Peak Brew Season

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Spring has sprung, and Prince is dead. The two aren’t related at all, and only one has anything to do with homebrewing but I’m a whore for web traffic.

I managed to squeeze in another brew day this past weekend, and after a few consecutive successful brews I was due for a number of screw ups. I brewed a new IPA recipes, Eighty-Sixed (recipe below and here) and managed to knock out the diptube while stirring my wort. Instead of emptying the keggle and trying to re-attach it, I went with the “fuck it” approach, realizing I’d lose some volume. Not a huge deal… until screw up numero B.

I use these spice infuser balls to keep my hop crud from clogging up my equipment or getting too much trub in my fermenter, and being this is an IPA I put a lot of balls (hehe) into this beer. Unfortunately, two of the balls popped open so that may have also contributed to my lackluster pull from this batch… only about 4 gallons.

So we’ll see how this IPA turns out. As you can see in the recipe below, this IPA contains oats and not a particularly flocculent yeast so I expect it to be cloudy; so I’m not too worried about the extra trub/hop crud in the keggle and fermenter. As we speak it is fermenting away in one of the fermentation freezers in my basement.

Also fermenting/conditioning are the rebrew of Uncommon Wrath which received 2 oz of Cascade dry hops a couple days ago. Wrath will be kegged tomorrow and bottled for competition on Sunday (and turned in for competition on Monday!). In addition to Wrath, the second 5 gallons of Carcosa are conditioning on chocolate, vanilla, and bourbon and have been for a couple months now and I’ll probably allow it to stay that way through the rest of the Spring and Summer (unless, of course, the first 5 gallons get kicked and I’m hankering for some stoutly goodness). The first 5 gallons conditioned for only about a month, so it’ll be interesting to see what the longer conditioning period will do for the stout’s flavor.

And lastly, my homebrew club – you know, the Mash Holes – brewed a barleywine to put into one of our club barrels. I brewed my 5 gallons worth of that barleywine the same weekend as Wrath, and that is still fermenting in advance of it going into the barrel next weekend (or the weekend after. I forget. I’m a bad VP).

Looking forward, I’m getting a special yeast from White Labs – Hansen Ale Blend – which I tend to build up and start harvesting and using for IPAs across the Spring and Summer. With any luck (and if it’s any good), I’ll using it for my hoppy beers for a while. The description is below:

This is a blend of many IPA strain favorites. If you’re tired of only using WLP001, this strain is for you. It has the attenuation of WLP090 and the character of WLP007.

Used in the White Labs Tasting Room. Visit here – http://tastingroom.yeastman.com – and search under the appropriate “strain #” for more details.

In the Tasting Room, the strain produced dry attenuation, was hop-forward, with minor ester production, and was a great flocculator, according to White Labs Brewer Joe Kurowski.

Phew! Lots of doings here at Anti-Hero Brewing. Until next time!

 

Eighty-Sixed

Stats

 OG: 1.073
FG: 1.021
IBU: 86
SRM: 5
ABV:6.8%

Batch & Boil

  • Batch Size: 6.0 gal
  • Boil Time: 90 min

Fermentables

Amount Fermentable Maltster Use PPG Color
7.5 lb

Pilsner (DE)

Any Mash 38 1 °L
7.5 lb

Golden Promise (UK)

Any Mash 37 3 °L
1.25 lb

Flaked Oats

Any Boil 33 2 °L
0.75 lb

Turbinado

Any Boil 44 10 °L
0.63 lb

Carapils (Dextrine Malt) (US)

Any Boil 33 1 °L

Hops

Amount Hop Time Use Form AA
1.25 oz Nugget (US) 60 min Boil Pellet 14.3%
1.0 oz Chinook (US) 30 min Boil Pellet 12.0%
1.1 oz Centennial (US) 15 min Boil Pellet 10.5%
2.0 oz Citra (US) 0 min Boil Pellet 13.7%
3.0 oz Citra (US) 4 days Dry Hop Pellet 13.7%

Yeasts

Name Lab/Product Attenuation
London Ale Yeast White Labs WLP013 71.0%

Extras

Amount Name Time Use
1.5 g Calcium Chloride 90.0 min Boil
1.5 g Calcium Chloride 1.0 hr Mash

Two-Brew Weekend

Let’s get away from my asinine rants on craft beer, and back to why I started this blog in the first place: homebrewing.

