Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Orange Bier

Not too long ago I bought a 6-pack of Oranjeboom lager from Trader Joe's. It is a Dutch beer that is very clean and crisp. The web site description says it is a strong yet mildly bitter beer. I didn't find it strong at all, and not that bitter either. But I really liked it. On a hot summer day it hit the spot. The beer isn't made with oranges and doesn't have an outright orangey taste, though it is a bit citrusy. The beer is named Oranjeboom due to the significance of the orange blossom as a symbol of the Netherlands and the royal family.

Drinking the Oranjeboom got me thinking about brewing a beer with orange flavor. I wanted to make something clean and crisp like the Orangjeboom, but I can't really do a proper lager here in the hot summer. So I thought I would give a try making a Kolsch style beer and adding some orange peels to secondary to give some orange taste and aroma. Kolsch yeast can withstand higher fermentation temperatures and still give characteristics of a lager. Here is my brewsheet:

Ingredients for Mashing
Amount Item Type % or IBU
1.00 lb Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM) Grain 14.29 %

Step Time Name Description Step Temp
40 min steep grains Add 8.00 qt of water and heat to 155.0 F over 2 min 155.0 F

Boil Wort

Add water to achieve boil volume of 5.72 gal

Estimated pre-boil gravity is 1.042

Boil Ingredients
Boil Amount Item Type
60 min 6.00 lb Wheat Liquid Extract (8.0 SRM) Extract
60 min 0.50 oz Hallertauer Mittelfrueh [4.00 %] (60 min) Hops
30 min 0.50 oz Hallertauer Mittelfrueh [4.00 %] (30 min) Hops
15 min 0.50 oz Tettnang [4.50 %] (15 min) Hops
10 min 0.25 tsp Irish Moss (Boil 10.0 min) Misc
5 min 0.50 oz Tettnang [4.50 %] (5 min) Hops

Cool and Prepare Fermentation

Cool wort to fermentation temperature

Transfer wort to fermenter

Add water to achieve final volume of 5.00 gal

Ingredients for Fermentation
Amount Item Type % or IBU
1 Pkgs German Ale/Kolsch (White Labs #WLP029) Yeast-Ale

Measure Actual Original Gravity ___1.042____ (Target: 1.048 SG)

Measure Actual Batch Volume ___5____ (Target: 5.00 gal)


8/24/2008 - Primary fermentation (10 days at 80.0 F)

9/3/2008 - Secondary fermentation (5 days at 68.0 F)
Add to Secondary
Amount Item Type % or IBU
0.75 oz Orange Peel, Sweet (Secondary 5.0 days) Misc

N/A - Tertiary Fermentation (0 days at 68.0 F)

Prepare for Bottling/Kegging

Measure Final Gravity: ___1.014______ (Estimate: 1.012 SG)

9/8/2008 - Bottled beer at 75.0 F with 4.9 oz of corn sugar.

Age beer for 28.0 days at 75.0 F

10/6/2008 - Drink and enjoy!

For the orange peel, I took the zest from 3 tangelos. These are a cross between a tangerine and an orange I think. No real reason behind using the tangelos except that they smelled nice at the grocery. Oh, and I washed the tangelos and them gave them a few minutes in a collander steamer in order to kill any fungus or bacteria hiding out on the skin. Careful balancing act here to not steam them too much so that the oils are removed from the skin. But you don't want to introduce anything not sterile into your secondary if you can help it. I think some brewers will put the peels into the boil instead and I may try this sometime though I've heard that a vigorous primary fermentation can expel any aroma from the peels.

The beer has only aged about three weeks, but it has come out very interesting. It definitely has orange aroma and flavor, though not overpowering. I think the mouthfeel is a bit thin due to using all wheat extract. The Kolsch yeast adds a fruity character as well. And the beer is not as clear as I would like it to be, though I think if I condition it a few more weeks in the fridge it may clear up some. Right now it is almost like e hefeweizen, though not as tart. Overall, I am very satisfied with the beer. It is a great summer beer. I think next time I brew it though I will use some Munich Malt instead of pure wheat to give it a bit more color and flavor - more like a traditional Kolsch which isn't 100% wheat.

