Coffee & Beer – PENELOPE – sketch 1

coffee-beer-Easybrew

In the past 6 years I have only brewed twice (including this time). That doesn’t mean that I’ve lost my passion for brewing beer. It’s just been difficult to find the time to do it. With the kids getting a bit older now, I should be able to find some more time.

The System: With some Christmas generosity, I was able to order an Arsegan EasyBrew 30 liter brew system. This made-in-China brew system is sold under different brand names like HopCat, Brew Monk, Klarstein Mundschenk, Ace Microbrewery, and many more. While not a fully automated robotic brewer, it promises to cut down the time needed to brew. I’m not going to review this system right now, but once I’ve used it a few times I will post a thorough review.

coffee-pale-ideation

The Recipe: While cleaning up my desk at work I came a cross some recipe ideas intertwined with some sketches. There were a couple standouts using coffee in paler beers. With my newish passion for coffee I thought what better way to get back to brewing? Initially I wanted to go with something between and English and an American Pale Ale. Something with hop character to play with the coffee notes, but not enough to take away from the coffee. I ended up lowering the hops and adding more colored malt. I’m not sure what category the beer would now fit into now. Perhaps a Special Bitter? Perhaps not. This recipe will grow in complexity as it evolves. This is just a starting point. It’s a sketch of a beer which is looking for some direction. Thats why I am calling this brew a “sketch.”

Penelope (Batch 1):

  • Volume: 18.5 liters
  • OG: 1.053
  • FG: 1.014
  • ABV: 5%
  • IBU: 30 (Rager formula)

Fermentables:

  • 91.3% Extra Pale Maris Otter (Crisp)
  • 5.4% Flaked Oats
  • 3.3% Pale Chocolate (Thomas Fawcett)

Mash: single temp infusion @ 69C (156F)

Hops:

  • Northdown 7% AA – 45min from end (20.7 IBU)
  • Northdown 7% AA – 10 min from end (5 IBU)
  • Northdown 7% AA – in whirlpool 15 min (5 IBU)

Yeast: White Labs London Ale WLP013

Extras: Fire-Roasted Sumatra Lintong Coffee – brewed and added to taste in serving keg.


I used to write my brew posts during the fermentation phase. The idea was to go back and add notes to the posts after final tasting. That didn’t happen enough. Now I’ve decided to not write my brew posts until the final beer is finished and in my glass. Then I can already share my thoughts on the recipe and how I could improve the beer.

How did it turn out?

In short, I see a lot of potential with this beer. I wanted a lower alcohol beer with a full body and earthy, almost woody, hop character with coffee and chocolate coming in the middle and riding it out through the finish. Right now its too heavy on the chocolate. I thought the somewhat higher percentage of Pale Chocolate malt would compliment the Sumatra Lintong coffee which also has earthy chocolate notes. It’s too much. I either need to throw out the chocolate malt or choose a fruitier more acidic coffee. Ethiopian Natural Sidamo, one of my favorite all round coffees, would have been a better choice.

The mouthfeel and body are exactly what I wanted. The oats and the higher mash temperature worked their magic to keep the beer from being too thin and watery, while not being chewy. Its definitely a pleasing drinker.

The hops are too subtle, but the character is what I was looking for (cedar, herbal). I am however, left wanting a citrus note on the end. Perhaps a late addition of a citrus forward hop wouldn’t hurt. That would play well with a more acidic coffee. I think a touch of fruity hops to round out the hop character, and bridge to other two hops, wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

The beer is a good starting point but it needs to become a bit more rounded. I have time to think about it, but perhaps something more like this:

92-94% Extra Pale Maris Otter
5% Flaked oats
1-2% Some type of light cara malt
0-2% Pale Chocolate?
40-50 IBU from a blend of Northdown and Hallertau Blanc with a small late addition of Pacific Jade.
Ethiopian Sidamo dry “Beaning” for a few days, then fill in with some fresh brewed coffee to taste.

A little bit about the EasyBrew system:

This Chinese made system is essentially a Grainfather clone for just under half the price. Build quality is better than I had expected but there is still room for improvement. This newest version of the Easybrew is programmable. You can put in all of your steps (multiple step mash), boiling, and all your hop timers. It is capable of going up to 2500kw heating power (programmable for each step) which gets you from step to step quickly and makes it more powerful then the Grainfather. The volume markings on the inside though are way off. These type of systems are essentially a Brew In A Bag system, where the bag is replaced by a metal container, but by adding a sparge step you have a bit of a hyrbid brew system. Like I said earlier, once I’ve had a few brews under my belt with the EsayBrew I will write up a detailed review.

