Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cider Plans

The ladies LOVE hard cider. Because of that I have had some plans to brew up a tasty apple cider. I talked to my relative who owns an apple orchard today. He said I can purchase some unpreserved cider from him sometime this September!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Buzzy Beer, Planning Phase Part 3

If you remember from earlier, a Barleywine needs to have a high specific gravity. I decided to shoot for about 1.100, which would put it right in the middle of the range that Barleywines usually go. To get that gravity, I decided to do mostly barley malt extract with 2 specialty grains to steep. I wanted to use extracts from the UK. Most of the national beer show winners in the Barleywine category use Munton and Fison.

I did some calculations. I need:
8 pounds dry Munton and Fison light (added as the boiling finishes)
3.3 pounds Munton and Fison Extra light liquid extract

For the specialty grains I am using
0.5 pounds carapils dextrin malt (steeped)- helps stabilize the foamy head
0.5 pounds cara malt, crisp malting from the UK (steeped)- adds caramel flavor

For yeast, you want an English Ale yeast with a high alcohol tolerance. I am going to use 2 packets of London Ale Wyeast 1028.

Barleywines are usually very strongly hopped. The range for traditional Barleywines is 50 to 100. Award winning barleywines use a range of 75 to 150. People usually use a high alpha acid hops to do the bittering and then an English hops like UK Golding as the flavoring hops.

I decided on the following hops makeup:

1 oz Centennial 9.5% boiled for 60 minutes
1 oz UK Fuggles 4.0% boiled for 30 minutes
1 oz UK golding 4.8% boiled for 30 minutes
1 oz UK golding 4.8% dry hopped - add when the beer goes from the primary to the secondary

All of that hops should put my barleywine right around 75 IBU's, which is right in the middle of the range for traditional barleywines and right at the low end for modern day champions.

I'll also need to buy 5 oz of corn sugar for the bottling.

So there it is. I have put the Buzzy Beer project on hold until after the BNA is all gone.

Buzzy Beer, Planning Phase Part 2

I thought I would talk a little more about Barleywine and what goes into one. I got most of my information from the book Designing Great Beers.

In order to get a higher alcohol content you have to make your beer have a higher starting specific gravity. The specific gravity is a measure of how much dissolved solid is present in the beer. In the case of beer, the dissolved solid is mostly fermentable sugar. You also have to have a yeast that is more alcohol tolerant. Having a higher specific gravity to start often means that you will have a higher specific gravity to finish and your beer will have more of a malt flavor.

The other thing that makes Barleywine different is that in olden times they added hops to the keg before shipping it to the pubs. This is called dry hopping. The usual procedure with most beers is to boil the hops with the malt. The hops served as a preservative initially and then people started to really like the taste of hops to balance out the sweet taste from high gravity beer. Because Barleywine has a higher finishing gravity than most beers, it will be sweeter and thus need more hops to balance out the sweet flavor. Barleywine typically has a much higher amount of hops than your typical beer. If you remember, Benn Naughty Ale has around 35 or 36 International Bitter Units (a way to measure how much hops flavor your beer has.) Guinness has about 50. Traditional commercial Barleywines had between 50 and 100 IBU's. The Barleywines that win beer contests typically have between 75 and 150 IBU's.

Keeping these facts in mind I have set out to design a Barleywine that is in line with the standards and typical practices for ancient Barleywines. I am changing things a little bit because I have different materials available to me, but by and large I am planning a very traditional Barleywine. More on that later.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Buzzy Beer, Planning Phase Part 1

I was recently informed of a well that is running on some of the land of my ancestors up in Ledyard! I am super excited to sample some of this water and, perhaps, to try it in a beer. Besides 'Our man in the field', one of the most colorful characters from Ledyard is Buzzy.

Buzzy is the subject of lore and controversy far too deep and involved to be discussed here. Suffice it to say that I thought the term 'Buzzy Beer' was a really good name for a beer from Ledyard.

The character of such a beer, should be quite strong. The beer should get better with age, much like Buzzy lore gets better with age. It should also be a beer that is perfect in small doses and on the right occasions.

I did some research into the different beer styles in my two books How to Brew and Designing Great Beers. I found a style that is perfectly suited to making Buzzy beer, namely Barleywine.

Barleywine contains no fruit so it is actually a beer. It was an ale that originated in England in the early 1800's. It was typically very strong, with an alcohol content of 8 to 12%. Thus it would be good in small doses. It is also usually very strongly flavored and served in small amounts. The Bluegrass Brewing Company had a barleywine the last time I was there and they would only sell it in half pints. Barleywine also gets much better with age and some batches are years and years old. How could there be a better beer style than Barleywine for Buzzy Beer?

