Sunday, September 6, 2015

Belgian Witbier Blind Hope!

As part of a Father's Day present to myself, I indulged in a Black Rock coriander & orange Witbier, in the style of the classic Hoegaarden Witbier. What could possibly go wrong?

1.7kgs Black Rock crafted coriander & orange Witbier
500g cracked wheat grain
500g cracked light grain
600g dextrose
200g liquid wheat malt
White Labs Hefeweizen IV Ale Yeast WLP380 (2nd use)
White Labs Oktoberfest Lager Yeast WLP820 (2nd use)

To add to the authenticity of the beer, i decided to to do a partial mash, adding grain to the brew to add freshness and flavour. Unfortunately, I could not find the cooking thermometer, so I was forced to use the traditional gauge - the finger. If it hurts - it's too hot!

Anyway, i dragged out an old liquid hefeweisen yeast that i'd used, however it appeared to have little yeast, so I added Oktoberfest liquid yeast to ensure fermentation, setting them in a glass with fresh malt and a favourable temperature to procreate, to be ready for addition to this to-be exotic brew.

I realised why I hadn't done a partial mash in a long time, having to steep the grain at 65C for 30 minutes, and then spend the next hour squeezing out malt for the tiniest of results. At least i'll appreciate the effort, if not fellow imbibers, not that i'd fail to remind them of the inordinate effort involved in creating such an assumed fine brew.

After spending the afternoon perfecting my concoction, I overfilled the fermenter to 26 litres instead of the usual 23, so I'll need to keep an eye on it to ensure it doesn't overflow from the airlock like many of its predecessors. Fortunately I recently took the next step in home brewing by acquiring a fridge with a separate thermostat, ensuring that such nasty happenstances don't flood the garage. The end result was a final gravity of 1038 - an expected alcohol by volume amount of 4.3%. Yes, it's a bit of a pink handbag of a beer, but I can always drink more to compensate.

As to what could possibly go wrong? Well, we'll just have to wait and see...

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Decisions, decisions...

To dry hop, or not to dry hop??

Having created my Coup de grĂ¢ce of ruby red grapefruit, lemon myrtle and crushed coriander seed with oktoberfest yeast, should I dry hop or not? It smelt great at first, but after a few days of fermenting it settled down, however I do want to preserve the unique smell and flavour of the special Whisperer's brew.

So I've made a decision, and i've decided to hedge my bets - half dry hopped, and half without, so I've siphoned off half to another fermenter so I can preserve my original yeast, minus the hops for refermentation, with the other having an additional generous serving of the amazing crystal hops. So this is an experiment, with half having the flavour addition of dry hops, with a control batch devoid of additional hops. I'll be bottling the control batch tomorrow, with the the other batch to be bottled a few days hence, to allow the hops to work it's magic.

So, which batch will be superior?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Bold and the Booty-Full

Well, here it is, punters, the long-promised brew of proven ingredients all brewed into one, to assault the senses and smack the wise, safety-first rule of brewing fair in the face.

Yes, folks, having endured the pitfalls of banana and capsicum beers, I have identified sufficient successful ingredients to be able to put them all into one, ignoring yet again my golden rule of emphasising only one aspect of beer.

Yep, this is the Cosentino of beer brews, the dunno-if-I-can-crack-the lock-underwater leap of faith with a range of ingredients that I can confidently proclaim have never been in the same beer together in all of human history.  So do not sweat over whether the beer will kill you, but savour history in the making and partake for history's sake, for this could be a beer for the ages, to be celebrated for, or in spite of as the case may be, the wonderful history of beer.

So what are the magical ingredients, you ask?  Well, for starters I will use a version of the tried and true coriander and curacao orange peel used in Hoegaarden - powdered coriander seed and ruby red grapefruit zest.  Any other type of orange imparts a pure orange taste, which, while not a bad flavour per se, does not really do beer any favours.  Curacao orange is actually bitter, and is not even orange in colour, so including navel oranges in beer is as productive as, well, navel-gazing.

As once suggested, and subsequently demonstrated successfully, grapefruit does a fine job of replicating the bitterness of caracao orange.  After doing a Troy Buswell (look it up if you must) to the locally sold grapefruit produce at Stupidbarn (or whatever they call it), I chose the ruby red grapefruit for its more savoury taste than the typical yellow variety.  Grapefruit does impart its own bitterness, with only a vaguely fruity difference to what hops provides to beer.  After all, what could possibly go wrong?

