May 102009

Boiling the wort

Boiling the wort

First off, Happy Mother’s Day to any moms out there! I’ll drink one in your honor tonight!

Yesterday was a very productive brewing day. I woke up to heavy rain and resigned myself to having to postpone yet another brew. However, a couple of hours later the rain had stopped and I thought the day had a chance of clearing up. I decided to plan a quick extract brew, hoping to sneak it in before the weather turned again.

I ran out to Maltose and picked up some ingredients – 6.6# of wheat LME, an ounce of Vanguard hops, a pack of Wyeast German Wheat, and a pound of Orange Blossom honey. My recipe was a slightly modified version of the Wildflower Wheat found in Sam Calagione’s book Extreme Brewing. I couldn’t find chamomile anywhere, so I planned on using some dried elderflower I had at home. I couldn’t find the elderflower, so I settled on some Grains of Paradise instead, hoping it would give a touch of peppery citrus to the finished beer.

A few hours later, I had five gallons of beer sitting in the fermentor. The brewday was perfect – the weather turned beautiful, everything went smoothly, and doing an extract brew saved me a bunch of time. I did a full boil in my aluminum kettle (which usually serves as my HLT) – just didn’t feel like breaking out the huge kettle when I had the smaller one ready to go.

The wort was treated to a 60m boil, with hops added at 60m, honey and Whirfloc at 10m, and spices at 1m. Since I was using the smaller kettle, I didn’t have my evaporation rate nailed down. I finished up with around 5.75G of wort, chilled down to 64ºF, and pitched my yeast. I was expecting a very short lag time since the date on the smackpack was only five days old (think that’s the freshest I’ve ever gotten!). This morning I still had no airlock activity, but upon closer inspection that was due to a loose gasket around the airlock. I wrapped the airlock with some sanitized teflon tape and wedged it in there. Problem solved, and now this beer is fermenting like crazy!

Original gravity clocked in at 1.047 (right on target – man, that 100% efficiency with extract is a nice change of pace!!) and I anticipate kegging in about two weeks. I may decide to throw some fruit extract in after primary – depends on how much of the delicate spice and orange honey flavor comes through. I also have the Old Speckled Hen clone nearing completion – I’ll probably be kegging that up next weekend, as well as starting a wine kit (Shiraz) I’ve been sitting on. Shaping out to be a very nice Spring so far!

May 042009

Well, thanks to our gracious hosts J-Dawg & Mike , my brewing drought is over and the first batch of 2009 is bubbling away! The group brew was a great time – eleven people turned out, four batches of beer were brought into the world, and numerous microbrews and homemade Buffalo wings were devoured by all.

A rainy day did not slow us down as J-Dawg & Mike’s spacious garage gave us the shelter we needed to get on with the festivities. I was brewing an Old Specklen Hen clone I picked up from Maltose Express. I got a bit of a late start because I was busy drinking beer and chatting, but once we got underway it was smooth sailing. It was a pleasure to take a break from the complexity of an all grain brew – I didn’t measure, didn’t take any gravity readings, just followed the directions in the kit (ha!) and concentrated on having a good time.

My Big Brew setup

My Big Brew setup

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May 302008

Man, it’s Friday and I can’t wait for the weekend. I’m planning on brewing a clone of Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat tomorrow. Instead of using San Francisco lager yeast like the recipe specifies, I’m going to be using my pack of Wyeast Private Collection Kölsch II yeast. This strain comes direct to us from Germany and I plan on making a nice Kölsch with it in a couple of weeks. The Sunset Wheat clone is essentially going to be a five gallon starter for the Kölsch – lagers require tons of yeast, so instead of stepping up a starter several times, why not make a light beer with it and get five gallons of tasty brew for my efforts? I’ve already made a 1.5 L starter from the smackpack and it should be ready to go for tomorrow’s session.

I’m also planning on visiting The Cambridge House brewpub in Granby, CT on Sunday. I’m truly disappointed by the lack of good brewpubs in Fairfield County – it seems any worth visiting are at least a forty-five minute drive away. However, I’m determined to try them all out, and The Cambridge House is on the top of my list. They just won a bunch of awards in the Hartford Advocate’s Best of Hartford Readers’ poll, including Best Brewpub and Best Overall Bar (also, 3rd place for Best Looking Wait Staff – hmmmm!) They also have a fresh batch of their Copper Hill Kölsch (a 2005 GABF Gold Medal winner) on tap, so this should be a good trip. Look for the review next week.

Finally, I’d like to bring your attention to the Friends of Lootcorp link list on the right sidebar. These are beer and brewing related sites that I enjoy and have exchanged links with. They all add something unique to the beer blogosphere and are worth checking out. Go take a look and kill some time.

Enjoy the weekend, and I’ll be back with reports on my brew session and brewpub experience.