Liberty Cream Ale Part 2

I racked the LCA to the secondary fermenter to condition. I took a gravity reading and it was 1.012. Right now the alcohol by volume is 4.39%. I am guessing it will finish around 4.4% or so.

Joe's Ancient Orange Mead Part 2

I put everything together today. I laid out all of the ingredients except I almost forgot the raisins! I weighed out exactly 3 1/2 pounds of honey.
I got all of the honey dissolved in water. I added the rest of the ingredients except the yeast and shook like crazy. I dissolved the yeast in a tiny bit of water and waited until it foamed up just to be sure it was active. You never know. Before I threw the yeast into the container I measured the specific gravity - 1.112. That is HIGH but expected for a mead. My Liberty Cream Ale ended up being 1.046.
Its been a couple hours and it still hasn't started much bubbling but I'm sure it will.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Benn Naughty Ale Part 5

I couldn't wait any longer. I had to taste test the BNA tonight. A photo is enclosed for your perusal.
It is way too early to draw any conclusions but it was delicious. I think it tastes a lot like Boddington's pub ale. It isn't too bitter or too sweet. It doesn't taste strong but it is definitely a much more substantial beer than say Budweiser or Miller. It needs to sit in the bottle a little longer. I think it will be amazing come my Great Uncle's 80th birthday. It was pretty well carbonated but it could use a touch more. I'll retest in a while.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Joe's Ancient Orange Mead Part 1

In the next week or so I am planning on making some Joe's Ancient Orange Mead. I found the recipes on the forums.

For ease, I have posted the recipe below.

Joe's Ancient Orange Mead
1 gallon batch

3 1/2 lbs Clover or your choice honey or blend (will finish sweet)
1 Large orange (later cut in eights or smaller rind and all)
1 small handful of raisins (25 if you count but more or less ok)
1 stick of cinnamon
1 whole clove ( or 2 if you like - these are potent critters)
optional (a pinch of nutmeg and allspice )( very small )
1 teaspoon of Fleishmann’s bread yeast ( now don't get holy on me--- after all this is an ancient mead and that's all we had back then)
Balance water to one gallon


Use a clean 1 gallon carboy

Dissolve honey in some warm water and put in carboy

Wash orange well to remove any pesticides and slice in eights --add orange (you can push em through opening big boy -- rinds included -- its ok for this mead -- take my word for it -- ignore the experts)

Put in raisins, clove, cinnamon stick, any optional ingredients and fill to 3 inches from the top with cold water. ( need room for some foam -- you can top off with more water after the first few day frenzy)

Shake the heck out of the jug with top on, of course. This is your sophisticated aeration process.

When at room temperature in your kitchen, put in 1 teaspoon of bread yeast. ( No you don't have to rehydrate it first-- the ancients didn't even have that word in their vocabulary-- just put it in and give it a gentle swirl or not)(The yeast can fight for their own territory)

Install water airlock. Put in dark place. It will start working immediately or in an hour. (Don't use grandma's bread yeast she bought years before she passed away in the 90's)( Wait 3 hours before you panic or call me) After major foaming stops in a few days add some water and then keep your hands off of it. (Don't shake it! Don't mess with them yeastees! Let them alone except its okay to open your cabinet to smell every once in a while.

Racking --- Don't you dare
additional feeding --- NO NO
More stirring or shaking -- Your not listening, don't touch

After 2 months and maybe a few days it will slow down to a stop and clear all by itself. (How about that) (You are not so important after all) Then you can put a hose in with a small cloth filter on the end into the clear part and siphon off the golden nectar. If you wait long enough even the oranges will sink to the bottom but I never waited that long. If it is clear it is ready. You don't need a cold basement. It does better in a kitchen in the dark. (Like in a cabinet) likes a little heat (70-80). If it didn't work out... you screwed up and didn't read my instructions (or used grandma's bread yeast she bought years before she passed away) . If it didn't work out then take up another hobby. Mead is not for you. It is too complicated.

Plans for a Mead

When we lived in Louisville I used to go to a place called the Bluegrass Brewing Company. One of the tastiest drinks I have ever consumed is the BBC's mead.

Mead is a fermented drink made from honey. It has been called the nectar of the gods. The first known description of mead is in the hymns of the Rigveda, one of the sacred books of the historical Vedic religion and (later) Hinduism dated around 17001100 BC. During the "Golden Age" of Ancient Greece, mead was said to be the preferred drink. Aristotle (384322 BC) discussed mead in his Meteorologica and elsewhere, while Pliny the Elder (AD 2379) called mead militites in his Naturalis Historia and differentiated wine sweetened with honey or "honey-wine" from mead.