    

       


all of the beer ingredients were ordered from The Malt Miller. The green coffee beans were from Redber Coffee

The music for the video is Exotica by Juanitos. Used under  Attribution 2.0 License.  Downloaded from The Free Music Archive.

 

The original plan

2015-year-of-change

2015 was penciled in as my return to brewing. The past few years have been chaotic… birth of a second child, fixing up our old house, selling our old house, finding a new house, moving, working, and keeping sane all while trying to be a good husband and daddy. Sure I probably could have scheduled in a brew session here and there, but it just seemed too selfish to block out that much time for something that no one else in the house gets any enjoyment from. I am the type of person that obsesses over details and data so I am completely unavailable while I’m brewing, plus all the planning, transfers, bottling/kegging etc. Then, as life seemed to be smoothing itself out, I started planning my next brew when something unexpected happened. At the not so ripe age of 36, I had a stroke. More precisely a Spontaneous Carotid Artery Dissection that caused a stroke. That put a stop to many things.

What I found really sad was that there was no reason why it happened to me. I did not live a “risky” lifestyle. It was just a bit of bad luck. Part of my carotid artery just decided it would be funny to fail. I’m more or less OK now, but It’s still recovery at the moment. My big problems now are the lack of concentration, patience, and tasks such as writing (It took quite a while to write this short post). Now I just want to get back a little control of my life. Of course there are many things in life more important than grilling and brewing, but this blog is not about those. It is my outlet for all things brewing and grilling related. The situation has made me think about what aspects I like the most about my life, work, and hobbies as well as how they can or can not be combined. Outdoor cooking can continue just as it always has. It’s something that the whole family can enjoy, and it generally doesn’t take too much time. Brewing is different. It takes more planning, more time, and more concentration. Thankfully, the kids are growing up (now 4 and 6) and I know I will be able to find some time to brew. However, I also know it won’t be as often as I’d like. I really need to find some ways to either shorten my brew days or make the process more automated so I am more available while I do it. Something like how my BBQ Guru PartyQ gives me some precious time with my family when I’m smoking a pork shoulder for 15 hours. Any good suggestions will be embraced with open arms.

If you read this post hoping for some sort of amazing conclusion or revelation, you will be disappointed. I didn’t really have a goal for this blog post. It was really just a way of me trying to get back at it. A bit of therapy for myself. Now that I got that out of the way, perhaps I can post something more interesting next time.

… now I really need to spend some time bringing this old ugly blog up to date. I never liked the way it looked.

The proof is in the barrel

I’ve had a few chances to play around with the Gueuze barrel chips now and thought I’d share my findings (on both grilling use and beer use).

The Beer side: When I first opened the bag of chips I immediately threw some into starter wort to try and grow up the critters living on the chips. Not surprising, the bugs did get going pretty quickly. Also not surprising it developed some green mold. It looked and smelled decent for about 4 or 5 days and I thought that it might end up being usable. Then the aroma really went down hill and the green monster started growing. Oh well. I still haven’t dumped it out (too afraid) and I was thinking that I could possibly pull some of the beer out from under the mold and try to culture that up… but really, I’m too lazy for all that. Plus I like the reliability of buying pure strains and mixing them myself, or culturing up dregs from bottled beers.

The Fire side: The chips have been used to add some smoke to pork, fish, and numerous chickens. Result… Shocker, the smoke flavor is just like oak! Well, to be fair I think there may be a slight difference that I haven’t yet been able to nail down, but unless you are going to do a side by side oak vs gueuze barrel (made from oak) smoke test, I don’t think anyone would pick up on a difference. I actually do plan on doing that some time though (Bourbon barrel chips vs Gueuze barrel chips).

That being said I do actually like using these chips. In general, they are chipped quite small and don’t need to be soaked too long before throwing on your fire. That makes them ideal for quickly adding smoke to items that aren’t slow-cooked for 60 hours. Also handy if you are “planning-challenged” like me and realize that you forgot to soak your chips as you’re about to throw the meat on the grill.