Yes, the great thaw is upon us and thankfully I didn’t have to dig my brewing gear out from under 108.3″ of snow this year. In fact, despite a brief April snowstorm, this was a fairly dry winter for my neck of the woods. And I managed to sneak two brew days into the first 3 months of the year (along with two week-long vacations to warm climates). But even with that relatively good start to the year*, I was still well behind my goal of 20 brews and 100 gallons of beer for 2016.

This weekend, due to upcoming commitments, I needed to get my ass in gear. So I brewed back-to-back this weekend, pumping out an amber ale for the Barrel House Z competition, and a barleywine for the Mash Holes’ barrel program.

Uncommon Wrath, Take 3

I don’t do a lot of repeat brewing. After 4 years (happy brew-versary!), I still consider myself a bit of a rookie. So I fitz and fiddle and tinker with different things in my brewing process in my recipe. That said, this is third time I’ve brewed this beer. The first iteration never made it out of the fermenter (long story), but the second version I brought to a club meeting at Barrel House Z and was able to get extremely helpful, professional feedback.

Russ from BHZ, provided me with some helpful pointers around fermentation and water adjustments to help dial in this beer. I gotta say, I’m excited to see if following his tips will bear fruit. Uncommon Wrath will be my entry into BHZ’s Launchpad competition, the winner of which will be able to brew their beer on BHZ pilot system and have it entered in GABF’s Pro-Am. With all that at stake, I took a more subdued approach and brewed a pretty standard – but flavorful – North German Altbier, similar to Alaskan Amber. I’m still debating which dry hops to use, but with the entry deadline of 4/25 I know I’ll have one of the fresher beers entered. Here’s hoping…

This was Saturday’s brew, and all-in-all it went fairly well. I’m getting closer to hitting my targets and slowly starting to narrow in on my system calculations. The weather was a bit back-and-forth, but it was a pleasant/exhausting day.

Barley Barrelwine

My homebrew club – who I’ve mentioned ad nauseum – has been running a club barrel program for about a year and a half now. How it works is we buy used barrels as a club; our designated barrel guys come up with a recipe; whoever wants in on the recipe, brews it and does the primary fermentation; the barrel guys coordinate a drop-off and load the beers into the barrel.

So far, it has produced some stellar beers. A tart and fruit Flanders Red, a puckeringly sour saison, and a hefty but nuanced sour porter. So I have high hopes for the barrel-aged barleywine.

The barleywine was Sunday’s brew, and I was certainly feeling it after Saturday’s session. This brew was a behemoth, with 23 pounds of malt. My numbers were a bit off – a consequence of brewing without the group, and having too high of a mash temp – but close enough that it’ll balance out with the group.

What’s Next

After back-to-back brewdays, I am good and beat. But I’m also thoroughly reinvigorated in the hobby. It felt good to get back to brewing, and seeing my numbers start to line up filled with a lot of confidence and zeal.

So much so that I’ll be brewing again next weekend, and I’m hoping to put together a 10 gallon batch of IPA. I haven’t decided which recipe I’m going to use yet but I’m planning to experiment with some hop extract and with two different dry hoppings (split batch).

Basically, the quest for a “house IPA” continues. I haven’t decided if I’m going to use the more expensive commercial variations of Conan yeast, or if I’m going to try a London ale yeast, but I’m fairly certain I’ve honed in on a “New England style” for my house IPA. We’ll see how it turns out.

Until then, I opened an Instagram account for my brewing. There’s a picture of my awesome assistant brewer/dog on there. So check it out.

Cheers!

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Great Beer Writers

It seems like every time I have a “controversial” stance on beer I’m standing opposite of Andy Crouch. For what it’s worth, Crouch is a far better and a far more respected writer than I ever hope to be. And he uses a lot less fucking curse words (and I respect him a great deal). That said, his latest Beer Advocate column found its way across my Facebook feed and I can’t help but take issue with it.

