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.

What Does Your Favorite Beer Style Say About You?

You can learn a lot about someone from the type of beer they drink (is the way that most of these articles start). So what does your favorite beer style say about you?

IPAs and Double IPAs

You like IPAs. And maybe Double IPAs. Possibly even the occasional Session IPA.

Pale Ales

You like pale ales.

Stouts or Porters

You like stouts. Or maybe porters. Or maybe both!

Sour Beers

You like sour beers. Or you’re trying to stay up with the trends, but since I don’t know you I’ll assume you just like sour beers.

Hefeweizens

You like hefeweizens. You might also like fruit in your beer, but you might not. You should eat it anyway though, because you’re probably not getting enough Vitamin C.

Some other type of beer not listed here.

Look, man, I don’t care what you drink. In fact, I don’t even judge you for what you drink (unless it’s Heineken, because fuck that shit). And really this post has no reason to exist, much like it’s several billion click-baity predecessors. Instead of reading crap like this, maybe – I don’t know – go have a brown ale, or a bock, or an Oktoberfest, or an amber ale, or shit even…

Macro-Brewed Light Lager

You don’t give a fuck, and I respect that.

Clear Wort, Full Kegs, Can’t Lose

Right now I’m in the midst of a beer-centric couple of months. This upcoming Thursday is the New England Homebrew Jamboree, which I may have mentioned before, and as such, I have a bunch of full kegs and fermenters at the “brewery.” I figured since I have the long weekend, and no plans/space to brew for a while, it would be a good time to drop an update.

What’s Kegged

Right now I have about a keg and a quarter of the homebrew club’s Barrel-Aged Robust Porter w/Maker’s Mark. One keg I’ve been slowly drinking down myself, and the other is full and heading to the Jamboree on Thurday. The BARP is a really interesting beer. It looks like a standard porter – opaque black with a dark tan/brown head – but the smell and taste let you know something is different. The Maker’s Mark doesn’t come through very much, but there is a distinct sour note that melds well with robust porter’s natural roastiness and sweetness. It’s also deceptively drinkable at over 9% ABV. This was definitely a winner.

Ah, my pride and joy: Symphony of Decay, maple pumpkin ale. Truth be told, this year’s version is different from the previous iterations due largely to missed targets on brew day. I’m still getting used to my new-ish equipment, and brewing on a day with 100% humidity probably through off the boil-off calculations. This is all to say I missed my target gravity by 0.015 (which is a lot for the uninitiated). Some of that has to do with the extra wort leftover, and some from mashing in about 4*F higher than target. Thankfully the wonderful San Diego Superyeast attenuated the beer below my target final gravity, ending with a 5% ABV beer. Much more sessionable than the standard 7.2%. So how did it turn out? Well, it’s not the champion it was last year. There’s a strong aroma of pumpkin spice (nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon) and just a hint of biscuit as well. It looks a little… dirtier than I was amazing for, but the amount of pumpkin that goes into this beer is probably to blame for that despite a Whirlfloc addition and some cold crashing with gelatin. It is a nice dark orange color, though. My big qualm is in the flavor. It tastes unripened for lack of a better descriptor. There’s a kind of green apple sweetness to it that seems out of place. It’s not too strong, but it does take away from the pumpkin flavor and base amber style. It’s not cloyingly sweet, so maybe this is something that will gradually age out of it. It becomes less noticeable as the beer warms, but something definitely went off the mark here. Not a drain pour or even a bad beer,  but SoD has a reputation to uphold and I don’t think this beer is a contender for the crown this year.

Lastly, there’s my  latest pet project: The Hustler, New England style IPA. The last batch I brought to a homebrew event – Beans and Brew – and it was well-received. It was close to what I had set out to brew, but didn’t quite have the bitter punch I was hoping for. It was suggested that I start screwing around with my water treatment, but I wasn’t quite ready to take that on for this batch. This beer finished under my target gravity, but part of that was due to my forgetfulness (I neglected to add Turbinado sugar until after the boil/cooling). It doesn’t account for the entirety of the difference, but it makes up for a lot of it (again this was another humid brew day, I’m not good at calculating my losses, etc.). Again, my yeast worked overtime and attenuated the beer past target resulting in a 6.2% beer (target: 7.3%). Anyways, it came out GREAT. You could snort cocaine, and the smell of this beer would still be the best thing going up your nose. Mango, papaya, fruit juice, oranges, fucking probably a ton of those tropical fruits that I’ve never heard of before, too. The flavor follows along the same notes as well with a very mellow bitterness. I’m starting to really believe that the Conan yeast strain eats away at perceived bitterness. I increased the IBUs to a (theoretical) 148 from 86, and it still doesn’t taste quite bitter enough to me. But it’s still a pretty wonderful IPA nonetheless.