As I said, I have the ground coriander seeds ready to go, having found them by accident after having given up on finding them after a fruitless search taking an entire week.  So that's two ingredients, you ask, what about the rest?

Well,  I previously road tested the lemon myrtle, a native ingredient, and found it to impart a sweet-agnostic but pleasant flavour to beer, although I slightly overdid it the first time around.  No one died, however, so I call that a success.  There is no chance of overdoing it this time due to limited supply, so i'm pretty much guaranteed to produce a slight flavour without being at all obvious.

Fourthly, resurrected Oktoberfest yeast gets a cameo after being retrieved from an earlier brew, being reused under the advice of my not-so-local home brew shop, that liquid yeasts can not only be reused, but actually improve with subsequent use, up to a point.  If you don't like the result, it's their fault, so there.  I recently used it in my Dutch Lager, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it added significant body and flavour.

And lastly, dry hopping.  I am a convert and an aficianado of dry hopping, having found that it gives the great hoppy flavour that earlier attempts had clearly failed to reproduce.  I will be using the awesome Crystal hops, which imparts a strong, herbal, fruity flavour to beer which has my next-door neighbour supplying my boy with a regular supply of cheese and bacon pies, so I guess it must be alright.  It should be noted at this point that this particular hops is the reason for adding the grapefruit, as balance is important, especially for those of the late-night-prove-to-the-local-cop-that-your-behaviour-is-one-of-general-happiness-not-one-of-impairment variety.  Otherwise it would risk rendering the beer too fruity,  but the grapefruit should also add its own flavour to proceedings, so all-in-all I am supremely confident of a wonderous result, or at the very least a beer that won't kill you.

Either way, partaking in the result will render one to be part of history, living or dead.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Beer Whisperer Beer Review - Sail & Anchor The Bloke Red Ale

In my rounds the other day, I came across an unfamiliar beer which piqued my interest.  It certainly wasn't the name, which was to me a lame attempt at appealing to men in desperate need of reaffirming their masculinity.  That it wasn't a ubiquitous, here-we-go-again pale ale was certainly appealing, as was the 640ml bottle size. Puny 330ml bottles not only appear to make false claims of exclusiveness and rarity, but also deprive the beer drinker of a sufficient quantity to make a properly considered judgement of the quality of the beer.  Well, that's my excuse and i'm sticking to it.  Of course, the 6% alcohol by volume does not appeal to my inner drunkard, or my outward one for that matter, but I could be lying.

To be honest, I couldn't figure out whether this is a Sail & Anchor Brewery beer from Fremantle in Western Australia, or a Karl Strauss Brewing Company beer from San Diego, just that they waffle on about the latter being inspired by the former, and that it was brewed in Freo, but all in all it sounds like a poor man's James Squire with their dodgy tales of colonial days in Port Jackson, and equally unfascinating.

Anyway, to the fun part!  Tasting notes on the bottle say that it is of "medium body with well balanced malt and hop characteristics and a slightly roasted malt finish.  Pours a bright red hue in the glass, with lingering hoppy, grapefruit and tangerine aromas".  Sorry, but unless the aromas are assaulting the senses, then it's just another wanky claim.  After all, if there is no grapefruit in the ingredients, and no obvious grapefruit in the smell or taste, then it's the proverbial falling tree in the forest.  Only when you open a bottle of Franziskaner or the like and feel like you've been smacked in the face by a bunch of bananas can they claim to have an aroma of something that is otherwise not there.

Fortunately,  the beer is bold and malty, with the high alcohol content well masked by its full-body maltiness.  Pouring a solid white head, it is the sort of beer than used to be told would put hairs on your chest, before metrosexuality dictated that hair should only be on your scalp and face.  Maybe they should have claimed that instead, with an appropriately bearded target audience member on the label.

I don't support the notion of a lingering hoppiness as claimed, however it is consistent with the malty style, and does contain the coppery red it claims to possess.  All in all, this is a good, honest, and bold beer, dubious labels and claims notwithstanding.  Definitely a beer I would drink (over and over) again, as it doesn't shirk it's responsibilities as a beer, and is worthy of a good session with fellow appreciators of fine beer.  Aussie to the trackie-daks, it is yet another strong showing from one of the world's great craft brewing locales.


