Sunday, December 25, 2011

Chipotle Imperial Robust Porter

This beer worked out in a marvelous way. I've been thinking about brewing it for quite a while, and now that it's done the chocolate and the roast and the smoke and the pepper all come together.

I bought 3 pounds of smoked malt a while ago, but it never seemed all that smoky to me. There was some vague smokiness, but not to the level I expected for putting my nose in three pounds of smoked malt. I also had some dried chipotle peppers that I bought at a Hispanic grocery store, they smelled smoky but I doubted their ability to add enough smoke to five gallons of beer. The two worked together to give me the level of smoke and heat I was looking for. My aim was not to make a beer that was hugely smokey or fire-breathing hot... I just wanted to build a nice interplay of flavors to work with an Imperial Porter.

Notes: The recipe says two ounces of chipotle but that's a guess, because I added 14 dried chipotle peppers to the boil without measuring their weight. I kept them in a hop bag and pulled the bag out of the boil when the wort was spicy enough. I was originally planning to use Black Patent instead of Carafa, but on brew day didn't happen to have any of Black Patent around, and I did have some Carafa.

Brew Date:November 25
Batch Size:5.0 gallons
Original Gravity:1.084 measured   (1.087 estimated)
Final Gravity:1.024 / 6.1° Plato    (1.021 to 1.025estimated)
Color:37° SRM / 74° EBC   (Black)
Mash Efficiency:73% measured    (75% used for O.G. estimate)
Bitterness:48.0 IBU / 11 HBU   ƒ: Tinseth
BU:GU Ratio:0.55
Alcohol:8.4% ABV / 6% ABW
Calories:288 per 12 oz.

Malt & Fermentables
% Lbs. Oz. Malt/Fermentable PPG °L
67% 11 0 American Two-row Pale 37 2
18% 3 0 Smoked Malt 37 9
7% 1 2 American Crystal 120L 34 120
3% 0 8 Special B 30 180
2% 0 6 Roasted Barley 25 300
2% 0 4 Chocolate Malt 34 475
1% 0 2 Carafa II 32 412

Use Time Oz. Variety Form AA
Boil 60 mins 1.25 Northern Brewer pellet 9.0
Boil 30 mins 0.75 Northern Brewer pellet 9.0
Post-boil 10 mins 2.0 Cascade pellet 5.5

Type Strain Description
Safale US-05 Dry Ale Yeast in dry form with low to medium flocculation and 73% attenuation

Use Time Amount Ingredient
Boil 10 min. 2oz. Dried Whole Chipotle Peppers

Monday, December 19, 2011

R.I.P. Cheap Corny Kegs

OK, they're not dead yet but I've watched the prices go up, and the supplies go down... and I can read the writing on the wall. The Corny Keg supply is living on borrowed time.

A Cornelius keg (AKA Corny keg) is a metal keg originally used by the soft drink industry for the soda fountains. These soda fountain kegs became generically known as Cornelius kegs because they were originally made by the IMI Cornelius Company, and subsequently by several others. Corny kegs were designed to be filled with syrup which was mixed with carbonated water and dispensed as Coke or Pepsi products. As the soda pop industry has gone to "bag in a box" (BIB) systems for syrup dispensers the old Cornelius kegs have been taken out of circulation.

For years, Homebrewers have seen the used kegs as the best value they could find for a sealed 5 gallon stainless steel container. As a result, thousands of old Corny Kegs have been used to store and dispense home-brewed beer. The kegs come in two varieties, Pin-Lock (Coke) and Ball-Lock (Pepsi). Ball-Lock seems to be the choice of most homebrewers I know.

As the year ends, there are no local Craigslist entries for Ball-Lock Corny Kegs. There are still Pin-Lock kegs available in Olympia. The supply on eBay has also dried up, and the few that are left are going for twice the price of a year or two ago. Prices are up on Amazon as well. On one hand, I'm thinking, "Wow, I'm glad I bought when I did." On the other hand, I'm thinking, "Wow, I wish I bought more than I did."

