Monday, March 23, 2015


As I said in my 2015 Brewing Goals post, I was going to focus on a few styles (saison, hoppy beers, sours) and I have done almost exclusively that so far this year.  As much as I love re-brewing the same beers with little tweaks and making them better/honing in on them, every so often you need to switch things up.

I decided I wanted to brew a porter for a couple of reasons.  1) A stout/porter/dark beer is a nice change of pace from saisons/hoppy/sours.  2) Some of my favorite beers that I've had (and some I haven't had, but desperately want) are porters ie: Funky Buddha Last Snow, Angry Chair German Chocolate Cake, Hill Farmstead Everett.  3) Porter is a great style to serve as a base for different treatments (Last Snow has coffee, coconut, white chocolate, German Chocolate Cake has cacao nibs, coconut and vanilla) and if you've read a little of my blog, you'll notice I love splitting a batch 3 ways to get different beers.  

Now, I've read countless arguments about porter vs stout and it seems like nobody knows what differentiates the two styles.  Personally, I don't really care about putting this beer into a style category as I don't aim to enter this in competitions.  Initially I was shooting for a lower ABV, sweeter, lighter (brown to dark brown) beer with little roast character (which is what pops into my head when someone describes a porter).  In researching recipes, I think I actually drifted away from that in an effort to get something like Hill Farmstead's Everett.  I think the beer I ended up with will be a little roastier (maybe too much roasted malt?), but should end up with a higher finishing gravity to add some sweetness and hopefully a little bit of syrupy-ness, which I actually like.  Either way, I think this beer will get tweaked a few times because I'd love to have a good porter in my back pocket.


3 gallons
74% Efficiency
60 minute boil

5.5 lb 2 Row
0.75 lb Chocolate Malt
0.75 lb C60
0.75 lb Roast Barley

0.25 oz Chinook (60 min)
0.5 oz Chinook (15 min)

Wyeast 1318 @64F.  Mashed at 154F.

OG 1.066 | FG 1.022 | ABV 6.0% | IBU 33

Ca 237 | Mg 2 | Na 87 | Cl 219 | SO4 253 | HCO3 269

3/21/15: Brewday.  OG 1.063 (Ended up with > 3 gal).  Seriously dark.  Mash pH high (5.6), added lactic to lower.

3/22/15: Cooled overnight to pitching temp, added decanted 1L starter.  Fermentation was visible within hours.

3/24/15: Down to 1.026.

4/8/15: Racked 1 gallon onto 12 oz of frozen raspberries.  Racked 1 gallon onto 49 g toasted unsweetened coconut.

4/14/15: Bottled the 2 variants and the plain batch.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Dark Funky Saison

Things got a little weird on Sunday.  I brewed up a dark funky saison type beer.  Why?  I'm not entirely sure.  I'm a little inspired by Hill Farmstead's Edith when I had it recently, but I think this is mostly for curiosity's sake.  This also isn't technically a saison, I'm not using a saison yeast, but I don't know what else to call it.  Dark Brett Ale?  Farmhouse Dark Ale?  Who knows, let's just hope I in a few months I get to call it "Delicious".

I have a 3 gallon better bottle which I have dedicated to shorter term sour/funky beers.  I have my solera, which is for long term sours, but I wanted to pump out stuff a little quicker to satisfy my sour thirst.  The last beer I did turned out beautifully, so I went with another (hopefully) brett bomb.  I am planning on fermenting this solely with BSI Brett Drie and Hill Farmstead dregs from Nordic Saison that I have been growing up for the past few weeks.

Dark Funky Saison

3 gallons
75% Efficiency
60 minute boil

4 lb Belgian Pils (71%)
1.5 lb White Wheat (27%)
0.12 lb Chocolate (2%)

0.5 oz Tettnang (60 min)
0.5 oz Tettnang (15 min)

BSI Brett Drie and Hill Farmstead Dregs at 66F ambient.  Mashed at 148F.

OG 1.051 | FG 1.011 | ABV 5.4% | IBU 24

Ca 130 | Mg 2 | Na 66 | Cl 116 | SO4 134 | HCO3 213

3/8/15: Brewday.  OG 1.050.  Mash pH 5.4.  It's a little chocolately, so I'm not sure how this will turn out.

3/10/15: Had to switch to a blowoff tube, this thing is fermenting like crazy.

3/16/15: Gravity to 1.011.  Taste is very nice, color is a very unappetizing light brown.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Scrappy Hound House Pale Ale #2

I can't make a good hoppy beer to save my life.  I've brewed probably 10 different IPA/Pale/Hoppy whatevers and they all suck.  Muted aroma/flavor, malt forward, just generally blah.  I'm not even being super critical like I normally am when I compare my homebrew to commercial beers and feel underwhelmed.  I'm comparing my hoppy beers to mediocre versions of commercial beers and they still suck.  

With that being said, I'm not giving up.  I'm on a quest to make an explosive hoppy beer and I'm going to do it.  I might not do it for 20 years, but I'll get there eventually.  I last brewed my Scrappy Hound House Pale Ale #1 a month or two ago and the result was typical for my hoppy beers.  Uninspired and blah.  So I blew that recipe up, read and read and read about brewing hoppy beers and I think I've got it figured out (hahahahahha).