One drawback to brewing mead is that it has to sit and age for 9 months to a year to be really tasty. I looked around for a site on meads and found a great one at I found a good recipe to start with in the forums. The nice thing about the recipe are that it is supposedly ready to drink at about 2 months and it gets much much tastier with age. I am planning a 1 gallon batch to get started.

Liberty Cream Ale Part 1

Even thought the Benn Naughty Ale is still aging in the bottles, almost all of it is spoken for. I am bringing a huge amount of it to my great uncle's 80th birthday party at the end of August. Because Hawkeye football season is coming up I decided I didn't want to be caught without some homebrew.

The second beer I brewed up is from a Midwest Supplies kit called Liberty Cream Ale. It seems to be a very popular kit in the brewing community. I brewed on 7/19/8. This one I did according to the book. I did a 30 minute steep and a 60 minute boil. It is sitting in the fermenter right now. My starting gravity was 1.046. I calculated the international bitter units to be 37.5.

My plans for this beer are to leave it into the secondary fermenter for at least 2 weeks. Supposedly if you leave it in the secondary fermenter longer it will end up being a clearer beer.

Benn Naughty Ale Part 4

I bottled the BNA on 7/15/8. The final specific gravity was 1.010. It needs to stay in the bottles until 7/29/8. On 7/22/8 I turned the bottles a little to stir up the yeast a bit for a little more carbonation. Thankfully none of the bottles have burst.

Here are some stats for Benn Naughty Ale:

Starting Specific Gravity: 1.044
Finishing Specific Gravity: 1.010
Alcohol content: 4.39%
International Bitter Units: 35.5

Benn Naughty Ale Part 3

On 7/8/8 I moved the BNA from the primary fermenter to the secondary fermenter. I checked the specific gravity at that point and it was 1.014.
I then realized that I forgot to put water in the airlock.
I am hoping that there will be no ill effects.

Benn Naughty Ale Part 2

About the time I was brewing the Big Ben Pale Ale kit, I was working with a relative who has the last name Benn. I enjoyed working with him so much that I decided to name my first batch Benn Naughty Ale.

I was a little pressed for time on this batch because I didn't anticipate how long it would take to heat such a great amount of liquid. Thus I only did a 20 minute steep with the grains. I also ended up only doing a 50 minute boil instead of a full hour.

At the end of the boil and after cooling I measured the specific gravity at 1.044.

I added the yeast and threw it into the primary fermenter.

I made a slight mistake with the volume of the wort. Instead of 5 gallons I ended up with 5 and 3/4 gallons. Oops.

Benn Naughty Ale Part 1

The first beer I brewed I started on July 2nd. I decided to start brewing with kits from Midwest Supplies. I think I'll do a few kits and learn from the kits before I start trying to brew from scratch.

There is a great English Ale called Boddington's Pub Ale.

Boddingtons is an English beer, originally from Manchester, United Kingdom that has been brewed for more than 200 years. The bitter is now sold in over 30 countries worldwide, and can be drunk on tap around the world in countries as diverse as New Zealand, China, the United States, and Canada.

The Strangeways Brewery was founded by two grain merchants, Thomas Caister and Thomas Fry, in 1778. [1] The location of the brewery, just outside the city centre, was chosen to avoid a grain tax levied by local mills that belonged to Manchester Grammar School.

Henry Boddington joined the brewery in 1832 as a traveller, and eventually rose up to become a partner in the company. In 1853 he borrowed money to become the sole owner of the enterprise.

I wanted to try an English Ale for my first beer. I settled on the Big Ben Pale Ale kit from Midwest Supplies.

Equipment Needed to Brew

I got all of my equipment from a brewing supply store in Minneapolis called Midwest Supplies. I bought a kit that had almost everything I needed to get started.

It was missing a few things that make brewing a lot easier.

One thing it was missing is a
You need a wort chiller because you have to cool your boiled beer ingredients down (wort) to lower than 80 degrees before you add the yeast. A wort chiller does a 5 gallon batch in 10 minutes. The quicker you cool the wort the better.

The next thing you need is a wine thief.
A thief allows you to pull liquid out of your fermenter very easily. You need to be able to do this so that you can take specific gravity readings.

The final thing you need is a bottle tree.
It makes it really easy to sanitize your bottles and dry them.


I am at the very beginning of a new hobby. I have wanted for a long time to brew up some tasty beer but for various reasons I never got around to it. The closest I got was making some root beer but I was only able to make one batch. It exploded all over the kitchen and that was the end of that.

I made a visit to Monticello a few years ago.

I was very impressed by Thomas Jefferson. As it turns out he was also a brewer.
I don't know how long this hobby will last but I am really enjoying it so far. A blog is really well suited to brewing because you have to keep good records so that you can figure out what went right and what went wrong. Reproducibility is the goal.