Aug 182011

So, last time I posted here (ahem…cough…almosttwomonthsago!… cough cough) I spoke of rushing a beer and going from grain to glass in one week. Well, the experiment was a smashing success! I decided to go with a nice American wheat flavored with some boysenberry extract.

The beer was definitely green, but it was surprisingly drinkable. I told everyone at the Fourth of July gala that it was an experimental brew, so I figured people would stay away from it. Boy, was I wrong! I heard from several people that this beer was their favorite of the three (the others being an IPA and a Kölsch), and it was the clear favorite of the ladies. So, brewers, never again let your procrastination and poor time-management skills stop you from your mission!

In other news, I have finally decided to change the name of this blog to something more beer specific. Coming this fall, I will be re-launching the site at This dovetails nicely with some other beer-related programming projects/websites I am working on, and I’ll have more news on those as they develop over the coming months.

Finally, I wanted to give a shout out to another Connecticut brewer I had the pleasure of meeting recently. My friend Jeff and I were able to spend a great Saturday assisting Brewmaster Dan of Two Beagles Brewing with a batch of American Pale Ale. Dan is an extremely knowledgeable brewer and a great host, and I was able to see the Sabco Brew-Magic in action. I’ve been considering upgrading to a system like this for awhile, and this brought me one step closer to pulling the trigger. It was great to watch another brewer in action, and I was able to pick up a lot of tips and tricks I’ll be applying to my own process. Many thanks to Dan for his hospitality, and the great Vienna Lager and Maibock he allowed us to taste!

Jun 222009



Well, you can’t win them all.

I kegged up the summer wheat beer I brewed up a few weeks ago, and I knew I had a problem as soon as I opened the fermentor and the rich smell of ripe bananas washed over me. My first thought was some sort of infection – I had used Wyeast’s 3333 – German Wheat and expected a nice, clean flavor like an American Wheat (my first yeast choice, which the homebrew shop was out of). However, a little reseach led me to the fact that 3333 can indeed throw out banana esters when fermented a little on the high end of the temperature range. I had fermented this in the kitchen and the ambient temperature probably ranged from 65-75°F. Here is where laziness came back to haunt me – I have a fermenting refrigerator and forgot how important a cool fermentation is for a clean tasting wheat. I should’ve used the fridge and had this beer fermenting in the very low sixties.

Anyway, what’s done is done, and I now have an interesting brew on my hands. There is a definite banana flavor and aroma there – mixed with the citrus notes from the grains of paradise, the flavor reminds me of those Tropicana orange/banana fruit juice blends. The base reminds me a bit of Sam Adams’ Summer, which is sort of what I was aiming for, but the banana really throws it off. It isn’t fully carbonated yet – adding even a touch of carbonation helped the beer even out quite a bit, and I’m hoping some cold conditioning and proper carbonation might save it in the end. It is definitely drinkable at this early stage, but it is certainly not my best work, and a problem which could have been easily avoided. Maybe it will wind up drinking like a slightly weird Hefeweizen – I’m crossing my fingers.

I was hoping this would be my first competition beer – I might enter it just to see what the judges make of the flavor, but I’m not bringing home any Best of Shows with this one…

Jun 172008

Summer is upon us, and I am sad to say the kegerator is only functioning at 50% capacity – one tap. I was supposed to have the second tap full of a new batch of Engine 97, but disaster struck and I had to toss that batch. I was nervous when I brewed up my next batch, but my extra cleaning and sanitation efforts paid off and the summer wheat exceeded my expectations.

Summer wheat

A nice cool glass of summer wheat

Summer Wheat
I love wheat beers, especially in the summer. Hefeweizens, witbiers, American wheats, it doesn’t matter…the more, the merrier. This year I’ve been trying to make an effort to brew some seasonal styles, and as the weather warmed up wheat beers jumped to the top of the list. A household favorite is Leinenkugle’s Sunset Wheat, and that was the benchmark I was shooting for. The recipe I used was pretty straightforward – 50% wheat malt, 50% 2-row pale malt, 1.0 oz of Cascade hops, and some coriander to spice it up. I added a touch of fruit flavoring at kegging – the recipe calls for blueberry, but I had some boysenberry around so I decided to use that. I’m not really sure what style this beer should be filed under, but since it has some fruit flavoring, let’s stick it in Fruit Beers (BJCP category 20, Fruit Beer).

