Friday, January 31, 2014

Tinctures and Extracts

Every so often I'll have a beer that blows me away with some flavor I didn't think was possible in a beer.  I'm talking about beers like Pumking, No Crusts, Cucumber Saison that are focused on a flavor and absolutely nail it on the head.  I'm drinking a liquid PB&J when I'm having No Crusts and sipping pureed cucumber when having CCB's Cuc Saison.  I've wondered how they put these flavors in their beers because I've tried a PB&J beer that didn't work and I've tried fruits in beers which have only had minimal impacts.

After wondering about it for a little while, I wondered if these guys are using extracts to get these flavors.  I recently found out that CCB uses an all natural cucumber extract type of addition to get their cucumber flavor that's obtained by distilling fresh fruit in a proprietary process.  I can't do that, nor can I buy the same product because it is only available at a commercial level so I need to find another alternative.  I stumbled on a few thread online that talked about tinctures and extracts that were successful by combining the ingredients with some cheap vodka for extended periods.  The ethanol in the vodka was able to extract these good flavors out and you have a concentrated extract.  I'm going to try a few different tinctures and see what happens.

I'm thinking that if I add a little bit of some different ingredients in a sanitized beer bottle and then add some vodka and cap it, I should have a nice container that I can throw in a cabined and forget about.


Vanilla beans
Fruit zest (lime, lemon or orange)
Coffee (different roasts?)
Berries (would raspberries concentrate in the vodka solution?)
Hops (I have a ton of citra available, why not throw it in a bottle)

I'll get these set up when I begin brewing again and maybe try some stout variations out or add to an IPA to get fresh hop flavor or citrus zests to a berliner!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Future Brews - Berliner Weisse and Treatments

I haven't been brewing and updating lately because I recently graduated and tried to tone down the brewing and drink all of my homebrew in anticipation of a job/move.  As I continue to look for jobs, I still don't want to brew in case something pops up and as a result, I have tons of ideas, but nothing to do with them!  I figured I'd outline plans that I want to do when I can start brewing again to get them out of my head and get a gameplan going for when I can brew again.

Firstly, I want to make more berliner weisse.  My past batches have been really delicious (Pineapple scored a 43) so I want to try new blends and drink more berliners!

Before I get into some blends I think I can do, I also want to try a new method.  I have previously soured my wort in a bucket at room temp or by keeping it as hot as possible.  Although I seem to have a great method, I want to be a little more scientific about because I have a heating pad but mainly because I want a consistent reproducible product.  I found this page and was then reading Wild Brews by Jeff Sparrow where I found the info confirmed.  Basically what this process does is keep enterobacteria (baby diaper, nasty smells/tastes, the bad parts about souring) at bay by souring at a pH that doesn't allow for enterobacteria growth (<4.3) but is still an enviroment for lactobacillus to thrive (>3.8).  I'll update with the process when I actually brew, but that's what's in the back of my head right now.

Now, on to the treatments:

Passionfruit (last time I used a little too much, trying to make more subtle)
Pineapple (one pineapple per gallon)
Berry (not sure on what type)
Key lime pie (coconut, vanilla, lime zest?)
Watermelon (need to determine a process for this, last time was a big failure)

I plan on using Goya frozen fruits for most of these, as last time I used them for passionfruit, they worked perfectly!  The pineapple will be fresh, because I did that last time.  I'm going to mess around with some tinctures and might use them, but that's a blog for another time.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Sour Brown Label

I bottled my sour brown today.  It has only been 6 months and the gravity is a little high for a sour, but I took that into account and bottled in thick walled belgian bottles and under carbed a little to take into account the brett working a little bit more on the complex sugars left.  It tastes pretty spectacular and I'm really happy with it.  Here's the bottling day pictures and a label that I designed which is based off the Goose Island sister beers.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Northern California Beer Trip

After beer camp, I took a few extra days to visit some breweries around Chico, CA.  It just happens that those breweries are some of the best in the country.  My trip started by going up, down and through some mountains for upwards of 3 hours.  Being a Florida guy, seeing snow capped peaks, going up hills, then winding down at 15 mph was insane.  My tiny Chevy Sonic could barely make it.  

I finally reached my first destination: Anderson Valley Brewing Company.  I started my trip early from Chico because I needed a full day to pace myself and be safe driving, so I was there right when they opened.  This being an off day, I was the only one there.  I got a sampler to maximize my tastes and ended up with El Steinber Dark Lager, Mowkeef Saison, Poleeko Gold Pale Ale, HIghway 128 Hoppy Pale, Mendo Mello, The Kimmie, The Yink and The Holy Gose and Featherleggy Bulrusher Sour Stout.  I've had some of their widely distributed beers before and thought they were good, solid beers.  At the tap room, I thought the same thing, they had solid beers, nothing I'd actively seek out.  Their taproom and brewery areas were big spaces, nothing unique.

Following Anderson Valley, I started the nearly hour long drive to Bear Republic Brewing.  This brewery is in an awesome area of California called Healdsburg which had cool shops, restaurants and then in the middle, the brewpub.  I barely got a seat at the bar and didn't want to get a flight due to the business so I chose a Tartare, a very sour Berliner Weisse aged in barrels, which has been a longtime want of mine.  I added a blue cheese burger with garlic fried (delicious) to my order, and a Greg's Amber Ale (hoppy amber) before I had to cut myself off.  I wish I could have stayed longer, I am a big fan of Bear Republic.

The cumulative effect of 4 straight days of drinking was getting to me, but I kept on going, grabbing a hotel room about an hour south of Bear Republic in Petulama, CA.  Guess what was a 10 minute walk from my hotel?  Lagunitas Brewing Company.  I was very excited for this brewery  not only because they make phenomenal and consistently delicious beers but because of their company ethos (oh and following Tony Magee on Twitter has given me hours of entertainment).  I walked into an awesome gift shop to snag some beers and goodies, then to their tap room/brewery space.  They had a massive outdoor area lit by Christmas lights and it was home to a ton of picnic tables.  It was loud, people were laughing and I was in heaven.  I snagged a chair at the bar and ordered what I had been waiting for, a Lagunitas Sucks.  It was delicious, insanely hoppy, and I was happy.  After that I got a sampler of Sumpin Weisse (Lil Sumpin Sumpin with wheat), Double Pale ale, Fusion 18 (triple IPA, wowow!) and what I thought was Cappuccino Stout.  It took me one sip to realize I hadn't gotten the regular Cappuccino Stout but a rye whiskey barrel aged version!  It was awesome.  I capped the night with another Sucks and stumbled home.

The next morning was the highlight of my trip and my visit to beer Mecca, Russian River Brewing Company.  A pilgrimage to this place should be on every beer lovers bucket list.  I got to the brewpub around 4 to have my heart sink, no Pliny the Elder!  They had a batch go wrong and had to dump it so they were out.  It was a bummer, but it really didn't matter because I have had it many times in San Diego.  I had to satisfy my urge for hops by having a Happy Hops, Aud Blonde, Row 2, Hill 56, Blind Pig, then a sampler of their entire belgian lineup including: Noble Experiment, Perdition, Damnation, Defenestration, Temptation, Consecration and Supplication.  I had a pizza and some Pliny bites (cheese bread with jalapenos) and I was in heaven.

It was an awesome trip which I would recommend to anyone else who's in the area.  Next trip, Grand Rapids or Colorado?  We'll see.