when I racked it to a clean fermenter yesterday.

Also I tried a new style last month.
My next door neighbor has a fond remembrance of an Old Ale called Old Peculiar.
Its something he's looked for off and on for years only to find out recently that the Theakston Brewery (UK) doesn't distribute in the US anymore.
The challenge was, of course, to see if we might be able to make it at my house.
He and I looked up a couple of homebrew recipes for it and I took what I considered to be the best of them and came up with a list of hops and grain I could get here in Nashville.
So we mashed it at a mid range temp of 152, boiled it up, chilled it to 65 and pitched.
I used Wyeast London Ale III to ferment for a little more fruitiness in the finish.  It tasted pretty good when we bottled it last weekend so, I'm hopeful.
 So far Eric thinks it's great.
He's calling it Olde Quixote.

Not much else to report from the brewery.

I've spent some time lately cleaning bottles.
And I have been gathering media and imaging for a short promotional video I'm planning to produce promoting Trace Brewing.

Working on this dream is a slow process.  The more I know about starting a brewery the more there is to know and that's just fine.  It's fun, except for the feeling that I'm really no further in the project than I was a month ago.
It looks hard and I think it's harder than it looks but I'm still here.  Still slugging through a business plan and deciding how big this thing should or can be at the beginning.
I listen to a lot of podcasts of interviews of people who have done it.
I am, at once, daunted and emboldened.
I'm finding that there are a million ways to do this (20bbl, nano, contract brewing, alternating proprietorship).  I just need to find the way that will work for me.
One foot in front of the other, as they say.
Good Beer To You.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Finally, Hop Cones

I have planted these rhizomes for a few years now.  This is the first time they have began to sprout hop cones.  I don't know what I was previously doing wrong or what I might be doing right this time but here they are.
 Without the acid content and cohumulone levels I won't brew with them.
They will most likely become potpourri in the fall.
New Session IPA is in the fermenter.
 I made a few changes to try making this beer better.
Gravity looks good at 1.053.  That's just where I want it.
I think pushing it lower would make it tough to get a good balance.
And balance is needed, even in an IPA.

Good beer to you.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Working On "Son of Big Daddy"

Last Fall I began to re-work my IPA recipe.
The one I used to make wasn't very satisfying.
After a couple of attempts I came up with a pretty decent beer I called Big Daddy.
But then I started re-imagining the beer as a session beer along with my Pale.
I just finished drinking a keg of my first attempt last week.
The beer was drinkable but lacked the malt backbone an IPA needs to keep from being bland hop tea.   It was too bitter, even for something I'd call an IPA.
I think I pushed it a little too thin for the style.
Based on my judgement of that beer (and a quick inventory of the grains and hops I have on hand right now) I made a few changes to the recipe.
The first try might have been a bit of a stretch but I think I'm closing in on a good balance with the one I'm making next weekend.
I am making short steps here.  Backing off the bitterness a bit and bolstering the gravity a few points with a bit more 2-row.  I eased up a couple of minutes on the aroma hop addition too.  This might help take the sharp edge off this beer.
Brew, ferment, package, judge.
The process is slow but rewarding.
We'll hope for the best.
If this beer is a winner I'll start brewing it regularly.  'Son of Big Daddy' is cheaper to make and lots more approachable than a big alcohol IPA.
In other news, I have lots of clean bottles lying around but only one beer (Independence Amber) to be packaged in the next week or so.

My beer room is getting a bit lean.
 Good Beer To You.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Independence Amber

Okay, I made this beer yesterday.  But I'm counting it as a 4th of July beer since it was made just one day off and it was as hot as a firecracker out in the brewery.
This beer is made with US grains, US hops, California Ale yeast and Nashville water so it's about as American as it gets.
The final gravity was a bit long at 1.069 so this beer will be a shade less bitter than previous versions.  I usually shoot for a bitterness ratio of about .88 or so but this one will come in at .81.  That's still a bit high for the style but I enjoy this ale with a "west coast" groove.  This batch will be for the bottle.
The Ordinary Bitter has been kegged and sits in the fridge conditioning.  Ten gallons will be enough to take us on into the beginning of September.  By then I will have taken another shot at my session-ized American Pale.
I re-joined the Brewers Association as Trace Brewing and returned to working on my business plan for a small local brewery and taproom in Bellevue.  I am undaunted by the current slowdown in growth of craft brands for this year.  The current growth rate for craft beer would still be considered phenomenal in most other industries.  But I will be watching it closely toward the end of this year and on into 2017.
The industry is changing.   Giants like AB/Inbev and SAB/Miller are buying craft and making craft looking brands, obscuring what used to be a stark contrast between the two.  While this is more prevalent than ever it's hardly new.  Blue Moon and Shock Top are among many big brew brands that have been on store shelves for many years with minimal acknowledgement on the label about who really makes them.
But I worry, as many do, about the distribution control big beer might wield with the acquisition of these brands.  That might make it more difficult for a start-up like me to get tap space in a market with several great locally made brands.
I'll just keep putting one foot in front of the other, however slowly.
My mission statement focuses more on how beer can serve and improve the local community than on becoming a peer to Sierra Nevada or Sam Adams.
I still have some work to do before I launch a campaign for funding.

