Warped Pours

Holy shiitake.

This long gap in brewing updates is brought to you by: Warped Pours, my club’s first-ever hosted homebrew festival. And man, what an event it was. But more to the point: man, what a pain in the ass it was. As a nice little kick to the jujubes, the Brewers Association posted an article entitled “How to Start a Beer Festival” literally two days after Warped Pours wrapped up. Our club spent most of the past 3-4 months working on getting this event off the ground, and I can happily say that it was a massive success. We far surpassed our wildest expectations, raising over $9000! That money will be split between two awesome charities, after expenses (e.g. campsite costs, ice, tickets, wristbands, etc.), and honestly I’d have been surprised if we’d raised half that.

Red(ish) IPA Update

On a more relevant-to-me-and-this-blog note, I was only able to present one beer at the festival – the reddish IPA that I’ve dumped so much time into. I significantly altered the recipe to some mixed results. The latest version incorporated HopShot (5mL) into the boil in addition to a large bittering charge of Nugget. The result? Well, I finally brewed a beer with that trademark West Coast Bitterness.

Unfortunately, the beer came out with the kind of murky turbidity you’d expect from a New England IPA… and it was brown instead of red. So that murkiness made it look a little (a lot) like swamp water. Having lost my olfactory senses from too many shots to the nose, I wasn’t able to get a good read on the aroma but my friend Andy – a National BJCP judge and pro brewer – said it smelled like a “big bag o’ weed.” That’s exactly what I was going for, so it seems like this hop bill is almost nailed down. The malt bill is going to need some tweaking. The bill for this version (v3) was:

  • 2-Row (82%)
  • Munich 10L (13%)
  • Carapils (3%)
  • Roasted Barley (1%)
  • Carafa III (1%)

I think I may remove the Carafa III or the Roasted Barley altogether, haven’t decided which to get rid of yet for Version 4, though I’m leaning towards nixing the roasted barley.

New Brews

The aforementioned Andy was over a couple weeks ago to hang out for what was essentially the maiden voyage of my new Spike conicals and my upgraded system. It wasn’t a true maiden voyage, as the Red(ish) IPA was brewed in the kettle and transferred to the conical, but it was brewed at someone else’s home and then brought back here. I also hadn’t quite figured out all the fine tuning with the system yet either.

We brewed 11 gallons of a Czech Pilsner, and the numbers hit spot on. Unfortunately – as I mentioned earlier – Andy is a pro-brewer and brought over a case of beer. Normally that’s a good thing, but not while brewing. We were a little too drunk to complete the transfer, so I bucketed the finished wort and went out to dinner with the girlfriend; the wort was transferred when we got home with 4 packs of Saflager 34/70. I’m planning to take a hydrometer reading this weekend, bump the temperature up for a diacetyl rest, and then start lagering.

Next up, I’ll be brewing a saison and a pale ale for easy drinking over the upcoming summer months. Saison brew day will be next weekend and the pale ale will be at the beginning of July.

 

Cheers!

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To Reiterate: My Beer Sucks

I got some more scoresheets back from another competition I entered, and – like last time – they were not good. But honestly, I actually feel much better about this than after the previous competition, and I have couple reasons why.

The scores – a 23 and a 24 – are roughly the same as I received last time (23 and 24.5), but the feedback related to the IPA (The Howler) matched up pretty closely with my hypotheses about why these beers were tasting and scoring so poorly.

Oxidation – mainly from poor packaging – is something that came up in every judge’s review of every one of the four beers, if not by name than by description. I am a pretty big noob when it comes to packaging for competitions, so this seems like an obvious area for improvement. It’s also worth noting that I’ve been drinking The Howler from the keg for a couple weeks now and haven’t noted any of the off-flavors the judges picked out. What I have noticed are their other critiques:

  • Low/subdued aroma – I had an abbreviated dry-hop on this beer in order to package it for the competition
  • Low carbonation – the beer was rushed and wasn’t fully carbonated when packaged
  • Low hop flavor – something I’d noted myself for a next pass at this beer.

I entered these competitions with the hope of getting this kind of constructive feedback. I think proper packaging alone would be enough to add 6-8 points to the overall score and move it up into the “Very Good” range. It’s a beer I enjoy and plan to brew again, especially with some guidance on modifications to improve it.

