It is hard to know what lays around the corner for us. At the end of February, I had big plans to brew and post to this blog many times. However, the end of February was the last day we could source our beef from Bichelmeyer’s Meats, due to them not being USDA certified. The Bichelmeyer family is kind and generous, and their beef is the best in the city. They raise their cows from calf to slaughter, raising them humanely, feeding them Boulevard spent grains (they prefer the Tank 7 batches), and custom cutting your steaks in front of you. I can’t speak highly enough of them.
Wanting to turn a negative into a positive, I purchased a nice meat grinder. We are now grinding our own meat daily, using beef from the local Mie’s Wholesale Meats. Extremely exciting stuff (if burgers get you salivating), but also time consuming. At this point the staff has fully taken on this task of grinding chuck for burgers. I’ve never been giddy over meat before, but there’s something so amazing about fresh ingredients.
As the restaurant contrives to break down my body and soul, I am starting to look at brew days as the best way to escape it all. Slowly stirring the mash with my charismatic paddle, thinking up great recipes, laughing heartily with other brewers over stories and beer… and lugging kegs around.
Packaging the beer is one of the highlights of brewing. You are so close to the finished product, you can nearly taste it, minus some carbonation. This time around, it tasted like dark sweet cherries, because Test Batch #5 is a cherry IPA.
The color is a nice red/orange hue. The hydrometer shown here is indicating a final gravity of 1.012. Taking these measurements allows me to pinpoint why a beer tastes the way it does. In this case, the remaining dextrins in the beer give it body and mouth-feel, but not to the extent of a malty bock beer.
I used 40 lbs of dark sweet frozen cherries, steeped at the end of the boil. Next time, I will try a fruit puree post fermentation, to see if I can develop more fruit aroma.
Free samples! Tasting the beer with others allows me to check for off flavors. If there are any off flavors at this point, I would be in trouble. However, a clean taste at this juncture does not insure smooth sailing. Many off flavors develop after packaging, due to contamination of beer-souring bacteria and wild yeast. Some contamination are subtle, resulting in a thinner body, but no off flavor.
After cleaning and sanitizing everything, my cherry beer is pumped from the conical into the clean keg. Time to relax, don’t worry? Not yet, because today we’re brewing too! I’ll be using West Yorkshire yeast for this beer, the same yeast I used in the cherry IPA. British yeasts like this generally have fruity esters (like peaches or nectarines), a mineral taste, and flocculate (clear out) relatively well.
A monstrous amount of Gambrinus honey malt, along with some Bohemian Pilsner and German Dark Munich, makes up most of this beer’s grain bill. I am aiming for a hoppy honey ale, although no actual honey is being used.
Brewer’s note: look for loose screws in your bag of malt! It’s like a crackerjack box toy, except it can destroy your mill and ruin your happy mood. I’ve also found rocks, straw, carriage bolts, and rope inside various malt bags before. I can’t really blame the screw for knocking my grain hopper over, though. That was definitely me.
Some people may be inclined to view brewing as a stress relieving, relaxing time. For me, it has always been about dodging that one big disaster. That seems to bring an element of fun to the equation. Those with turnkey systems are probably having a much more relaxed time, but where’s the fun in that?
Citra hops will lend a gooseberry aroma and flavor to this beer. I also used my standby hop, Sterling (a Czech-American hybrid hop), which will hopefully impart cinnamon and citrus flavors. I used First Wort Hopping and huge doses of hops at knockout to develop aromas. FWH is a technique that rounds out bitterness and adds aroma. One simply adds hops during the lautering process (when sweet liquor is separated from grain). Knockout hops allow the oils to bond to the wort, offering up aromas that would have boiled away. More advanced hop techniques include dry hopping, hop-backing, and hop-rocketing.
Test Batch #5, Cherry IPA will be ready to tap this Friday. TB #6, Hoppy Honey Ale, will be carbonated next week. I will be doing my best to brew every week so that we can have beer on a regular basis. It will be my glorious burden, gladly serving thirsty people everywhere.