Friday, June 27, 2014

It's brewing time!

Yes, folks, It's that time of the year - the short window of opportunity in Sydney to brew lagers and pilsners.  So I've stocked up on supplies, and I'm ready to rumble! Or brew. Whatever.

First off the block is ESB's Bohemian Pilsner Finest Round Wort Kit.  I'm highly sceptical of salesmen, but apparently I have a soft spot for beer.  Who knew?

It comes with saflager yeast and a small amount of Saaz finishing hops, which is consistent with my "year of hops", which has so far worked well.  So far I've used cascade hops, crystal hops and hallertau (not to be confused with Dene Halatau from the awesome Wests Tigers) hops.  My favourite hops has proved to be crystal hops, which has a very nice citrus aroma and strong but not overpowering taste.  Cascade was a bit over the top for my liking, while hallertau was so subtle i was unable to notice it.  But just to be sure, I have one in the fridge for (yet another) taste test.

I also bought a Mangrove Jack's Dutch Lager kit, with some fancy yeast and hops to flatter it.  I'm salivating at the though of drinking a beer with genuine Oktoberfest liquid yeast.  Wunderbar!!!  I also bought a bock liquid yeast for the next time I do a dark beer.  Like a kid in a lolly store, I also bought more crystal hops and Summer hops, which is an Australian breed with fruity overtones.

So once I've cleaned the fermenter, It's pilsner time!  Next will be the dutch lager using Oktoberfest yeast and summer hops, followed by probably a Coopers Dark Ale with bock yeast and a little bit of crystal hops.

Bottoms up!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

2013 - The Year of Fruit Beer! Part I

Well, it's been a long time posting, but, truth be told, the year of the fruit beer was a year of mixed results, and some results weren't exactly worthy of publishing, except perhaps as a lesson to others.

So, what fruit was, in moments of temporary insanity, considered worthy of addition to the nectar of the gods??  Well, what about strawberries?  Or bananas?  Or Julian Clary?  Wait, that's not something you want in beer, but it is undoubtedly a fruit.  No, i meant the stuff that hangs from trees, not hangs around in....anyway, you get my point.  But why stop at fruits?  What about coriander seeds? Or lemon myrtle?? Or capsicum? Or grapefruit? Okay, that's a fruit, but not something you want in beer.  Or is it?

Grapefruit has this strange characteristic, bitterness, which just happens to be a characteristic of the amber fluid. So why not add to beer?  Indeed, why not add to beer to balance out the wrong type of orange peel?  Hang on, what the hell is orange peel doing in beer?  Well, i'm glad you asked.  Okay, you didn't ask, but who's blog is this?  Yours?? No, it's mine. You can go to hell.  Or Forbes.  Same thing, really.  Okay, i did get out of Forbes, so it was not eternal.  Damnation, sure, but not eternal.  In any case, i couldn't tell the difference, but to be fair, Forbes was school, so i was rather partisan about the whole place.  Regardless, bottomless pits were less of a hole than Forbes, and more pleasant smelling.

Anyway, my first foray beyond the reinheitsgebot was to do a dark beer with, hmmm, what shall i put in dark beer?  Why, prunes and caramelised pears, of course!  Well, i figured that it wouldn't overpower dark beer, but rather balance out the burntness.  All in all, a success, achieving the desired taste, with only the burden of repeatedly draining the brew.  Why didn't i just purchase some prune juice?

Emboldened to pursue fruit beer, my next effort was to source some uniquely Australian ingredients, so why stop at fruit??  By pure happenstance, i stumbled across a stall at the Royal Easter Show which sold precisely that.  After smelling an assortment of Australian herbs and spices, i settled on some lemon myrtle.  Mixing it into a Coopers Pale Ale, the result was not "lemony" at all.  It defied description, yet the flavour was positive, and dare i say, a success.  In hindsight, i'd rather have used a little less, however I can see myself making this again, and further down the track, combining it with other ingredients to make my ultimate beer, the Beer Whisperer Special™ with secret ingredients!

Anyway, that's enough for now, i have, for the first time, filtered beer to bottle!  Stay tuned for Part II some time in hopefully the not too distant future!