Working in a brewery...

I used to work in a brewery when I was in college. Unfortunately it was absolutely nothing like this...

Working in a Beer company
Working in a Beer company its funny... its HOT ... JavaScript is disabled! To display this content, you need a JavaScript capable browser. Adobe...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

My Mom is a Trooper!!!

My Mom is a trooper. She is not a real beer fan, except that she does like the homebrew. But last week she went down to the Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico to wait in line for release of their special Chico Estate Harvest Ale.

They grow the hops on premise, and then brew immediately after harvest, creating a very fresh tasting ale. The Chico Estate Ale so far is only available to locals right now. My mom was able to get the limit of six 22oz. bottles per person. (My Dad later made a visit and got a few more bottles). So I'm hoping they save me a bottle. PLEASE MOM AND DAD!!! SAVE ME A BOTTLE!!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sam Adams Longshot 2008

I received my results from the Sam Adams Longshot Homebrewing contest yesterday for the three beers I had entered. This is my second year entering the contest. My results from last year are here:

The scoring guide is as follows:
Outstanding (45-50)
Excellent (38-44)
Very Good (30-37)
Good (21-29)
Fair (14-20)
Problematic (0-13)

This year's results are a mixed bag, though I'm very happy with one. Here is the rundown from worst to best:

This one only scored a 20!! But I somewhat expected this since the batch was a total mistake from the beginning. Details here:

General consensus between the two judges was that it didn't fit the style, had malt sweetness and harsh hop bitterness, with herbal aroma. One judge actually did like it, but just didn't fit the style I entered.

NOTE: This beer is actually tasting better to me now after about 6 months aging. It has mellowed nicely.

AMERICAN PALE (Category 10A)
I only scored a 25 on this one which was a bit disappointing, though I totally understand the criticisms. One judge scored it a 23 and said he couldn't finish it. The other judge scored it a 27 and said he would finish a pint of the beer. (This beer also scored a 29.5 at the SoCal Brewing competition sponsored by Inland Empire Brewers @

The main critique on this beer was that it had a harsh astringent aftertaste as well as high hop bitterness. I totally agree on both counts. I wanted to make a highly hopped pale, but think I missed the mark in a couple areas. First, I think 90 minutes was probably too long to boil the bittering hops that I used. Second having no real temperature control during fermentation, I think it just got too hot. (Also some real drastic temperature swings from day to night probably don't help either.)

BIG HONKIN' STOUT (Category 13e)
My third entry was a success! It rated a total of 37.5 and actually advanced to a mini BEST-OF-SHOW round!! Not bad considering this was a kit beer I ordered from Northern Brewer.

Judges rated this a 37 and a 38. Comments were that it had chocolate aroma and coffee/roasty flavor. Main criticism again was a bit of astringency. Again maybe due to my high fermentation temperature?

So overall, I think I did a little better than last year, though this tells me I need to work a bit on my recipe formulation. And hey, free Sam Adams Homebrewing t-shirt out of the deal!!

Sunday, July 6, 2008


Sad day. My hops have all died. Well, to be more accurate, 3 of the four rhizomes never managed to even sprout. The fourth sprouted and looked promising, but we got a spell of a couple weeks with close to or above 100 degrees, and the young sprout just couldn't take the heat. I'm real disappointed in the ones that never even sprouted. One was from Northern Brewer ( a jumbo hop Cascade) , and the other two were from (1 Newport and 1 Goldings). The Cascade I think was rotten before I even put it in the soil. I'm not sure what happened with the other two - perhaps I overwatered due to the heat.

