Friday, April 17, 2009
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009:
Ingredients for Fourteen U.S. Gallons:
One Wheelbarrow full to the top of Pink Grapefruit
Five pounds cane sugar
Five pounds Orange Blossom Wildflower Honey
Pasteur Champagne Yeast to size (dry)
The weather was beautiful, I staged my new Black and Decker juicer on top of the tablesaw at the edge of the garage floor and propped up the fermenting bin to catch the juice. Cutting and juicing was easy except for the fact that Black and Decker is not what it used to be and the juicer gave on me. Borrowed Bill’s Braun juicer and it worked like a horse the rest of the session, approximately one hour. Straight juice, pulp and all, minimal seeds and high sugar content with perfectly ripe fruit.
Listened to Rush and smoked two great sticks, one Macanudo mild and a no-name torpedo that was probably a Rocky Patel special. No boiling, no special treatment, just straight slicing and juicing until fermenters were full and fruit was gone. Simplified the sugar and honey on the stove, added some ice to cool it down, pitched the yeast directly to the must and staged in the closet. I added a lot of yeast, four packets, two in each fermenter. Some of the packets were quite old and I am certain that they have suffered in retention even though stored properly.
Fourteen gallons of juice (!!!) out of one wheelbarrow full of fruit just hanging out in my neighborhood, not being eaten, juiced, or used for any purpose whatsoever. Total cost of batch including yeast and sugar primers was less than ten bucks. Wow, one of the reasons why I like the direction I’m going in is because it is actually cheaper than brewin beer! After two days it is working like a champ, just like the Tangerine Mojo. I will keep you posted !!
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
There are so many great things about simple, backyard brews, and one of them is the fact that you can actually leave your backyard to run errands while your kettle heats up. I found myself truckin' on down the road in the GMC with the wife going to the Lowe's Garden Shop for mulch, flowers and other things to solely keep her happy. We were on our way home going down our neighborhood street when I saw someone putting down a beautiful red oak from their backyard. Thirty minutes, that was just enough time to fill the bed of the truck with a couple cords of fine wood for next winter, oh and by the way my "frustrated with the wife" workout (chopping wood can be extremely therapeutic when you are angry). After all this I still wasn't hot enough to strike a mash.
Mike shows up on a triathlon bike weighing less than my finger and Bruce shows up in his truck full of glass carboys and away we go!
Striking the mash, we shared stories and worries about the future. I could bore you with them but I won't, suffice to say we did what all men do in the backyard, talked about taxes, culture etc. whilst whittling wood and watching the kettle. The day warmed up to a perfect seventy two F. and we were just loving the clear blue skies, no wind and perfect weather. I would classify this day as one God has blessed me with, I couldn't live in a more wonderful place in the world.
We tasted my Tangerine Mojo, which has already been racked from primary and into secondary. Most of the heavy fermentation leg work is done but there is still quite active Champagne yeast working around raw, wonderful pulp. Mike commented that it tasted like a Mimosa and I agreed only to add that it had a pleasantly sour element on the top like a Belgian or Biere de Garde. Yeast and pulp alike are continuously settling and I will probably be racking it from tank to tank for quite a while. The champagne strain is so complete in fermentation and crisply dry without being a tart. I'll rack it til it's clear of pulp and then prime and bottle, this mojo is a cocktail that needs to be served chilled and naturally carbonated. Hard to believe it only cost me time and a couple of packets of cheap, dry yeast. Everything else except the sugar was free and living in Florida that stuff is like sand.
As for the Nut Brown, I hadn't made it in many years and was looking forward to reintroducing Victory Malt to my system. The strike temperature was little low but the setpoint for starch conversion was well within the parameters. We had an excellent boil and cool down, transferred to Bruce's glass carboys for him to take home, ferment in his closet, fill his keg and enjoy. One seven gallon carboy will use the Nottingham strain while the other three gallon carboy will use the French 1056 dry strain version (Safale '56). Man oh man, what a day, what a beer, the relatives up North are still dealing with snow and we get to play in Eden!
Friday, February 13, 2009
Friday, February 13, 2009:
In an effort to get back to the ultimate grassroots brewing I have decided to take my neighbor Pat’s tangerine tree hostage. Actually, the truth is that Pat is a really great guy but he just doesn’t like to pick fruit, which is a terrible shame for him because he happens to own a tangerine tree twenty feet tall that contains some of the best juicers this side of the State. In order to feed my brewing habit and create a symbiotic relationship with Pat I have volunteered to pick his tree clean.
Try picking twenty gallons of tangerines by hand with your wife standing in the driveway laughing at you. After my first bucket I climbed up the center of the tree, grabbed it with both hands and shook like hell, hundreds of beautiful fruit falling gently to the grass and a look of awe from Leah. Without batting an eye she looks at her friend DJ and tells her “ I bet he was thinking of me when he did that just then”. The truth is that I never would think of something as violent as throttling my lovely wife but I thought it was funny, too!