Frankly, I should have been entering competitions much earlier in my homebrewing “career.” This sort of feedback is invaluable even if it hurts to read. So I’ve bookmarked some upcoming comps; let’s up we start seeing some higher scores.

Cheers.

Brew Day: Fury of the Claymore

This is a cross-post from my primary blog. The original post is here. Original post date: 3/23/2018.


Big doings at the homebrewery today. Took a day off from work to brew a Scottish Export ale for an upcoming club competition, and transferred my red(ish) IPA to the keg.

Kicked off around 10am, mashed in a little before 11:30am. I decided to do a 75 minute mash, because I did an extended mash on my Red(ish) IPA (now called The Howler), and I hit my target pre-boil gravity on that one. I also let the sparge rest for 20 minutes.

Unfortunately, I still came in at 1.038 pre-boil gravity, despite a target of 1.042. And though I made water adjustments to lower the pH, I naturally forgot to measure the pH of the mash. Because I’m dumb.

I did anticipate missing my target pre-boil gravity, so I set this batch up for a 75 minute boil. I broke a little from traditional Scottish ales and bittered with Nugget and added a 10 minute addition of GR Hallertau because I didn’t want to buy an ounce of Fuggles or EK Golding.

The brew itself went pretty well; I hit my pre-boil target volume and ended up with right around the 6 gallons I was expecting with a original gravity (OG) of 1.053 – off the target OG of 1.054 by just a hair.

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I made a yeast starter with some light DME, yeast nutrient and Wyeast 1268 Scottish Ale yeast on the stir plate. This thing was COOKING by the time I pitched it into the wort. I’d chilled the work to under 60°F before adding the 1.6L starter (a little over 60°F). 60°F is my target fermentation temperature for this brew. Jim from the homebrew shop said that this yeast throws some nice esters at a low fermentation temp. (He also chastised my grain bill and my hop additions because he’s a purist and a big Scottish ale brewer) You can check out the full recipe here.

Fury of the Claymore recipe

Tomorrow The Howler gets a quick turnaround to the bottle for a competition; I’ll post an update at some point if my 24 hour carbonation actually works. And tomorrow is also pizza day.

Cheers.

Brew Day: Red(ish) IPA

This is a cross-post from my updated blog: The Anti-Heroic Epic.

Original post date: March 9, 2018


 

Well, shit. Today was a productive Friday. In addition to my usual full workday (which on Fridays is not too strenuous) I managed to slip in a full brew day. I also tried out my first pizza dough recipe from Elements of Pizza, more about which at a later date.

Outside of missing the post-boil gravity due to a lot wind giving me a sub-optimal boil*, I hit my numbers throughout the day.

Today’s brew was my take on Troegs’ Nugget Nectar, one of my favorite easy-drinking beers. Generally speaking I find most “red IPAs” taste like hoppy cough medicine so I tend to avoid them, but Nugget Nectar tastes like a solid IPA that just happens to be higher on the SRM scale. Anyway, this beer – tentatively titled Ambrosia after the “nectar of the gods” – isn’t supposed to be an exact clone of NN, so much as a riff on it.

Here’s the recipe:

There’s more details on the BrewToad page for those who might be interested. Like I said above, the final OG came in a few points low so I dumped a cup of table sugar into the wort. It’ll probably dry out the beer a little bit, which would be pretty nice for the style. I’ve been drinking a lot of non-New England IPAs recently, and it’s a welcome change to not have a juice-bomb every once in a while.

* Regarding the shitty boil: I dropped some money on a pair of Anvil burners and basically set up a nice two-tier system with them. Problem is – especially with the shorter one – any time it’s windy it kills the intensity of the flame. I don’t think I screwed anything up while putting them together but I’ve noticed this issue multiple times. I’ve started keeping a partial lid on my brew kettle to keep the heat going, but I’ve missed my target OG a lot recently.

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This is only my second brew of 2018, but I’m definitely feeling a lot more confident with my brews this year than with some of my efforts from late last year. I’m hoping to have this batch ready in time for an upcoming competition.

I placed a stout and my shitty maibock (with a great name: Necro Romancer) into a different competition, so I’ll check back in with my scores/feedback.