Conclusion:

  • Gueuze Barrel chips are great for a quick burst of smoke when grilling
  • Don’t bother using them for long smokes
  • Keep them out of your homebrew (just culture up dregs from a bottle if you must)

I wonder if barrel chips from a good kriek would offer anything extra? Hey,Peter De Clercq,  how about that? I’ll help test them out for you.!

New Addition 2011

I recently had my last brew day as a father of one child. The beer was brewed to mark the very closely approaching arrival of child number 2 (I’ll have to think of a better name than Child Number 2). When the first lil’ Smokey was born I brewed New Addition 2008. Not only was  “New Addition” a nod to my baby but also the first time I had added any wild bugs to my beer. The idea was to brew something between a Porter, a Flanders Red and an Oud Bruin. A Flanders Oud Porter? For New Addition 2011 I needed to find another interesting ingredient that I had never used, but always wanted to. This time it’s Belgian cocoa powder. The base recipe has also been altered, but the “feeling” is the same. I want the New Addition beers to feel like they come from the same family but each one has its own distinct personality.

Knowing that I am not always the most patient person, and fearing the possible heart-attack caused by two children that won’t listen to me and just get into the car so I can buckle their seatbelts and get out of the rain, I’m trying to be more “zen.” With that in mind I decided that coming into brew day I wouldn’t have a fixed recipe. I did have a clear idea of what I was going to do but I wanted to just wing it a bit and go with the flow. It seemed to go well because the wort sample tasted great!

The cocoa powder was added with 10 minutes to go in the boil. With 15 minutes to go I tapped off a little of the hot wort to mix with the cocoa powder and make a paste. I thought that it would be a little easier to incorporate into the boil without clumping up.

On the yeast side, I am again adding some critters on top of the normal brewers yeast. In primary I pitched a mixed starter of Wyeast1762 Belgian Abbey II and Wyeast Roeselare Blend. This will hopefully kick up the funk a bit more than in New Addition 2008. Those Belgian yeasts are great, but since my babies are half Belgian and half American it needs some American Funk too. For that I will be adding (into the aging vessel) part of a starter of Jolly Pumpkin’s Lambicus Dexterius (batch 1), their 100% spontaneously fermented beer. It also has the nice bonus that Dexter, where Jolly Pumpkin is located, is very close to where my parents live so the beasties in the Lambicus Dexterius will literally add a touch of home.

New Addition 2011:
  • Volume: 20 liters
  • OG: 1.064
  • FG: we’ll see but I hope around 1.008
  • ABV: should be around 7.3% – 7.5%
  • IBU: 22 (rager formula)
Fermentables:
  • 66% Pale Ale
  • 13.5% Munich
  • 9% Aromatic
  • 5.3% Flaked Oats
  • 3.5% Chocolate Malt (900 EBC)
  • 2.7% Roasted Barley
Mash:
  • single temp infusion @ 68C (154F)
Hops:
  • 30g East Kent Goldings for 22 IBU (60min from end)
Extra:
  • 75g Belgian Cocoa Powder (10min from end)
Yeast:
  • Wyeast 1762 Belgian Abbey II (in primary)
  • Wyeast Roeselare Blend (in primary)
  • a bit of a starter made from the dregs of Jolly Pumpkin’s Lambicus Dexterius (during aging)

Notes:

June 13th 2011 – Brew day was very smooth. First time using my drill with the Barley Crusher… man thats quick!

June 15th 2011 – Fermentation was rather slow to kick off. I think the Roeselare blend may have lowered the starters pH too quickly for the somewhat old WY1762 and that didn’t grow as much as it should have. Fermentation is going though.

a duck on my calendar

Imagine if there was a sort of chart with all the days of the year listed in order. Now imagine that you could plan future events and then note these events on this list of days.  Sounds great doesn’t it? Well, much to my surprise this magical list already exists and there is even one hanging on the wall in my kitchen! All, joking aside, I am trying to get over my fear/lack of planning. Last year I had a serious problem of having to ditch brewing and barbecuing days because they weren’t planned far enough ahead for life to comply. It seems to be going better now. In fact I just had a  brewday this past Sunday, and there is a serious pork smoking session planned in a couple weeks, and the next brewday is planned in March.