Seventeen gallons of fruit later and I found myself juicing like a madman in the kitchen. By the time my sissy boy juicer gave out I had about five and a half gallons, with which I also added one pint of Boston Hill Wildflower Honey, four pounds of sugar (simplified) and tossed in two packets of Pasteur Champagne yeast, pushing the airlock on and sending to my closet for a couple of weeks.
There is also a story behind the name, Soda Soda Tangerine Mojo. It just so happens that one day when I was a young and stupid Marine in the Philippines we had staged all of our amphibious vehicles in a bayside submarine base called Subic. While pulling maintenance duty one afternoon there was this little Philipino fella that kept coming by with a wheelbarrow full of Coke, Pepsi and ice, yelling “Soda, Soda. Soda Soda!” It was a wonderful song that kept in my head all of these years.
Oh, and also, one of the staple drinks at the time on McSai-Sai Boulevard was the mojo, some violently wonderful cocktail comprised of local fruit and rum and/or vodka or miscellaneous alcohol, whatever was available. A few glasses and you were schnokerred to the point of stumblization, especially if you were a twenty one year old who was just getting off a boat after two months.
This will be my version of mojo, in honor of a Philippino dude who sang a song that stayed with me my whole life and a long gone place that created a fantastic Island drink that was just as memorable.
I will keep you posted when it goes in the bottle!
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Let us not be crazy here, though. Even fifty bucks or so for ten gallons of fine handcrafted brew is a deal, going for something less than fifty cents per glass, adding in electrical and cooling costs. Overall in my entire brewing career I have been most pleased with direct fired propane systems as compared to electric steam generators and other methods. There are benefits, the first that comes to mind is the quick flash point and pleasant caramelization effect on some of my ales. It is also awful nice to have strike-temperature water from room temperature in the same amount of time it takes for me to realize that Gilligan is not getting off the Island in this episode.
My friend turned me onto a welding buddy of his who erected one of those "tree" systems with three burners and gravity feed, all the nice stuff any brewer would want. I went to see the system and slobbered all over it like Abby over a biscuit for about an hour or so. Look how simple it is, you don't even need to climb a ladder to fill the hot liquor tank, see the quick disconnect (OOOHH, AHHHHH), etc. No more ladling! No more overaeration of wort! Even heat distribution from several points of contact! Easy cleanup! It all sounded like a brewer's dream and I am sure that there are many brewers out there who would love a system like that one, Jay surely did a fantastic job on it. Perhaps one day I will be able to convince the real BOSS (translated:Wife) of the family to shell out the 800 smackers or so to set myself up with the "Tree".
Then, as usual, I climbed out of my little dreamworld and stepped back into brewing reality. One of the main reasons I got into brewing to begin with was to save money, how in the world am I gonna save money by spending so much on equipment? I guess I'm the kinda guy who would rather spend a little less money and drive a Lincoln with all the features I want than refinance the house on a Caddy. After a few Red Ales and a nice Maduro I was struck with a thought: Why not go old school?
I am a wood chopoholic. I love to chop wood, it is a great workout and I actually have something to show for my efforts at the end of a sweaty workout unlike those five percenters at the gym. For those who don't know, five percenters mean the guys with five percent body fat, most of it in their head, working out each individual muscle on fantastic contraptions and treadmills while listening to death metal and sucking on an energy pooooop-sicle. Anyhow, back to the wood. It is nice to have a cord or two of it in the backyard in case it actually falls below forty degrees in central Florida (maybe a handful of times), and it is also nice to have the fireplace to set THE MOOD, if you knowwhutImean. A nice fire, a little homebrew, some Dean Martin on the phono, you get my drift.
With all of this wood in the backyard I thought of digging a pit and then thought twice as I really am not a redneck contrary to popular belief. Anyhow, too many deep roots in the ground to make it easy so it was on to a better design. How about a brick oven? I could double it's use as a kiln for claywork if I chose and it could also double as a hot plate instead of the typical gascrap contraption you find at the Depot. Maybe a simple coal oven with a lift of some kind like the old kettles in Medieval times.
After pondering my thoughts over several more pints I decided to design system that was easy and included a lot of components I already have. The design will begin with a half barrel keg sawn in half with four steel posts running waist high. A sturdy rack will be placed on top as such to make it easy to remove ash. I plan on a double pulley trailer winch attached to the side and running up and out on a limb of my great oak in the backyard. This line will carry two seperate kegs, one hot liquor tank, the other mash tun. The brew kettle will not be initially attached but will have a hook connect if I need to raise it off the heat in order to avoid a boilover.