Until then, time to drink some beers…

Six Months Later…

I remember sitting at the homebrew bloggers panel at Homebrew Con in 2016, and someone asked the question about what turns you off from a blog. One of the panelists said “seeing the first post is an apology for not updating for a while.” So in that vein: no apologies for you, suckers!

I’d plugged away at a couple of updates over the past six months, but I either abandoned them due to lack of time or lack of coherent thought. I know, the latter never stopped me before. Not to go too far down the rabbit hole, but there’s been a confluence of factors that contributed to the lack of posts. Work has been busy, my girlfriend moved in (with her cat, which hates my dog, but I’m working on that), and – in case you hadn’t noticed – the world is slowly sinking into the ocean faster than America is slipping into the fascist state of President Baby.

Anywho… that’s a lot of words to say that when I sit down at the computer to noodle on things homebrew-related, I’m generally exhausted. I have to divide that energy between my actual brewing (recipe formulation, education, equipment calculations, etc) and my duties as president of my homebrew club (the Mash Holes). [Editor’s Note: I had to take a five minute break as both the cat and dog came into my office, begging for attention] As the club is rapidly growing and trying to do bigger and better things, that’s taken a lot of my time and energy. Being President Baby isn’t easy.

But our big event for 2017 is in the rear-view. Wedding season is slowing down (still have 2 more left and had to bow out of one). Summer’s over. The cat and dog are starting to tolerate each other. I’m settling into a routine with work, diet/exercise, and brewing. And the girlfriend is out of town for 3 weeks. So I’ve finally had the time and motivation to sit down and write something for all my fans out there.

While You Were Out

As I just mentioned, the New England Homebrewers’ Jamboree has come and gone. Despite some rainy weather, it was another successful outing for the Holes of Mash. We decided to go with a Viking theme for this years activities and… we kind of nailed it.

The club built a mobile Viking ship, and put a jockey box filled with mead inside of it. We rolled that bad Jackson around the campground and basically caused mayhem and (liver) destruction. Eagle-eyed readers might notice that yours truly is not in the above picture. So as not to deprive you of Viking Vinny:

On the right, for those who don’t know.

So yeah, that was thing that happened. And will probably happen again next year.

I got away from brewing a bit this summer, or brewing got away from me. I usually crank out a handful of batches between May and August, and this year I think I only slipped in one or two. So I’ve been playing catch up. I brewed two beers for Jambo; a session NEIPA which was good, and a North English Brown ale which was also just good. This past weekend I cranked out my annual Pumpkin Ale, Symphony of Decay. I didn’t tweak the recipe too much this year, but I did (finally) track down some Grade B Maple Syrup, which has a much more potent aroma. I’m hoping that gives a little more maple to this version, instead of just fermentable sugars. SoD puts me just over the halfway point (8) of my target of 15 brews this year.

I’m planning to move a little closer to that goal this weekend with a Nugget Nectar clone, named Ambrosia. I wanted to brew a “have-around” IPA, and was struggling to come up with a recipe. In looking through my BrewToad logs, I realized I’d come up with a Nugget Nectar clone I’d never brewed. This should be a good hold-over until the real deal drops in January. If it turns out well, I’ll share the recipe here (it’s already up on BrewToad, if you’re curious).

I also bid adieu to my King Kooker brewstand (which never really worked), and threw down some cash for a pair of Anvil burners that I fashioned into a two-tier system. So yet again I have to dial in numbers, but c’est la vie. I’m also finally starting to do water adjustments. I use the Bru’N Water spreadsheet for now, along with my local water report, but I’m going to finish reading Palmer’s Water and see how far off I am.

So that’s the long and short of the past six months. See you in a half a year?

Cheers,
– V

JAMBO Recap

Or, How We Pillaged a Small Town in New Hampshire. Oh and broke my girlfriend’s leg.

Ah, Jambo (bka The New England Homebrewers’ Jamboree). The one time a year where I allow myself to get completely wasted and be a total ass.* As always, my homebrew club – Metro South Homebrew League aka The MASH HOLES – made the trip up to Tamworth, NH on Friday afternoon for a weekend of drinking, drinking, puking, and drinking. This year was special for a number of reasons. First, it was the 20th anniversary of the event. Second, my lovely and foolishly trusting girlfriend decided to tag along. And third, the “special surprise” I had teased came to fruition: The Swinging Cowboy himself, Dan Joey, made a trip out from California (with his lovely and foolishly trusting girlfriend).