Enter the Ugly Duckling:

If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, but smells a bit funky, then it must be the Ugly Duckling American Sour. Sunday’s brewday was another venture into sour beers. A funky and tart sessionable beer with citrus hop notes. Well, that is the idea anyways.

There are several ways to get lactic tartness in your brew (Lactobacilus, pediococcus, sour mash, pure lactic acid) but I decided to try something simple I had heard about from a few pro-brewers, a relatively high percentage of Acidulated Malt (or Acid Malt). This malt is a Reinheitsgebot way of controlling your mash pH but using higher ammounts will also give you some lactic flavor (see this link for some more info.. scroll down to “Berliner Weisse from Weyermann Acidulated Malt”). It won’t be as complex a lactic character as some other methods, but for what I want in this beer it should be good. Especially when considering this will be a 100% brett fermented beer. Oh, and brett favors a lowered pH to do its thing, so win win.

Ugly Duckling American Sour:

  • Wort volume after boil : 20 liters
  • OG: 1.048
  • Expected FG: 1.010 – 1.012?
  • Expected ABV: 4.8% – 5%
  • Expected IBU: the math says 36 but with mash hopping my experience says it will seem lower
  • Expected color: 11 EBC (4.6 SRM)
  • mash efficiency: 76%
  • Boil duration: 60 minutes

Fermentables:

  • 56.5% Pale – 2.2kg (4.85 lb.)
  • 30.5% Munich – 1.2kg (2.65 lb.)
  • 9% Acid malt – 350g (.77 lb.)
  • 4% flaked oats – 160g (.35 lb.)

Hops:

  • 35g (1.2 oz) Amarillo – mash hop

No kettle additions. After aging for a while I will dry hop this with more Amarillo.

Mash:

  • single infusion mash at 67C (153F) for 60 minutes

Yeast:

Ugly Duckling was also a bit of a process re-working for me. Over the years I have tried playing with my process  to raise efficiency, cut time, or just look cool. In the end I wasn’t happy with the stuck or slow sparges, the running around and the extra worry. This time I re-evaluated my technique. I even turned back the adjustment on my grain mill a bit. In return I had a great brew day! It was very easy and relaxed and I was even able to pull off a brew in less time than before. My efficiency was slightly lower (76% instead of 80%), but I was expecting that.

Notes:

February 13th 2011 – brewed: Brew day went very well. It was perhaps my most relaxed brew day to date.

March 15th 2011 – racked this over to secondary so it can age a while before dry-hopping. It was sitting at 1.010 SG. I’m finding these all brett beers are best after about 5 months or so.

July 17th 2011 – dry hopped this beer with 30g Amarillo whole leaf hops. The aroma before dry hopping was quite funky. Good barn-yardy notes!

July 29th 2011 – The duck is in the bottle! FG went a bit lower than expected 1.006! Bottled 17 liters (damn dry hops soaked up my beer) primed to get me 2.7 vol CO2 carbonation. Beer is tasting quite nice. Big orange notes. A good lactic  sourness with big fruity brett and amarillo all combining to a sort of orange and lemon juice combo.

testing testing

As previously posted I will be supplimenting my all-grain brewing with some quick extract batches in the hopes that I can experiment more often. Well, after a friend (one of the few Mexicans in Belgium) handed me a bag of Chipotle peppers straight from the mother land, I knew my first experiment had to be a Chipotle pale ale. Chipotle peppers are not exactly common here in Belgium so I was very happy to receive these. I know I’m not the first brewer to throw some peppers in a beer but I’ve never done it and thought it was time to try it myself. Time for the innaugural “Test Pilot” brew!

The things I want to test with this 10 liter (2.6 US gallons) batch are:
  • the handling and amount of peppers to use in a beer
  • the combo of Nelson Sauvin and firey spice
  • smoke (from the smoked peppers) in a pale ale
  • only using late hop additions (30 min or less in boil)
  • chipotle peppers and hops

    I kept the malt extremely simple. I did however use some old extract I had in the cupboard as a portion of the total DME bill…. hmmm, maybe that wasn’t the best idea though. A touch of chocolate malt was steeped in the kettle before adding the malt extract and boiling. The roasted malt will hopefully support the smoke and give a touch of earthiness. Since extract has already had the snot boiled out of it in it’s creation, a full 60 minute boil is not needed, and since I was only adding late hops I only boiled for 30 minutes. I added the small amount of chipotle peppers with 5 min to go in boil and let the wort sit for 20 minutes before cooling. The sample I tasted did show a very low spice level in the back of the throat and a nice level of smoke. We’ll see what the yeast does with this. If the final flavor and spice level seem to be a going in the right direction than I do plan on brewing a more “serious” all-grain version. Man, I really hope that old DME won’t get in the way too much. Damn my cheapness!