So I'll try again next season. Though next year I will put them in the ground rather than clay pots. Perhaps the clay pots added to the problem by cooking the rhizomes in the heat. I don't have alot of space in the backyard, but I am determined to grow my own hops for my beer.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest

With dinner tonight (Paired with turkeyburgers, baked potato, & salad). I had a new Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale. This is a new addition to their series of beers that they brew with fresh hops. I'm a big fan of the Chico Estate Harvest. While their other two Harvest beers are brewed with wet hops, the hops in this beer are picked in New Zealand, immediately dried, then flown to the brewery in less than a week. Hops used are fresh Pacific Hallertau, New Zealand Motueka and New Zealand Southern Cross hops.

Upon pouring the beer you are greeted with a pleasant citrus aroma, though not to strong. Thick yellowish foam, and a very nice caramel color. A real clear, colorful looking beer. At first taste you definitely taste sweet malt and can really taste the hops. Mouthfeel seemed a bit thin however, and the aftertaste I would say may be a bit astringent if not too bitter. Not too sure I like the hops used in this beer

All things considered, I think I'm maybe a bit disappointed with this one. Maybe I just got spoiled with the wet hops in the Chico Estate Harvest Ale which I'd say is one of my favorite beers. This one just really didn't seem to compare. I'm wondering if it should really be considered a fresh hop beer if the hops are dried and then flown around the world? Perhaps it's a function of the hop shortage? Find hops wherever you can - then use it as a marketing tool? Good idea probably - it got me to buy a couple bottles.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Dogfish Head is Finally Here

Since trying some Dogfish Head a couple years ago back east I've always kept my eye out for it out here on the west coast. And finally last week while at my local brewshop I finally found some. I picked up a 4-pack of their 90-minute Imperial IPA. A 90 minute means that hops are added throughout the 90 minute boil. It's a 9% beer, so it's big and they recommend drinking from a snifter. The beer has a somewhat fruity malt character that complements the hops very nicely and adds complexity so you don't just get smacked with the high alcohol content.

The website says the beer pairs well with pork chops, beef, fish, escargot. Since I wasn't about to go pick snails from the backyard, I figured a homemade pizza would be good instead. This is a great beer, and if 9% is too much for you, they also have a 60 -minute IPA and other varieties as well. Pick some up if you can - you won't be disappointed!!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Stone Brewing World Bistro - Revisit

My manager was in town last weekend from Texas for a conference this week, and since he happens to also be a homebrewer and beer lover, he wanted to go down to Stone Brewery. It just happened to be Mother's Day here in the States, but since Mexico celebrates Mother's Day on the 10th, and I had already had flowers delivered to my Mom in NorCal, I was off the hook for a trip down to Escondido.

Stone Bistro was fairly crowded for Mother's Day, but not so bad that we couldn't have got a table if we wanted. But we opted for the bar. Since it was lunch the menu was somewhat limited, but I had a great buffalo hamburger and fries. Now Stone has a huge bottled beer selection in addition to their brands they have on draught. To start I had a Levitation Ale with my meal, and then a Pale. Both of course were exceptional. Very clean and crisp with the hop character that makes Stone so special. I really wanted to have a Ruination Ale, but as I was the driver I figured I better stick with the lighter ales.

So while the Stone beers were great, the true highlight was a beer that my manager had us try. We bought a 750ml bottle of Cantillon Vigneronne It is similar to a Belgian lambic/gueuze in that is is spontaneously fermented and very sour, but is different in that instead of cherries or raspberries, the Vigneronne is made with white grapes added to the lambic. (I had tried some Kriek while in Belgium and liked it very much.) Before we were allowed to order, our well educated server Tegan made sure we knew what we were getting ourselves into. "Do you like sour beers?", "Have you ever had a Lambic?", "This will have more vinegar taste than a traditional Gueuze". She knew her stuff, and at $20 a bottle it's a good thing she asks, because most people would taste the Vigneronne and think it was bad. But all warnings aside, we got a bottle and I'm really glad we did. It was by far the most sour and vinegary beer I have had. But it was excellent. After a few sips, you really get past the initial sourness and can start to taste the different flavors from the grapes and wild bacteria.