What’s Fermenting

The (infamous) Matt Brown Marzen(/Oktoberfest)  is into its second week of lagering. I expect it to be ready when I return from the Great American Beer Fest at the end of this month. My initial taste of it, prior to fermenting had it more bitter than I remember, but I’m hoping the long lagering period (31-32 days) will let that mellow out a bit.

My latest (and possibly craziest) recipe went into the fermenter on Friday: the Headless Horseman, pumpkin milk stout. There’s a few pumpkin milk stout recipes out there, but I wan’t to try something a little different. I removed the traditional highly-kilned grains from the malt bill to keep the beer’s orange color, and replaced the base 2-row malt with Maris Otter to balance out the sweetness with a little biscuity breadiness. I have no idea what to expect from this beer, but I may try to put it on nitro. If it’s a winner, it’ll be my likely entry into the Mash Holes Pumpkin Beer Competition in October. If not, well I’ve still got the Pumpkin Pie Porter up my sleeve.

 

So that’s it for updates for now, I’ll see you on the other side of the Jamboree, survival permitting.

It’s JAMBO Season

Holy fucking shit. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, kids. That’s right, it’s JAMBO season!

WTF is JAMBO Season?

So, my homebrew club – Metro South Homebrew League a.k.a. MASH HOLES – has officially been in existence for a little over two years. Our biggest participatory event of our inaugural year was the New England Homebrew Jamboree in Tamworth, NH. In the grand scheme of things, the NE Jamboree (or “Jambo”) is pretty small potatoes; it is a gathering of homebrew clubs from around New England for a weekend of camping/debauchery. It is also a shit-ton of fun. The MASH HOLES made a bit of a name for ourselves last year – as MASH HOLES are wont to do – and this year we’re rolling twice as deep, with plans to drink twice as much and party twice as hard (sanity permitting).

Cool story, bro. Why should I care?

A fine question, assuming I cared about you, part of my psyche asking these questions. This – like 99.9% of this blog – is about me. I am ungodly excited for this year’s Jambo, and have been brewing up a storm in antici…pation.

anticipation

Today, I started kegging the only three time (three time, three time) brewed beer here at Anti-Hero Brewing: Symphony of Decay. And while I have my reservations about the 2015 vintage after an initial tasting, only time will tell how it stands up against its predecessors. SoD will be making the trip up to the Jambo, along with its personal tap handle, created from the club’s annual Pumpkin trophy:

IMG_0859

Symphony will be joining the well-received Hustler (NE-style IPA) at Jambo, as well as the club barrel-aged robust porter with Maker’s Mark. So I’ll be rolling three kegs deep. If you’re in the New Hampshire/New England area, and are interested in attending here’s the Jambo website. I’ll be the guy with the douchey undercut at the MASH HOLES tent, making fun of people and (if history serves) accidentally cutting myself with a Leatherman and taking 11am naps.

Beyond Thunderdome Jambo

But the hits just keep on coming, Internet friends. This week and next, I’m planning to fit in two more brew sessions. Odds are both of them will be pumpkin-based beers. Right now I’m debating the styles; my Pumpkin Pie Porter (P3) is most likely going to one of them and the other will either be my planned Pumpkin Saison or a recipe I just came up with yesterday: a Pumpkin Milk Stout. I’m leaning towards the milk stout at the moment because I think there’s a lot of potential for something unique there. I’m also debating adding vanilla bean to it to round out the flavor, but we’ll see.

The next brew day is scheduled for Thursday or Friday of this week, so I’ll probably be making up my mind shortly.