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Barrel-Aging Your Beer With Oak Chips or Cubes

Oak barrels have been used in brewery storage for many years, but recently craft brewers have turned to oak for its aroma, flavor and mouthfeel impact. Commercial craft brewers are likely to use barrels, often ones that were previously used for whiskey storage. Barrel-storage between batches and batch sizes are a problem for homebrewers, so we are more likely to follow in the steps of Budweiser and use wood chips or cubes; except for a few who use dowels or chair legs. Homebrewers will also be likely to use oak instead of Bud beech.
"Grown in America, Beechwood is harvested and processed into chips for use in Budweiser's fermenting process. Beechwood aging enhances fermentation creating a crisper, more sparkling carbonation while imparting smoothness..."—The Budweiser Way,
When used effectively, oak-aging can enhance beer flavor and complexity lending the full, rich properties of the wood. When overused, oak can make your beer too dry and "woody." All of this is dependent on the specifics of how you do the aging. There are several basic flavors that derive the the compounds found in all species of oak:
  • Eugenol: Clove-like taste
  • Furfural: Caramel sweetness
  • Lactones: Coconut and aromatic wood flavors
  • Vanillin: Vanilla aroma and flavor
The three most common types of oak used by brewers are American, French and Hungarian, and each has its own flavors. Each is available with different levels of toast, typically Light, Medium, Medium+ and Heavy. The flavor profile of oak changes during the toasting process, so the flavor and aroma compounds that come out depend on the variety of oak and the level of toast it gets.

Chips vs. Cubes: Chips are generally thin, flat shreds of wood similar to the chips of wood you get when chopping a tree by hand with an ax. Because of the thinness of chips, the toast level is more uniform and they impart their flavor to beer fairly quickly. (Speed is the attraction to beech chips for the folks at Budweiser who appear to pare theirs down to ribbons of wood.) Due to their relatively greater thickness, cubes may be able replicate the complex flavors of a barrel a bit better than chips because the cubes have more levels of toast. Cubes also expose un-toasted surfaces to your beer, something that doesn't happen in barrels. Cubes take a bit longer to impart their flavor and cost more due to being more expensive to produce. Which is better? It depends on your usage.

Sanitation: Maintaining sanitation is a concern, but it's not as big a problem as sanitizing barrels. There are multiple ways to go, and have used several successfully:
  1. Steam: Put your oak cubes or chips and 1/4 cup of water into a microwave-safe container with a loose-fitting lid. Microwave on high for three minutes. Let it stand for another three minutes.
  2. Boiling: Use just enough water to cover the wood, and cover the pot or container with a loose-fitting lid. You can do this on the stove top or in the microwave.
  3. Alcohol: There are some sanitizing properties in alcohol, and the level of alcohol in whiskey is enough to do the job with prolonged contact. I use a Mason Jar and just enough booze to just cover the wood. You'll need to add more booze almost daily as the oak absorbs it.
  4. Oven: This method should work just fine but I haven't tried it so I have no recommendation on heat or times.
  5. Pressure Cooker: The super-safe way of steaming. Very effective but requires extra equipment that most homebrewers probably don't have.
  6. Just throw them in: You'll probably be just fine in most cases.
Process: There are several ways you can oak your beer:
  1. Chips/Cubes in the Primary: Put your oak cubes or chips in when at the same time you add your yeast The yeast will metabolize some of the oak vanilla flavors and leave others behind. Chips are probably the better option here due to short duration.
  2. Chips/Cubes in the Secondary: This is probably the most common way for homebrewers to do oak aging.
  3. Oak Tea in the Secondary: If you sanitized by boiling or soaking in alcohol you now have an oak tea of one sort or another. The alcohol-based tea will be laced with vanilla. The water-based tea will be dry, woody and possibly a bit astringent if you've boiled it for long.
  4. Hybrid: Some combination of the previous methods.
I've had success creating bourbon-aged oak flavor by soaking the wood in bourbon for several weeks. You could add only the chips to your beer after a shorter soak in bourbon, but with several weeks to work, the bourbon gets gradually darker as it pulls the flavors and toast out of the chips. If you add only the chips and discard the bourbon tea at this point you're probably throwing the baby out with the bathwater. If you add only the tea and discard the chips you're probably doing the same thing to a lesser degree. Reserve the tea until the end of your aging process and add it in gradually until the taste is right. Switching to Port for a Port Barrel Aged Old Ale also worked well.