Joey is one of the original members of the MASH HOLES, and earned the nickname “The Swinging Cowboy” at the first Jambo that we attended. He was wearing a sun hat around all weekend, and ended up being propositioned by a couple, hence the name. Anyway, Joey had reached out to me a few months earlier and said he wanted to surprise the club at Jambo. So I helped a little with coordinating that effort, keeping him informed of the plans and surprising the crew with his arrival at Smuttynose.

Friday

Ah the first day/night of Jambo. The Girlfriend, The Dog, and I piled all of our camping shit into The Girlfriend’s larger and more fuel efficient car and started the drive up to New Hampshire. Surviving both my driving and my ranting/raving about other people’s driving, we met up with Joey, Joey’s girlfriend (Michelle), and most of the club at Smuttynose for lunch.

Ya boy's on the left, rocking the Bullet Club shirt and throwing up the Too Sweet.

Ya boy’s on the left, rocking the Bullet Club shirt and throwing up the Too Sweet.

Food and beer were great, natch. Smutty’s Pumpkin Ale was probably the winner, but I’m also a basic bitch so take that opinion with a grain of pumpkin spice. After a pit stop at Stoneface Brewing (best beer: IPA), we arrived at the Tamworth Campgrounds. One of ours, JT, was working the front gate and Andy & Amanda had already camped out the night before.

We spent the next hour or so setting up our tents, arguing about how to layout for pouring tent, casually drinking/watching Jason struggle to put up his tent, and waiting on the rest of the club to arrive. And then the real drinking began.

At this point, I should probably mention The Hammer.

The Hammer. And some MASH HOLES.

The Hammer. And some MASH HOLES.

The Hammer is a club joke/weapon. Our President – unlike our President of Vice – is a soft-spoken guy, so we decided he needed a gavel. As you might expect, a club named the MASH HOLES doesn’t do subtlety very well. And thus The Hammer was born. The Hammer usually stays with me, as I am the most worthy, and makes occasional appearances at club events. This year it became the focal point of our club shenanigans. Some time around 10pm or so, deep into our cups, Joey and I decided that we needed to let the other fine upstanding clubs know that the MASH HOLES were here, and we were here to drink their beer.

So, grabbing The Hammer, we yelled “PILLAGE!!” and stormed off to each tent, demanding “tribute” and “subjugation” (a word that became harder and harder to pronounce). From there, things get a little hazy. We didn’t so much strike fear into our fellow homebrewers as we annoyed the shit out of them. Either way, free beer was add, things were yelled, and I accidentally broke The Girlfriend’s knee. But that’s a story for the courts…

Saturday

Showtime!

Unsurprisingly, many a MASH HOLE had a hard time rising and/or shining. Normal stalwarts were reduced to shameful vomiting, and yours truly managed to miss the case when putting away the contact lenses and had to spend the day four-eyed. After much hemming and hawing about the tent set-up, display, beer names, and literally every other thing that could possibly be argued about, we finally pulled our shit together in time for the festivities.

Our brand spankin' new sign

Our brand spankin’ new sign

A group of HOLES arguing over where to put the new sign. Yours truly, quiet upset.

A group of HOLES arguing over where to put the new sign. Yours truly, quite upset.

We ended up with our merch and sign to the left, our 15 different beers and tap system in the center, and Vinny’s Drinking Game Fuckapalooza on the right. Those first two areas are probably self-explanatory, so let’s focus on the drinking games. A few days before Jambo, I had the brilliant idea to challenge festival goers to drinking games. To entice players, they’d have a chance to win merch if they put money down and were able to best me at either (three cup) Beirut or Flip Cup. They could also take the coward’s way out and throw 3 cornhole bags for a shot at merch. Thankfully (and unthankfully) only one man took the coward’s way out.