Happy 4th of July.
Good Beer To You

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Summer of the Session Beer

First of all happy Father's Day to dad's everywhere.
I'll use my parental mission as an excuse for not posting anything during the last 5 months.
Apologies and, as always, I'll endeavor to become a real, regular, at least weekly blogger from now on.
On to beer.
I've been developing a couple of session beers during the last couple of months with some promising results.
I'm trying to have a full flavored Summer with a bit less alcohol so I went to my recipe archive and started with Best Bitter.
I make this beer well and I love it but I decided to trim it down to an Ordinary Bitter profile.  Specifically, I wanted the new gravity to be a 1.041 instead of a 1.054.
I applied the Best Bitter vision to my Ordinary Bitter recipe and the result was spectacular.
This beer tasted like a 6% beer but has a 4% footprint.  I thought it might be a fluke so I turned the yeast around and made it again.
Same result.
Since I have now emptied both kegs of it I started making it again last weekend with a second batch going into the fermenter today.
This is probably going to be the new table beer at our house.
In the meantime I started making session beers out of my American Pale and IPA.  I have tried to do this with my Pale in the past.  The results from a new approach are a step in the right direction.  But these beers need more work before they are ready to be served to anybody outside my house.
There are other beers to be made before Fall arrives so, lots to do.
Finally, my hops are not doing well this year.
What I first thought were hop cones appearing on the bines now just look like off-shooting growth.
I guess you only get out what you put into it and I don't really study it much.
I'll look ahead to next year.
Good Beer To You.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Brewery (I mean home) Repairs

My hobby has been abated for a few weeks because of a lack of climate control in the basement, where I do ales in winter.
But tonight I have a well made Amber starting up in the downstairs bath.
This was made possible by the new heater I had installed yesterday.
New upstairs too.  And fresh AC units.
The whole story would bore you more than you already are, but lets just say that a perfect storm of 20-year old HVAC units, a somewhat lax attitude toward fixing the basement and an unusual Nashville snowfall led to a cold house, an uncomfortable family and a big overdue expense.
The new outdoor units look pretty nice, though.
And I'm looking forward to brewing in comfort with the new vent installed in the garage.

Good Beer To You.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Yeast and Bottle Caps

Last week I decided to bottle my Brown Ale and sanitized a batch of bottles without checking to see if I had caps first.
 Cleaning nearly all of my flip tops was frustrating but at least now I have a set of crown tops ready for the Bock that's going to be ready next week.

Now for the more serious mistake.

I often save the healthy trub from the bottom of the fermenter when I package my beers and use it a few more times to save money.
Also, the pitch will be really good if you use it within a short time.
I'll re-pitch California Ale yeast 4 and sometimes 5 times before I get too worried that it's dirty or tired.
If I really wanted to explore this aspect of brewing right now I'd get a microscope and "wash" the yeast, re-using it indefinitely.
I'd have a small lab.
On the lower left of this photo you can see the clear glass growler that contains last week's 1056 I harvested from the Brown.
I noticed it when I reached for a beer to celebrate my efforts on today's just finished IPA.
Of course, I began to wonder what yeast I actually pitched after chilling the wort.  After some detective work I have determined this to be the 4th use of 1056 I last pitched on November 22nd into a Pale.  Before that I used it in an Amber and a Blonde.  I have great hope for this beer despite the circumstances.
Although I am taken aback by the string of challenges and failures of the last six months, they only cause me to re-double my efforts and learn from these painful mistakes.
Don't get me wrong.  The IPA will probably be just fine.  That yeast, although 7 weeks old, will probably start right up and make a great beer.
But I've learned a lot in the 15 years I've done this.  One principle is that the reduction of variables, balanced against the cost of that reduction, is a key contributor to success.
If I am lucky enough to get funding for a small brewery in my neighborhood I am going to need a methodology that reduces beer production to a set of tasks that, properly repeated, will yield a product of consistent and reliable quality.
I think I have my process down pretty well.  I just need to pay a little more attention to my own rules and procedures.
Peace, Love, Beer.