Crouch’s article deals with the issue of beer dating, and not the kind I do with an empty can and a bottle of lube. Crouch goes after breweries for administering a “Best By” date to their products. His argument boils down to the fact that there is no uniform measure – by style or brewery – for when a beer falls out of sync with its intended flavor profile. This is an inarguable fact. However, the solution that Crouch seems to propose (in lieu of any actually proposition) is a bottled on (or brewed on) date. The problem with this is that it suffers from the very same problems that a “best by” date suffers from:

  • There is no uniformity for style
  • There is no uniformity for brewery
  • Any date stamped on the bottle is essentially meaningless for the two preceding reasons

The concept beyond the “best by” date is that it provides the consumer with a time-frame within which the brewer feels their product is at its peak. There are innumerable variables for which the brewer cannot control, most of which deal with shipping conditions. A “best by” date, through the very nature of the beer industry is – at best – a best guess. Crouch, in his article, lambasts the “best by” date as an:

amorphous, arbitrary tactic that only a manufacturer could love. Masquerading as an effort to help consumers, such dating of beer results in the illusion of honesty, leaving drinkers with no actual tangible information on which to base purchasing decisions.

Okay. Not wrong. But I defy Mr. Crouch – or anyone else – to offer an adequate solution. Crouch states, “As a customer, I want to know when my beer was bottled (or better yet, brewed), not the outer limits of when a lab technician thinks it will still taste like beer.” And that’s a fair point, but what REALLY does that date tell you? Does it provide you with any more tangible information than the nebulous “best by” date?

In practically, no it doesn’t. It can tell you the date a beer was brewed on, but that serves no greater purpose than drinking a “best by” beer further away from its “best by” date. In essence, both dates suffer from the same meaninglessness. There is no standard against which to judge this beer, making any measure of its “freshness” thereby irrelevant.

This is my problem with “great beer writers.” Too often they crusade for the “rights” of the consumer while losing track of the numerous variables that exist between grain and glass. Mind you, nothing in Crouch’s piece is wrong – per se – but it is wrongheaded in that it puts the onus on the brewer to force intelligence upon the consumer. Please name another food product – or any product – on the market where the onus is put upon the manufacturer to educate the consumer to the downsides, flaws, or shelf-life of the product within any reasonable timeframe. None exist. Your closest parallel is in dairy products, but those date are just as meaningless; a by-product of government regulation. What – exactly – are breweries putting over on consumers by not placing dates on their products? Remember, breweries have little to no input on how/where their products are distributed and even less influence on how/where/when/and for how much their products are sold to end consumers (Thanks, three-tier system!).

So please, continue to ignore the hypocrisy of drinking a gallon of milk a few days past it’s “Best By” date while turning up your noses at a “hop-faded” IPA. Rest easy knowing all the “great beer writers” support your decision.

Uncommonly Frequent Posts

I’m going to keep doing “uncommon” puns until I either run out or get sick of them. Luckily for you, I’m already sick of them.

So I promised an update on Uncommon Wrath when it had achieved it’s final form. It’s still not quite there yet, but a few interesting things happened today that are worth blogging about.

My homebrew club – whose webpage I’m working on, so stay tuned for that – had our monthly meeting tonight; instead of our usual stomping grounds, we posted up at the future home of Barrel House Z. Russ, Pat, and Pat were gracious enough to host the MASH HOLES and talk about their plans for the new brewing venture that’s setting up shop in our backyard. BHZ is hosting a homebrew competition so a good portion of our meeting focused on that on BHZ’s plans for the future and their commitment to the local brewing community.

I decided to bring some of my new German Alt/Amber – Uncommon Wrath – to the meeting to get some feedback from my club-mates, and was lucky enough to have Russ ask to try some. Russ is kind of a big deal; he was the first brewmaster a little place you might have heard of (Harpoon Brewery), and he gave me some really great and really specific feedback. Some of it I had heard before from my dude Marshall, the Brulosopher, about treating my water (he gave really similar advice given the softness of the local water), and some recommendations for the yeast strain I’d used. Other than those helpful tidbits I received a lot of positive feedback for the beer (one of the other BHZ guys, Pat “the Elder,” said he really enjoyed it), so it was all-in-all very encouraging.

For me, I can’t look past any flaws in my beers once they’re pointed out to me, but I’d rather force-feed myself 5 gallons of an imperfect beer I have an idea of how to improve than be blissfully ignorant of my mistakes and foist it onto other people. Which isn’t to say the beer is bad; it’s actually quite easy to drink, pretty smooth, and has some interesting character to it. But I’m already planning the next brew day of it.

Uncommon Wrath 2.16.16

Here’s a glamour shot of the beer in question in the new MASH HOLES tasting glasses.