The idea is simple. Start a small charcoal fire, build it with wood and heat my strike water, gravity feeding from the arm into the mash tun, turning to mash tun to the heat for decoction mashes if necessary or applicable. After starch to sugar conversion sparge directly in the same manner and drop the wort into the brew kettle laying on the heat rack. As sparge comes to an end, transfer the grain out of the mash tun and directly into a trash barrel using height and gravity to my advantage.
Attach the brew kettle hook to the winch arm and boil. If there is a chance of boilover lift the winch accordingly until you are in the safe zone. When boil is complete lift the winch and move the arm away from the heat, chilling with the wort chiller and transferring to primary into the cooler.
All of this sounds like a lot of work but if I could save ten bucks a batch I could cover my buildout costs in less than half a year, now that is some capital finance savings realized in a short time if I ever saw it, and I don't even know Rupert Murdoch personally. I do know what's in my bank account, though, and this sounds like a no-brainer to me.
The smoke might even make my brew more distinctive, you never know.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Some of the sexiest beers that ever crossed my lips came from a stovetop kettle. I remember some of the very first extract batches I threw together with my buddy Steve, we surely didn't know how to do it "right" but in the end we were laughing while blowing the foam off the most quaffable nut brown ale that we ever drank (up to that time, of course). Papazian was right to encourage relaxation, less worry and so and so.
The funniest moments in my homebrew world are when brewers try to talk like they really know what the hell they're saying. A few of them just poop from the mouth so badly you want to insist they wash it down with a nice IPA, keep quiet and just let the damn kettle boil. "What? No, I really don't want you to tell me about your trip to Seibel and why I'm not able to convert every single living starch in my mash to the fermentable sugar of the Gods!"
The truth is that most good brewers realize that they have to keep to the basics, clean equipment, high quality and fresh ingredients, lots and lots of yeast, stable temperature and most important of all, passion! I always encouraged up and comers to keep copious notes but not be anal about every single damn thing, you tend to lose the trees altogether while searching for a twig, if you know what I mean. In the homebrew world there are such things as Star Trek brew geeks and I'm sure they flood Denver every year looking for Charlie and all his pals (he probably doesn't mind, he's so damn cool it kills me).
I am taking my brewing "science" acquired over years of overpursuit and challenging my whole outlook on beer. From now on I wish to become a purist, a traditionalist, hells bells even a slightly Orthodox brewer! I don't want to hear about the Japanese developing pure yeast strains in magnetically charged food grade balls that can guarantee a lifetime of repitching without laboratory support, no! I want to search ebay for the manuscript written by Joe Brewer Smucatelli in the 1800's before Prohibition destroyed our industry, I wish to rediscover wood barrels in my home system, nurture the ingredients from the soil by hand and make a truly local beer. I want to be the old man in the backyard in Bermuda shorts and long black socks mixing a mash with a mostly smoked cigar in my mouth.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Monday, January 12, 2009
Friday, January 9, 2009
Thought y'all might be interested in this article from WaPo. It's about time they let our boys sit down and have a few beers. Most Arabs I knew when I was over there loved to drink, they just drank on the penthouse of fancy hotels and not in public. They also loved American girls, especially strippers. Isn't it ironic?
If we truly are to reform the Middle East, we should start with beer. After all, isn't ancient Sumeria where beer was invented? I bet if we flooded the Middle East with some great beer we could do our part in achieving World Peas.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Washington's brewery is now being lovingly restored to its original condition by archaeologists, I wonder if they're gonna make his "small beer" (http://www.beerhistory.com/library/holdings/washingtonrecipe.shtml).
Our future brewpub's porter ale will be quite different from George's small beer. Bruce, Mike and I sampled it extensively last night and let me tell you, this is a beer for the ages. The color borders on the dark side of the style, you cannot see it through the glass, almost like a stout. There is a creamy head with a hint of roasted chocolate and a raisiny mouthfeel with a kiss of roasted malt, finishing clean and dry and wanting more.
I originally named this beer Bluegrass Porter due to the fact that I was in the mood to listen to some bluegrass music while brewing. Upon further discussion we all agreed to rename the beer Propagator Porter. This brew was just shy of two weeks so it was still a little young, the head didn't stay to the side of the glass like a three weeker. There was a pleasant drinkability about this beer, as we all nodded to eachother and tipped off a couple of gallons into the wee hours.
This development and critique of my beers is becoming a joy in my life. Nothing gives my ego greater satisfaction than to hear the words "This is by far the best porter I have ever tasted" from an expert, knowledgeable consumer like Bruce. To be sure, I do not agree with him that it is the best, I do agree that it would rate a 7 out of 10, even in its young age. In my opinion we should continue to sample the rest of the five gallons over the next couple of weeks to get a more comprehensive profile of the propagator. Bumping up a subtle hint of East Kent Golding might also be in order to give it a more balanced floral and counterbalance the raisin/chocolate/roasty flavor. I will brew the propagator again in the backyard soon.