After the Vigneronne we each had another beer out in the beer garden and then went through the gift shop before the trek back up to The OC. I have a new appreciation for sour beers now and look forward to trying some more.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Cascade Hops: 2 Weeks

I'm happy to report that one of the two Cascade rhizomes I planted two weeks ago has sprouted! After the first week, the sprouts poked up through the soil, and now are growing quickly. From what I have read, it is advisable to let these first shoots grow a bit, then prune them back and then let the next shoots mature and they will be more healthly and productive.

The other hasn't hasn't started yet, so perhaps I either planted it upside-down, or it is sick.

It's going to be hard to wait for them to produce. Especially since hops are getting hard to find at decent prices. I found some Cascade Leaf Hops available here for a good price for 3oz. I haven't ordered yet, since I still have some on hand from previous batches.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Cascade Hop Rhizomes

I received my cascade hop rhizomes from Northern Brewer this week!! I'm a little worried because they had a very funky smell. Almost like a wine or vinegar type smell. And there was a small amount of white mildew/fungus on the rhizomes. Plus there were some critters too - some sort of grub or maggot. I killed what I could see, but I'm sure I didn't get everything. Hopefully the rhizomes will still be good. Who knows how long they were in storage and if they are still healthy.

I planted yesterday in some terracotta pots. While at Laguna Hills nursery here in Foothill Ranch, I got lucky and ran into a real helpful gardener named Brody who also happens to grow his own hops. He said his Cascades are already about 20 feet this season. He recommended a mix they have of peat moss, pumice, sand and some other organic compounds. It should make for a nice acidic soil for the hops.

My plan is to grow the bines up 8 feet and then go horizontal along my patio cover and back awning. That added with my Cabernet Sauvingon grapes already growing up one side of the patio cover should make for some very nice coverage. I'll post some pictures when/if the hops actually start growing.

Friday, April 11, 2008

California Beer Tax

The geniuses in our state government are at it again, trying to steal individual and corporate wealth to put toward social welfare programs. State Assemblyman Jim Beall is proposing a new beer tax that would add $1.80 to a six-pack of beer. Another way to look at it is that it would raise the tax on a barrel of beer from $6.40 to $89!!! And though the tax would be levied against the breweries (evil, evil corporations that like profit), of course that cost would be passed on to consumers. Here is a link to the article:

Go ahead. Tax it. More incentive for me to brew my own. Then the state gets even less tax from me than before their tax. It's called the Laffer Curve in Econ 101. But then again very few of our politicians understand economics in the first place....

Friday, April 4, 2008

Better Bottle Update

I transferred out my Belgian Strong Golden last week. For my secondary I was using the 6 Gallon Better Bottle with the spigot at the bottom for the first time. I was excited to use this because it has a nice racking arm attached to it to minimize sediment getting pulled out with the beer, and I can now do away with siphoning. However, I'm not too crazy about the flow rate of the spigot. Very very slow. So slow that the beer doesn't completely fill the outflow tubing, so there is constant air in the tube as you empty the carboy. I am hoping this doesn't completely oxidize the beer. Since this strong golden won't be ready for a few months I can't really tell what the outcome of this batch will be. I do have a kolsch in it right now, which should be bottled in a week.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Now this has nothing at all to do with beer or brewing, but I'll blog about it anyway. Last night after the wife and I went out to a movie (saw "Juno" which was cute, though not Oscar worthy I think), we stopped by the new Pinkberry yogurt place at Irvine Spectrum. In case you haven't heard of Pinkberry, they are the newest craze in luxury ice cream/yogurt. The yogurt is very tart and sour, and besides the greentea/coffee flavor there is only the original flavor. Not really vanilla, but similar. Maybe a cross between a sour vanilla and buttermilk. Anyway, the draw to this place is you get this sour yogurt and top it with all kinds of good fresh fruits or cereals like Cap'n crunch. Also, the stores are ultra modern and fresh looking. You walk in and there's techno music playing, everyone looks young and hip. I was instantly happy and felt immensely cooler just standing there. I got a yogurt topped with fresh blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Delicious and refreshing. I'm not one to get all crazy about the newest hype or trend - but I think they really nailed with this place. Great product, great shop that makes you feel good just being there. I'll definitely go back.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Today thanks to a tip from Rob over at Democracy's Drink I added a vial of Brettanomyces to my secondary fermentation for that blonde ale that I recently screwed up by adding way too much extract. I used a vial of White Labs' Brettanomyces Bruxellensis WLP650. My hope is that this wild belgian yeast will continue to ferment where the California Ale yeast left off. Oh and I also added some cascade leaf hops to dry hop in secondary as well.