    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.

    the more the merrier – part 2 (brew)

    The Nocturnal brew session at Alvinne was not just about barbecue. As the name suggests it was also about brewing beer. Glenn, Davy and Marc (the Alvinne three) had been toying around with the idea of doing a night time brew-fest for quite a while, but they didn’t have a recipe. I suggested a big ass barleywine since they needed a big beer to test the alcohol tolerance of their new house yeast. Normally I prefer more sessionable brews but I thought that this could be a fun challenge. Davy asked if I wanted to come up with an idea for the recipe so I promptly got to work in Beer Alchemy. To my surprise the Alvinne boys agreed to brew it as is. Not only were they going to brew it, but they wanted to release it as a “collaboration” beer with Birdsong Brewery (that’s me). To make the beer complete, I was also asked to design the label. I am not a graphic designer but I do like to play one in the brewery. As you may have figured out from the image above, the beer is called Night Owl. That is not the actual label but rather the design direction that the Alvinne crew chose from some quick ideas I showed them.

    We’re calling it a Belgian Barleywine. Now I am certainly no fan of “beer styles” and I don’t like to try to pigeon hole beers, however, beer styles can be useful when coming up with ideas for beers, or when describing beers. For Night Owl I basically started with the idea of an English barleywine and twisted it into a truly dark Belgian beast of a beer. It won’t be a Belgian Dark Strong, it won’t be a Quadrupel… it will be a Belgian Barleywine, whatever that is.

    3.5 hectoliters of Night Owl were brewed but I adapted the recipe here for homebrew scale, 20 liters (5.3 gallons). You may need to adjust the recipe for your brewhouse efficiency:

    Night Owl:
    Wort Volume After Boil: 20.00 l
    Expected OG: 1.134 SG (including sugar addition during fermentation)
    edit: above SG was our target.. we actually were just a touch lower. About 1.130
    Expected FG: 1.020 SG
    Expected ABV: 15.6 %
    Expected IBU (using Rager): 77
    Expected Color: 112 EBC (43 SRM)
    Boil Duration: 75 mins


    fermentables:
    • 52% Belgian Pale – 5.7kg (12.6 lbs)
    • 21% Munich – 2.27kg (5 lbs)
    • 4% Biscuit – 450g (1 lbs)
    • 4% Special B – 450g (1 lbs)
    • 2% Dehusked chocolate (800EBC) – 225g (.5 lbs)
    • 17% Dark Candi Syrup (200 EBC) – 1.8kg (4 lbs) – added a few days after fermentation begins
    hops:
    • 28g (1 oz)East Kent Goldings – first wort hopping
    • 28g (1 oz) Magnum (just a touch of Pioneer was added at Alvinne since we ran out of magnum) – 60 minutes from the end
    • 28g (1 oz) East Kent Goldings at flameout
    • we will most likely be dry hopping this beer with the equivalent of 56g (2 oz) East Kent Goldings

    single infusion mash at 67-68C for 90 minutes

    relatively hard West Flanders water

    yeast:

    Use the newly introduced Morpheus yeast from Alvinne. Culture this from a bottle of Alvinne beer but make sure the bottle says “Morpheus yeast inside.” You can read about the yeast here, if you can read dutch. This yeast is pretty clean for a belgian yeast and highly attenuative. It can produce a slight apple note. Its not as clean as the California Ale yeast but that may actually be a good starting point. If I was really trying to mimic this yeast then I may try a mix of California Ale yeast and the Duvel strain.

    This beer was brewed at night. By the time it was chilled and pumped to the fermentation tank it was around 2am. By 9am when we looked into the brewery we saw that the Morpheus yeast had certainly been busy. For more photos of the brewing of Night Owl (intertwined with photos of barbecue), click on the photo above.

    Keep your fingers crossed and pray that this beer turns out fantastic or no brewer will ever trust me again.

    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.