Appearance: Amber (duh) with a fluffy white head. The clarity doesn’t come through in this shot, a side effect of it still carbonating and not having had any time to settle out, but it is very clear through the tubing.

Aroma: Toffee and caramel with a bit of nuttiness, with faint hints of sulfur and almost a soapiness. Those flaws are fairly subdued but evident to me now every time (sigh). There’s also just a touch of floral notes from the late addition Centennial hops.

Mouthfeel: Light-medium body with a little bit of bite from the carbonation. This could stand to be a little rounder and fuller, but not off for the style.

Flavor: Caramel and toffee with a bit of fruitiness, very light biscuity notes; relatively balanced with the bitterness. For a generally more malt-forward style, I’d like a little more punch from grains. This is smooth but relatively unremarkable.

Overall: The best thing this beer has going for it is that it is really, really easy to drink. At only 4.8% ABV it’s sessionable. At only 44 IBUs it isn’t too bitter or palate wrecking. None of the malts are overbearing or too sweet. It’s by no means “bad,” and actually I like it, but with so little to hide behind the flaws remain evident for me. I’m officially dying to rebrew this.

Uncommon Wrath

Basics

  • Mash at 152*F for 60 minutes
  • Boil for 90 minutes
  • 5.5 gallon batch size
  • OG: 1.051
    FG: 1.013
    IBU: 44
    SRM: 14
    ABV: 5.0%

Fermentables

Amount Fermentable Maltster Use PPG Color
11.0 lb

Maris Otter Pale (UK)

Any Mash 38 3 °L
0.75 lb

Caramel/Crystal 60L (US)

Any Mash 34 60 °L
0.75 lb

Special B (BE)

Any Mash 34 115 °L

Hops

Amount Hop Time Use Form AA
1.2 oz Chinook (US) 60 min Boil Pellet 12.0%
2.0 oz Centennial (US) 0 min Boil Pellet 10.5%

Yeasts

Name Lab/Product Attenuation
German Ale Wyeast 1007 75.0%

Mash steps

Step Heat Source Target Temp Time
Saccharification Rest Infusion 152.0 °F 60 min

 Adjustments

  • Add 100 ppm of Calcium Chloride to the mash and another 100 ppm to the boil kettle
  • Ferment at 65*F for two weeks

Competition Beers Update – Amber and Imperial Stout

I’m getting really good with these catchy headlines, huh?

I wanted to write a quick blog about the two beers that I’ve worked on so far in 2016. I transferred both* out of primary fermentation this afternoon; the Amber Ale (Uncommon Wrath) is now being carbonated in the basement, while the Imperial Stout (Carcosa) is in secondary, conditioning on some additives. I don’t want to tip my cap just yet on what I’ve added to the beer just in case any of the members of my club are reading and trying to get some ideas.

Transferring Carcosa to secondary.

Transferring Carcosa to secondary.

My gravity reads were actually pretty damn close. The targets were 1.013 and 1.023, and I hit 1.014 and 1.026, respectively for the amber and stout. For someone who has had consistent trouble getting consistent numbers, this was a nice win. I attribute part of the discrepancy to the volumes of each beer. I had way over 6 gallons of the amber and only about 4.5 gallons on the stout*. My hydrometer is also a few points with its calibration so that’s going to have to be a new purchase sooner rather than later.

Both of the beers are quite pretty looking:

Uncommon Wrath and Carcosa

Uncommon Wrath and Carcosa

It doesn’t come across in the photo, but the amber is actually pretty damn clear. I was very happy with how well it settled out. Meanwhile the stout is black and opaque, though it shows nice clarity when held at the right angle.

So how do they taste? Well, obviously this is 1. biased and 2. pre-carbonation but both turned out good so far.

  • The amber has a nice fruitiness that I was looking for and meshes well with the toffee and caramel notes from the malt. It is a solid amber (at least I hope it will be after carbonation), but a little unremarkable. I may have to do some adjustments to the recipe to turn it into a competition winning beer. That said, no noticeable flaws yet.
  • The imperial stout is fucking tight. At almost 9% it has absolutely no noticeable heat, and just a nice mouthfeel even without the carbonation. Roasted malt, hints of coffee and chocolate, just dynamite. Possibly my best pre-carb beer ever. We’ll see what the conditioning does to it. I’m actually a little worried about the conditioning now because of how good this tastes as a base. Hopefully I don’t muck and muddle it up to much with the additives. I have high hopes this could be my best brew to date.