Hopefully between the Brettanomyces ,the dry hopping, and some long aging I should come out with something close to a Golden Strong Ale? Or at least something drinkable. Time will tell.....

Friday, March 7, 2008

HONEY... I Blew it!!!

Last week I started a new beer. I wanted to do a Honey Blonde Ale to get ready for springtime, and maybe to enter into the 2008 Sam Adams Longshot contest along with one of my stouts and maybe a California common. Here's the ingredients I used for my recipe....

60 min 4.00 lb Pilsner Liquid Extract (3.5 SRM) Extract
60 min 1.00 oz Cascade [5.50 %] (60 min) Hops
30 min 3.00 lb White Sage Honey (1.0 SRM) Sugar 30.00 %
15 min 0.50 oz Cascade [5.50 %] (15 min) Hops
10 min 0.25 tsp Irish Moss (Boil 10.0 min) Misc

2 Pkgs California Ale (White Labs #WLP001) Yeast-Ale

Here's the problem: Between working on tiling the kitchen backsplash and brewing beer I got distracted and added 6lbs Pilsner extract rather than 4lbs. My OG reading was off the charts at 1.12!!! Between the extra pilsner and the honey I must have really jacked up the fermentables.

Original recipe should have had gravity of 1.055, and then even with the extra 2 lbs it should have been 1.069. But I got 1.12???? The only reason I can think this happened is the White Sage Honey must have been very very low in water content.

At this point after finding out that my OG is way too high, I'm scared. Did I just ruin the beer? I don't think there's any way the yeast will be able to ferment all that sugar, even though this White Labs California Ale Yeast has a high attenuation at up to 80%. I did prepare a yeast starter as usual, but just be safe I got another vial of yeast and added that as well. Hopefully all that yeast will be able to survive the high alcohol that will be produced. This beer no longer fits the category of a honey blonde. It almost fits the style guide for a Belgian Strong Golden. So that's what I'm going to call it.

It has now been in primary fermentation for 11 days. It happily bubbled away for the first weeks with a nice krausen, then has leveled off. Still bubbling through airlock but not as rapid. I checked specific gravity yesterday and it is reading 1.020. I plan to rack to secondary today and let it sit for a month or so before bottling and aging.

The beer so far is very very dry, and not a huge malt character. I'm afraid it is going to be straight rubbing alcohol by the time it is done. My thought is maybe I'll dry-hop in secondary with some cascade and hopefully that will smooth out the alcohol profile a bit. Unfortunately I'll probably have to age for months like a Belgian ale, and now it won't be ready in time for the Sam Adams contest.

Anyone who reads this and has any suggestions on how I can salvage this batch, I'd appreciate any comments.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


I just ordered some Cascade Rhizomes. In light of the worldwide hops shortage I'm going to take a shot growing some myself. I don't have a ton of space in the backyard, but hopefully I can get a couple vines going. More of an experiment more than anything. I don't expect to grow enough for all my brewing, but if I can make one or two batches with my own fresh hops, that will be fulfilling. Once I get them growing I'll post some photos.

I also ordered one of those 6 gallon plastic "Better Bottles" to add to my fermentation equipment. Now I can have a couple different brews going at a time. It is ported at the bottom so I can do away with cumbersome siphoning.

Coming up on tap soon is going to be a honey-blonde ale. I'm using pilsner extract with some honey malt specialty grains, and a whopping 3lbs of white sage honey!!! Will be done by springtime and will be a good lawnmowing beer. (OK, it takes me about 5 minutes to mow my tiny lawn, but that's enough to earn a beer isn't it?)