The protein rest I used during the mash seems to have worked its magic – the beer pours with a nice head. It doesn’t stick around too long, but leaves some nice lacing on the glass as it recedes. The coriander gives a definite lemon flavor, which surprised me – I am fairly inexperienced with coriander, and I imagined it would give more of a peppery taste. Nope, it lends a citrus tang and a pithy bitterness (I have some grains of paradise I picked up which I think will get me closer to the pepper taste I was looking for…or, maybe I’ll try actual pepper…but that’s another spice for another brew).

The aroma is inviting, with nice citrus notes from the coriander and just a hint of the boysenberry flavor. More importantly, the beer tastes great! It was brewed with a very clean Kölsch yeast which lets the slightly creamy/slightly tart taste of the wheat really shine through. The coriander lends some lemon zest, and the boysenberry lurks in the background tying everything together with a faint sweetness. I don’t think you would be able to identify the boysenberry if you didn’t know it was in there – it’s a taste that leaves you smacking your lips wondering, “What is that?”

I have it carbonated fairly high, which gives it a nice crisp mouthfeel – this beer will not stick to your tongue. The body is perfect – just heavy enough to keep from being watery or thin, and just light enough to be a nice refreshing summer beer. I trust the protein rest helped out the body, but I will have to brew the recipe again without it to see to what extent that is true…

If I made one mistake on this brew, it was grinding the coriander too fine. I read that fine grinding would increase the coriander effect, and I wanted a strong coriander presence in the beer. However, I think the beer finishes a touch too pithy, just a little too bitter. However, others who have tried it don’t share that opinion, so that might just be me nitpicking. It definitely doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of a pint or two.

I think this has the makings of a new house brew, and I’m looking forward to using the same base recipe with different spices and flavorings during the summer. Wheat beers are pretty quick from grain to glass, which makes them perfect for experimentation.

Now – this beer doesn’t have a name, and I think you guys should help name it. Drop me a comment with your name recommendation and I’ll pick the one I like best and post the results. Who knows, the winner might even get a prize for their trouble!

Jun 012008

I stopped by our local beer emporium yesterday and noticed all the summer seasonals were back on the shelves. Some people might use Memorial Day as the official start of summer, but I use the appearance of witbiers, light wheats, and easy-drinking lawnmower beers in retail stores as my benchmark. Here’s a review of my first official summer beer.
Sea Dog Bluepaw
Perhaps it was due to a slightly stuffy nose, but the beer did not smell as strongly of blueberries as I would’ve expected. However, the scent is definitely identifiable as blueberry, with a faint touch of grain and a sort of creaminess I assume is from the wheat. As the beer warmed, the creaminess was less noticable while the blueberries became more prominent.

Beer is amazingly clear for a wheat beer and has obviously been filtered. Light gold in color. Formed a large head when poured which settled quickly, leaving no lace on glass.

This tastes exactly like what I think a blueberry wheat beer should be. The blueberry is present and abundant without being overpowering or cloyingly sweet. It also tastes like natural blueberry flavor as opposed to the slightly chemical feel that extracts or artificial flavoring can give. The beer is well-balanced, with the sweetness of the blueberry kept in check by the tart flavor of the wheat malt – it is almost faintly sour, but not in an unpleasant way. Lightly hopped – detected a bit of bitterness in the finish and aftertaste, but the hops are not prominent enough to pick out on their own.

The carbonation level is on the high side, resulting in a crispness which helps further cut the sweetness of the blueberry and works to cleanse the palatte after a sip. This is not a beer which sticks to the roof of your mouth. The beer is light-bodied without tasting too thin or weak.

A nice fruit beer I look forward to each summer. If you don’t like light-bodied, lightly hopped, fruity wheat beers, expect to be disappointed. Personally, I have a special place in my heart for such creations, and love kicking back on a summer night with a few. The blueberry flavor is interesting because the sweetness adds to the body, making this beer feel slightly bigger and smoother than a similar beer with citrus flavors. You won’t make any mistake – this is a light-drinking wheat – but it is more filling that you might expect. Be it my love for Maine blueberries or the dog on the label, Bluepaw is one beer that keeps finding its way into my glass.