Other News

I almost forgot to mention that I purchased another chest freezer/fermentation chamber this week. I’ll soon be able to have four simultaneous fermentations, which will let me continuously churn out new brews. I’m excited.

 

Anywho, that’s my updates for this week. If you’ve got an opinion of pumpkin saison vs. pumpkin milk stout, feel free to leave a comment. Also – as always – if there’s something you’d like me write about, feel free to mention that as well.

Later.

Pumpkin Brew Day and Shut Up About Seasonal Creep

If you know one thing about me, it’s probably that my blog posts are absolutely riddled with typos. But if you know two things about me, the second is probably that I’m an unabashed fan of pumpkin beers. And though I was largely underwhelmed by last year’s commercial offerings, I have always enjoyed brewing my own pumpkin beers. Last year was the first time I brewed two pumpkin beers (my signature pumpkin ale, Symphony of Decay, and a new recipe, Pumpkin Pie Porter), and this year figures to be the first year that I brew three – count ’em – THREE pumpkin beers. The new addition will likely be a pumpkin saison, both thanks to the success of the saison I made over the winter and the shocking deliciousness of Troegs’ Master of Pumpkins.

This afternoon, I knocked one of those brew days out by making Symphony of Decay. It was unbearably hot just south of Boston today, with highs in the 90’s and a humidity rating of “Satan’s sweaty taint.” Nevertheless, we here at Anti-Hero Brewing persevered, totally missed our numbers, and managed a sunburn along the way. Basically, an unqualified success like all brew days that don’t end in fatal injuries.

Though the combination of brewing a pumpkin ale in the oppressive heat, and reading some posts on the Book O’ Faces got me thinking about the commercial pumpkin beers that are on their way/already here. Yes, now is the time for pumpkin beers to start appearing and for members of Craft Beer Movement to start bemoaning seasonal creep. To these people I have one very simple thing to say:

Shut. The. Fuck. Up.

This comes not from a defensive position as someone who enjoys pumpkin beers – I won’t even start purchasing or drinking them until the end of this month at the earliest – or even a place of anger at those snobs that turn up their nose at pumpkin beer as if it is somehow inferior to more haughty styles. No, my cursing and demands for silence comes from a place of utter frustration at the hive-mind and idiocy of those loud-mouth pumpkin-pundits who think that 1. they have any real ability to affect change and 2. that things you be changed because they want to be. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what the textbooks would refer to as “entitlement.”

I have to make the assumption that any brewery with a working knowledge of arithmetic and access to a spreadsheet can crank out the rudimentary analysis to determine how to make the most bank from their brews. Pumpkin beers – like IPAs – are an undoubtedly popular “style” and frankly no one gives a shit if you’re “over them.” The reason for seasonal creep is a basic Capitalist calculation: a brewery will make more money putting out pumpkin beers in August, because people – despite what keyboard warriors may write – will fucking buy them in August. Not only that, but they will buy them in higher quantities than whatever summer varietal or other beer they are (nebulously) “sacrificing” to put it out. The same goes for draft lines. If a beer doesn’t think it will make money on a pumpkin beer in August, it’ll sit on the keg. At least any smart bar manager would.

So what’s the problem? The “problem” is that people like summer. Not summer beers, mind you, but summer itself. They don’t even actually like summer itself so much as the concept of summer. People bitch about the heat constantly (I did it twice already in this one post), even in places like Boston (hi!) where the snow just finished melting last month. People don’t like seeing the bright orange bottles on beer shelves because it signals to them that summer is ending. As if this hasn’t happen every previous year of their existence, and as if the summer’s actual length is affected by the arrival of Jack O’Lantern-themed bottles. The appearance of pumpkin beer – essentially – gives them a sad.

Shut the fuck up, you whiny entitled gnat.

I, as a logical human being with functional brain cells, don’t think that people’s livelihoods should be beholden to the whims of my mood based on packaging I see at the packie. You don’t like pumpkin beer? Tough shit. I don’t like Donald Trump, but complaining about him isn’t going to make him go away or make him act like any less of sentient human feces in a ginger toupee. So, basically, grow up. Or if you really have a candle up your ass about this, continue to vote with your dollar. Just stop polluting my breathing space with your noxious and obnoxious hot air.