I took out the crystal.  Upped the amount of hops.  Got some fresh, uber dank, reliable flavor combo hops.  I went over water profiles for hoppy beers again (hellooooo sulfates!).  I made sure to get my mash pH low (5.2).  I changed the yeast to what apparently is the Hill Farmstead strain.  Then I hyped myself up and convinced myself this is the time I brew an awesome hoppy beer (either that or I set myself up to cry in the corner when I taste this and it sucks like usual).  

Pale Ale #2

3 Gallons
74% efficiency
60 minute boil

4.5 lb 2 Row (82%)
0.5 lb Maris Otter (9%)
0.5 lb White Wheat (9%)

0.25 oz Chinook (FWH)
0.5 oz Citra (15 min)
0.25 oz Amarillo (15 min)
0.5 oz Citra (Hop Stand, 180F for 20 min)
0.25 oz Amarillo (Hop Stand, 180F for 20 min)
1 oz Citra (Dry Hop)
0.5 oz Amarillo (Dry Hop)

Wyeast 1318 @ 64F ambient.  Mashed at 154F

OG 1.051 | FG 1.011 | ABV 5.2% | IBU 53

Ca 194 | Mg 1 | Na 27 | Cl 120 | SO4 279 | HCO3 108

3/3/15: Brewday.  Mash pH 5.3.  1.5 L starter of WY1318.  50 seconds of O2.  OG 1.051.

3/7/15: Gravity down to 1.017

3/16/15: Gravity at 1.011.  Dry hopped.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

National Homebrew Competition 2015

It's time for NHC, the National Homebrew Competition, the largest homebrew contest in the country.  It happens once a year and takes place in two rounds.  The first round being across the country at judging centers in different cities and the final round taking place at the National Homebrewer Conference, this year in San Diego in June.  I've never entered before, but I decided I wanted to have somewhat of a goal to brew for and thought I'd test my beers at the biggest competition of them all.

Let me first say that I'm honestly not a huge fan of homebrew competitions.  They're about brewing to style, not brewing the best beer possible.  Sometimes those two things coincide, but a lot of times my favorite examples of the style wouldn't fare well in a sanctioned competition (homebrew and commercial beers alike).  There is also the problem of judge bias, the placement of your beer in the flight (if your beer is tasted last, judges might be tired or palate fatigued at that point), my belief that judges aren't necessarily always the most qualified, honestly there are a hundred things wrong with competitions.  Humans have so many things going on that they can't be expected to accurately and fairly taste and score things.

With all that being said, I am still entering 4 beers.  Hypocritical?  Stupid?  Stubborn?  Maybe, but I'm trying to not let the results affect me.  If I win (long shot) I'll certainly be happy but I know that my beer might not have been the best one there or even the best to style, but for some reason the wind was blowing right and I came out on top.  The same goes for if I lose, at least I'll get some feedback!

The beers are as follows (and I tried to give an accurate assessment of what I think about them, and I'll update this when results come back in a few weeks):

Category 13F - Russian Imperial Stout - The Depths

This recipe was taken from past NHC winning recipes and brewed specifically for competition.  It's tasty.  A bit boozy.  Maybe a little sweet?  Or there's this odd sweet character to it.  I like it, but I honestly have no idea how it'll score.  I can see it getting anything from a 30 to a high score.  I'd guess it'll do something like a 34 but I have no basis for that.

Category 16E - Belgian Specialty Ale - Transfunk'd

I absolutely love this beer.  I think it's fantastic and commercial quality.  The aroma is so funky and the taste backs it up.  There's a little something on the back end, but I would buy this in the store.  With that being said, it's probably not going to do well in competition.  There is no category for it and no real base style to the beer.  It's out there but unfortunately not a competition beer.  

Category 20 - Fruit Beer - Pucker Up Passionfruit

Passionfruit berliner.  I taste tested this against my raspberry berliner and this won because it's more subtle.  The raspberry one is delicious, but it overpowers the berliner backbone, and therefore won't do as well in competition.  I make good fruited berliners if I may say so myself, so I think this beer will score the best.  If I get docked it'll be because the passionfruit is too much, but I think it's nicely subtle.  I also worry the carbonation levels might be too high and shipping will mess with it.  Crossing my fingers.

Category 23 - Specialty Beer - Here Gose Nothin'

Gose with coriander and sea salt.  I actually rebrewed this specifically for the competition.  I toned down the salt a little and I hope that puts it more in line.  It's tart, crisp, salty and quaffable.  I think this beer has a high floor and a high ceiling, so it could do well.

If you can't tell, I can make a crisp, lightly tart beer in my sleep at this point and that's why I'm confident in those.  Also, those beers fit in specific styles that I know can score well and if I do place it'll be because of those (with the RIS being a dark horse).  

The box has been shipped so it's out of my hands.  I really look forward to results and even more so, the next year of dialing in a few other styles for next year when I might be a little more prepared for competition brewing.