Upcoming to the backyard brew system will be a Brown Ale for Bruce, another one of his favorite styles. I think I will blow his mind with a blended brown not unlike Newky but with a little more character and mouthfeel. Plans are underway.
I would like to think that George would be proud, sipping my porter and staining his wooden teeth...
Friday, January 2, 2009
In a cold and dark Celtic place an archaeologist recently discovered the ultimate sword, naming it after the place it was found. The Ballinderry Sword is the ultimate dark ages weapon, honed steel lovingly folded many times over and hilted with the skin of slain enemies. I have seen images of this sword and I hearken back to my first "R" rated adventure movie I was allowed to see as a kid.
Conan knew the meaning of life. We must crush our enemies and see them driven before us, hearing the lamentations of the women. We must also have a buddy like the dude in the movie with a hammer bigger than Mount Everest. And most of all, if we are to be incredible Pict warriors, we must slay the Auroch and make a drinking horn for our mead.
I like things that are made with a lot of care and love. It seems to me that those who don't possess a lot but possess good quality seem to live happier, more fulfilled lives than us "WalMart Bagabonds". Someone long ago must have spent many days over a hot kiln and anvil hammering out the sword that would be the pride of a clan chieftain. That person is no doubt somewhere in my ancestral line, whether he was a blacksmith, warrior or brewer it does not matter.
The Ballinderry Sword Red Lager is a fulfillment of my overblown, drawn out and unrealistic dream of my forefathers. If I'm gonna make a great beer, it better have a great name, too. Ballinderry is a brew that has many unique characteristics, the main among them is its balance. It also has a pleasant raisiny tongue that is well married to a cedar background and slightly dry finish. Oh, and don't forget the "cascading" rainfall at the end.
It was an incredible brew day today, not a cloud in the sky in the early morning hours as Mike and I struck our mash. The brew itself went without a hitch except for a quick boilover at the beginning and a little less yield than anticipated, which will ultimately make for a stronger beer (the Druids are crying, I am sure). Days like today make me happy to be Irish Catholic.
Friday, January 2, 2009:
My Great-Great Grandfather owned a pub in Milwaukee many years ago. People say he was on a first name basis with Al Capone but I cannot verify that. All I can tell you for sure is that he had a set of eyes that could pierce you to your essence, some people called them "Dead Eyes". I saw a picture of him in a white apron standing in front of his pub and yes, indeed, he had those eyes, and they cold cocked me many years after his death.
Some people have that look, you know, the look of total confidence and power. I don't have that look, I have more of a smarmy, "oh, I guess dis is where we go" look. I saw his glare at the camera lens and I knew while alive this man meant business and he would tell you for sure. Now, don't get me wrong here, I'm not saying I'm a pansy boy, ready to call for my Mommy when I didn't get my time on the swingset. I was blessed to be ignorant enough in my shielded middle class world that I wanted to go out there like Daddy did and earn those hard knocks that made a man walk and talk like the Duke (Angels singing...). Yeah, I've been to the other side of the latrine and let me tell you, the smell is actually the same.
This is the year I turn forty. I want my family to look back on my picture and although I don't want them to think I have dead eyes, I want them to think I've done something with this American life, this life that has been blessed by all good things and some not so dandy. I want to do something worthwhile instead of mowing the lawn every week and laughing at a mass email joke.
The thing that needs to be done is to open a brewpub, plain and simple. Along with my fellow partners in brewing, Mike and Bruce, we have set a course to open a brewpub somewhere within the Greater Tampa Bay area sometime in 2009. We will attain this goal!
Mike and Bruce couldn't be better suited to be my brewing pals. Mike is one of the smartest guys I've ever met, business savvy and confident. Bruce is the ultimate beer aficionado and knows more about computers than the dude who invented pacman. They bring a wealth of knowledge to the table that simply must be put to the test. We will spend many a day and night brooding over this process and thus, the reason for this blog.
I am currently in the process of upgrading my homebrew system in order to perfect my beer menu for the brewpub. I will be following with further posts regarding beer styles and I will also be asking the blogosphere for opinions and guidance throughout this deal. This input will be critical in the formation of our brewpub and we welcome all beer drinkers who want a fresh brewed, local beer in our area.
I have already finished a prelimary list of beer varieties for the pub. One of those beers will be a fine Rye Lager (RoggenLager), an excellent choice to honor a man from the Midwest who knew how to pour a real beer and lived among the fields of rye. It will be called Deadeye Rye Lager.