Depending on the quantity and variety of oak you use, the taste of your beer will change more or less subtly over time. You'll probably need to wait at least a couple of weeks and maybe as much as six months. You'll need to taste the beer during the next weeks/months to monitor how the flavors of the oak compounds are mergiong into the flavor of your beer.

The Brewing Network has a good discussion of wood aging but it takes a long time to download. Not because of file size, their sever seems to have issues.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Ice Cider / Cidre de Glace

Ice cider or Cidre de Glace is the cider equivalent of ice wine: it is made from the frozen juice of apples. There are two main ways to make ice cider: cryoconcentration and cryoextraction.

Cryoconcentration is harvesting the fruits late in season and pressing the fresh juice which is left to freeze. Cryoextraction is a traditional method similar to the one used to produce ice wine. Apples are left on the trees until the end of January. In either method, the concentrated (but non-fermented) cider is higher in sugar and in apple taste than 'regular' cider. This is in contrast with beer world, where Eisbock and similar styles are created by freezing fermented beer.

I'm going with a variation on cryoextraction. I bought five gallons of frozen cider from Minea Farms in Redmond. They typically have five or six varieties of cider, in a mix of fresh and frozen. I got two gallons of Golden Russet, two gallons of Pink Lady and one gallon of Honey Crisp.The idea is that the sugary part of the cider will thaw faster than the watery part, so I can drain concentrated cider from the partially frozen gallon jugs.

What I hope to end up with is more or less Cidre de Glace: "Drinks produced by the fermentation of apple juice, which must have a concentration of sugar before fermentation made solely by the natural cold of at least 30 Brix and whose product has a residual sugar content of at least 130 grams per liter. Finally, the alcohol will be obtained over 7% and less than 13% alcohol by volume." The problems with making authentic Cidre de Glace is that I need my own orchard and cider press. And I can't cheat by adding apple juice concentrate... which I will probably need to do to get to my desired OG.

Time for some brew math. 30 Brix is approximately 1.130OG. Apple juice is typically somewhere in the neighborhood of 12.6 Brix or about 1.051OG. You can calculate Brix from the grams of sugar. 1 gr per 100 ml is one Brix. To get from 12.6 to 30, I need to concentrate each gallon to .42 gallon. And that's just the bottom end of the range, which will yield two gallons of ice cider from my five gallons of regular cider. If I collect all the sugar from one gallon into 1/3 gallon, I'll come in at around 37 Brix for just over 1 1/2 gallons of ice cider. But I know I'll never be able to get all the sugar as long as I leave some of the ice behind. I'm beginning to understand why Cidre de Glace is expensive.

Here's my high-tech cryoconcentration apple cider apparatus:

I took some scraps of wood to build a rack that holds the gallons of frozen cider upside down. The openings of the sanitized juice bottles below are slightly larger that the openings of the cider jugs, so they catch everything that drips out. Now I just need to monitor them to make sure I don't let the cider melt for too long.

I was expecting that I might need to back-fill with frozen apple cider concentrate. This would clearly be cheating in the Cidre de Glace world, but I won't be selling it so things should work out just fine. What I wasn't expecting is how much frozen apple cider I would need.

If you recall that the Brix of cider should be 12.6 or higher, my extracted cider came in at about 25 Brix, so I had just about doubled the gravity. The problem is that I need to be at 30 Brix for Ice Cider. I'll need to add enough frozen apple cider concentrate to bring it up to 30. To do that I'm going to need 72 ounces, or six cans:
72oz @ 44 Brix = 3168
200oz @ 25 Brix = 5000
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272oz @ 30 Brix = 8168