fermentation for the lazy

I Finally got around to bottling my two 2+ year old dry meads. That is the nice thing about mead, it needs time to age before it’s really ready. Ok, that’s also the bad thing about it, but as long as you have enough beer around you should be able to just forget about it for a year… or more.

These two Canola honey meads were fermented with Wyeast Bordeaux and Kitzinger Tokaj. Both ended around 0.990 (coming down from almost 1.080), are very clear and are almost colorless. They are tasting nice but lacking something. I am starting to think that the drier a mead ends up, the more it needs some tannins from oak aging. Unfortunately neither of these received any oak. Lesson learned.

I’ll do a grand mead tasting somewhere in the future but right now I’ll just say that I quite like the character I am getting from the Tokaj yeast. I wonder what this would do in combination with some bugs in a sour beer? Perhaps a good candidate for a Test Pilot brew.

I also racked over my most recent mead. This Linden blossom mead marked my first attempt at a sweet mead. I took the approach of making a massive mead in hopes that the yeast would reach their alcohol tolerance and just give up, leaving behind unfermented sugars. Unfortunately the Kitzinger Bordeaux yeast took it down to 1.005 already and I expect that it will end even lower. So we’ll be looking at a massive 17%ABV dry mead!?! Oh well. I racked half of this mead onto Noorderkrieken (sour cherries) and the other half will be getting an addition of chipotle chilis in a couple of months. Then part of those two will be blended into an unexpectedly dry and boozy cherry-chipotle mead. Looking forward to that one!

basics and beyond

Life seems to get more and more busy as Lil’ Smokey grows older. It is nearly impossbile to schedule a period of 5+ hours, just for myself. Consequently, my lists of “beers to brew” and “experiments to try” keep growing longer. Well, enough is enough. I’ve decided that I’m going to supplement my infrequent all-grain brewing with some extract brewing.

While brewing with malt extract (and steeping grains) is very common back in the US, here it has a bad reputation. Everyone has made it clear to me that you can’t brew good tasting beer with extract. I take that as a challenge. There were some pretty kick ass extract beers coming out of our kitchen before I made the dive into all-grain. Plus, it will allow me to brew more often. In a couple of hours I can brew up a batch and have the kitchen all cleaned up. Perfect for a quick night-time brew after the little one is in bed. Whether it is making a simple beer for poker night or a split batch for comparing yeasts, I think extract brewing will help keep me sane.

Speaking of things to try, I have been thinking of ways to cut down on oxygen exposure during the fermentation/transfer/bottling processes. I may have come up with something worth testing (perhaps with an extract batch?). It involves using two fermentation buckets. One is of course for the fermenting beer, and the second one collects the CO2 from fermentation. This bucket full of CO2 then becomes your secondary fermenter or bottling bucket. With a little hose magic you can ensure an oxygen free transfer between the buckets. I put together a quick PDF that explains it in more detail. Click on the image below to see it.

if you are wondering where the top photo was taken… that is the brew hall at Mort Subite.

bird in a bottle

Early Bird is now bottle conditioning. After my brewday with Murphy and his so-called law I was pretty dissapointed and ready to dump this beer down the drain. I called off all extra experiments that I was going to try with this batch (no funkdafication, no bottling with maple-syrup, no oak). With much trepidation, I transfered the fermented beer to the bottling bucket and drew off a sample for the hydrometer. Much to my surprise the beer ended at 1.011 SG. I was expecting it to end lower. Still, its not the 1.016 I was hoping for but it shouldn’t be “too thin”. So not all is lost.

Flavor wise it seems to be going in the right direction. The roast level is quite nice, assertive but not astringent in any way. A nice blend of cold steeped coffee and chocolate. It was a bit hard to tell, and maybe I was hoping for it too much, but the oat malt did seem to bring some oaty flavors to the mix. In the back there was also a definite fruitiness that I assume is from the raisins but it seemed a little more cidery than it did before fermentation. You wouldn’t necessarily pick it out as raisins… at least not yet. You never know what will happen once its bottle conditioned.

To bring a little  experimentation back into this brew I decided to try out a variety of bottles. It will be nice to see if the different bottle volumes really do have an impact on the beer. I also just wanted to make the chore of bottling (I really need to start kegging) go a bit faster so I only bottled up a little over one case of normal bottles and the rest of the batch went into 75cl champagne bottles, a couple 37.5cl bottles, and one Magnum! It was my first time with the Magnum and the champagne style 75cl bottles. The Magum is quite impressive and will definitely call for a label. To finish them off I had to get out my old hand-capper (as opposed to my bench capper) for the 29mm crown caps. The capper didn’t like the thicker necks of those bottles but with a little extra persuading they seemed to go on just fine. Next time I will try my hand at corking and caging those bottles.

bottling day

bottling_munichIPA_090607Yesterday I bottled up the munich IPA I brewed a few weeks ago. The aroma is absolutely fantastic. There is obviously a big dose of hops covering a nice range from citrus to the coveted Sauvignon Blanc aroma from the Nelson Sauvin. What a wonderful hop this is turning out to be. It mixes very nicely with the amarillo and the Munich malt. I am a little surprised at how deep and complex the malt character is considering there is only one malt in it! The hydrometer sample was damn tasty too with a nice grapefruit zest and grape-skin on top of a deep malt with toasted bread, biscuit notes and something faintly chocolatey, but I don’t know where that would have come from. I can’t wait to try this with CO2. I think this brew is turning out really well. Above and beyond my non-hophead expectations. Both Munich as a base malt and the use of Nelson Sauvin hops get a big thumbs up… but I do need to wait till the bottles are ready before I make a final call on this brew. Oh yeah, I was reminded with how tedious and time consuming bottling is. It is definitely not the most fun part of brewing.

What happened since I brewed it: I let the beer ferment for 2 weeks before I added 10g of Amarillo and 10g of Nelson Sauvin whole leaf hops into the primary for dry-hopping. I have heard that you can bring out some berry esters when you dry-hop while the beer is on the yeast cake, but I wasn’t detecting that in the hydrometer sample. The beer sat on the hops for another week and then I bottled. I ended up with 9 liters (damn those hops for soaking up so much of my beloved brew!) of a FG 1.010 IPA, OG was 1.057. Now, lets hope I didn’t screw up anything when bottling.