That’s it for today as far as updates go. I’ll post another once the amber is carbed in a few days and give my thoughts on it.

Cheers!

 

* The imperial stout is a 10 gallon batch, so only half made it out of primary fermentation today.

Welcome to 2016

Okay, so it’s February. Little late for a “new year” post, but I’ve been pretending to be busy. So I’m writing this now while waiting for Lucha Underground to be uploaded to torrent sites (stupid Comcast not giving me the El Rey Network).

So what’s been happening at Anti-Hero Brewing, you (didn’t) ask? Actually, a lot of shit.

  • You’ll be seeing a lot more of my beer-related musings this year, because I was offered the Honest Pint column over at the Dig. I’m really excited about this, as I’ve been hammering out details with the editor, but hopefully we’ll see my first column this month. If all works out – and I get the “okay” – I’ll be linking my posts from this blog.

 

  • I was reinstated (re-elected without an opponent) as the Metro South Homebrew League’s (a.k.a. the Mash Holes) Vice President (a.k.a. President of Vice) for 2016. This is an exciting year for our club, as it is our second full year as a group. We’ve been asked to partner with an upcoming local brewery; one of members is an assistant brewer at another local brewery; and we continue to grow in size and influence in the local community. We’ve got a lot of big plans for the year and I’m excited to be helping with that.

 

  • In addition to all that, I’ve actually been brewing, too. I’ve got 2 brew days and 16 gallons under my belt so far for this year. 10 of those gallons are for an imperial stout, Carcosa, which will be entered in the Mash Holes’ Stout Competition next month. I’m planning for this to be the first beer I age on something other than hops. I’m hoping the beer itself, combined with the additions I’m planning, will make for a flavorful (hopefully award-winning beer). I’m splitting this batch so that 5 gallons is read for the competition and 5 can age longer. I also brewed 6 gallons of a new amber ale recipe. There’s a local homebrew competition taking place in a few months for red-hued, hop-forward beers. The winner will see their beer produced on a commercial scale, which is fucking awesome. This is my first shot at this brew, and I’m hoping to brew it at least once more so that I can make sure I have it down in time for the competition.

 

  • I’m also making a concerted effort to understand all the various maths and sciences of my brewing system. I’ve never had great luck with getting my calculations right, and if I want to be able to reproduce my beers with consistency this is the next big step for me.

 

That’s about all I’ve got for now. I’ll update you guys and gals on how the stout and amber ale turn out, along with the recipes, when they’re finished.

Until then.

 

Ugh I Hate You People

So this fucking post still keeps getting traffic, probably because people don’t know how to use Google properly and end up here, assuming I give a shit about their opinion (or anyone’s opinion). In the past couple weeks, there have been spikes in traffic to my “Sam Adams v. Hipsters” post and despite the fact that it is close to a year old, people keep commenting on the damn thing. I’ve pretty much stopped reading the comments, but I’m hungover today and my eyes worked faster than my brain, so I skimmed the most recent blurb of word vomit.

Are you people familiar with commas? How about periods? Jesus Homebrewing Christ. But this is less about your collective poor grammar and lack of better things to do with your clearly ample free time, and more about the whiny entitlement of Craft Beer People.

“I don’t like what this brewery is doing.”

“This brewery is a sell out.”

“This brewery is just chasing the latest trends.”

Shut the fuck up, holy shit. This – apparently – will come as a surprise to you, but if someone writes an article about IPAs, and everyone discussing the article is talking about IPAs, no one gives a shit that you prefer pilsners. You do NOT have to be involved in every single Internet discussion. I know you clearly try to be, especially if you’re reading some dipshit’s homebrewing blog, but take a break (from this site, forever). I’ll avoid going into a diatribe about the past two generations and their entitlement issues, and just say this: your opinion doesn’t matter. We live in a nigh-infinite universe and the thoughts in your head aren’t worth the atoms that created them. Life is a meaningless span of inconsequential time in which your thoughts, being, and accomplishments will amount to fuck-all. Welcome to the suck.

So maybe think about that before slamming your pudgy fists against the keyboard for a 270 word sentence, devoid on grammar, on a post from January. Maybe just have a beer instead.

And maybe don’t tell me about.