Unfortunately what this meant was – as the games originator/mastermind – I was forced to be the primary competition for anyone daring to play. I played about 17 games before taking a mid-day nap. I was awakened by The Girlfriend bursting into the tent yelling “Vinny, get up! Larry said he needs you because Scott is terrible and losing all the games!” And well, the President of Vice can’t leave his club in the hands of someone like Scott. By the end of the day, by the semi-official tally (i.e. a series of cross-marks I made on my arm with a dry-erase marker), my final count was 29 Wins and 11 loses. Good enough to bring in just under $200 for the club.

Outside of my drinking heroics, the club entered our Barrel-Aged Oud Bruin into the competition where it scored a whopping 5 out of 50 from the esteemed* judges, with such helpful feedback* as “sour” and “too sour.” Noted. Next time we make a traditionally sour brown ale, we’ll just make a brown ale instead… I guess. In more qualified beer judging news, big thanks to Jeffrey Lyons of New England Beer Review on Youtube for checking out our tent and reviewing Swinging Cowboy (!!). The MASH HOLES segment starts at 4:04 –

I’m happy to report that Swinging Cowboy was the first keg to be kicked, followed by other fantastic brews: Samurai Juice (Colin’s green tea IPA), Smaug (Larry’s RIS), Dicks out for Harambe (my RIS), Disgusting (my Oktoberfest), Swing and a Mrs. (fka Walk of Shame, Andy’s Coffee Cream Ale), Hopnoxious (Larry’s hoppy saison), Demonic Monk (Colin’s spicy Trappist beer), and several of our other awfully named beers. If my memory serves – which it often doesn’t – every single keg we brought to Jambo this year was kicked by the end of Saturday night.

The night was capped when the fearless and fearsome ladies of the MASH HOLES took The Hammer for a much more successful pillaging. A big thanks to everyone who showed up for Jambo including my brother and parents (!!), who I’m sure were so very proud of my stand-up behavior (i.e. the fact that I was still standing up).

As always: can’t wait til next year!

 

* For those who don’t know me personally, this is what we call “sarcasm.”

Checking In On The Swinging Cowboy

Swinging Cowboy, Day 7

As I wrote last time, my Swinging Cowboy IPA was less than stellar on first taste. I also noted at the time that it wasn’t a fair comparison given the immaturity of the beer so close to its dry-hopping and carbonation. We’re now seven days removed from that last update, so how’s the Cowboy now?

In short: much better.

Aroma

I had complained about the grassy aroma wafting off this beer, three days from its last dry-hop charge. Today that grassy-ness has faded almost completely and has been replaced by a wallop of strong citrus character.

Appearance

As you can see from the photo above, I have very greasy fingerprints and a Megaman doll. You can a pretty fair representation of the beer’s color and clarity (or lack thereof). Without the bright light behind it, the beer is a shade or two more orange. Overall, this is what I was shooting for given the light grain bill and the NE IPA style I’d attached to it.

Flavor

This was the biggest area of improvement, and thank Crom for that. The vegetal, grassy flavor is almost completely gone, rounding into a nice smooth bitterness. It’s still there, but much less pronounced and I think by the time JAMBO rolls around next weekend it should be a distant memory. In its place, the bitterness I mentioned is still prevalent, but there’s a much stronger fruitiness. Mango, papaya, tangerine, all those expensive orange-colored fruits that Yuppie moms buy at Whole Foods. This isn’t near as fruity as your average Trillium brew, but it has a much stronger bitterness. Similar (but not comparable) to Heady Topper.

Mouthfeel

Still rich and full-for-an-IPA. Not quite as “juicy” as a Treehouse or Trillium; again I’d put it closer to the OG of NE IPA’s (Heady) in mouthfeel. Creamy, but not chewy. Right where I like it (that’s what she said).

Overall

Talk about a night-and-day difference. I may have accidentally (but happily) sped up the aging process due to a gas leak in the keg. The gas connecting post wouldn’t seal, so whenever I removed the gas line – say, to gas another keg – all of the CO2 escaped. This happened multiple times, most likely introducing oxygen. While normally this would be bad, it is my theory that this help scrub out the grassy and vegetal notes much faster. I can’t really run a test on it (I’m not the Brulosophy eggheads), because I’ve now fixed that leak and don’t know how much scrubbing is actually left.

Overall, I’m now MUCH happier with this beer and excited to serve it at JAMBO. There’s also an upcoming homebrew competition for IPAs that I might consider entering if there’s any leftovers.

Cheers!


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