Monday, December 14, 2009

Gold Rush Common Takes a Silver Medal!!

Just for kicks, I sent a few bottles of my Gold Rush California Common and Vanilla Pale Ale to the St. Louis Brews Happy Holiday Homebrew Competition.   Their contest is a qualifier for the MCAB XII.
I was pretty happy with my California Common, and the Vanilla Pale was a real longshot, but I always like to get feedback from judges so I can improve my brew.

Out of 11 entries in Category 7 Amber Hybrid Beer, my California Common got a 2nd place!  I'm real happy with this since the guys who got 1st and 3rd, also ended up getting 3rd in the Best of Show round with their smoked beer.

So here is a run-down of how I made my Gold Rush Common:

6lbs Pale Liquid Extract
1lbs. Light Dry Extract
.9lbs Crystal Malt 45L
.45 lbs Munich Malt
Bittering hops:  Northern Brewer
Flavor and Aroma hops: Cascade
Irish Moss for fining at end of boil
White Labs San Francisco Lager #WLP810

Pretty straight forward extract brew.  I steep the grains in about 160F for 30-40 minutes in 3gallons water.  I used straight tap water with no mineral additions.  I rinse the grains with another 1/2 gallon water to rinse of as much sugar as I can.  Then add the extract and bring to a boil.  At hot-break, I add the bittering hops and boil for 60 minutes, adding flavor and aroma hops at various points throughout the boil.

At end of boil, I put my kettle into an ice bath to bring down the temp.  I can get the temp down to about 60 degrees in under a half hour now.  When the temp is down to 60F, I pour into my carboy and then add preboiled and then cooled water to the carboy to get about 5.25 gallons.  Then I shake the carboy around for awhile to aerate (I haven't stepped up to an aeration system yet), then I pitch my yeast, which has been happily started days before in a little over a pint of wort for a starter.  Then I put the carboy in my beer cave in the garage which at that point was about 64-66F and stayed that way for the whole fermentation.  My target original gravity was 1.056 and I ended up at 1.062 so a bit off, but no big deal.

One thing I did a bit different with this batch was the technique of Krausening.  During the brew, I saved about 10% of the wort and bottled that up and put it in the refrigerator. I also saved some of the yeast starter.  After about 7 days I took the saved yeast and wort and brought them up to  temperature the fermentation was at, and mixed the yeast and wort making a new starter.  After three more days when the starter was bubbling away nicely, I pitched this into the already fermented beer.  This is called krausening.  It's how most beers used to be done, and especially with California Common, they would krausen the beer in the casks it was shipped in so it would naturally carbonate in the final serving vessel.  Now, my technique is a bit different as I krausened in the fermenter, not my final keg.  Two reasons for this.  First, this was my first kegged homebrew and I was afraid of naturally carbonating in the keg without using a bleeder valve to maintain right amount of pressure.  Second, I had read that krausening helps to finish off a beer since the new  yeast active yeast cleans up alot of the unwanted junk from the primary fermentation.  After another 9 days, I racked into keg and force carbonated.  Final gravity was 1.018 putting ABV at 5.74%  That's a bit higher than the style allows, but not by much, and my measurements could have been off anyway.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"Brewing Alchemy"

Had to post his photo of  this awesome painting my mom just finished of the kettles at Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico.  She had the pleasure visiting the brewery with some other artists recently to sketch and paint various areas inside the brewery and grounds.  Check out some of my mom's other work at Sierra Sky Gallery.  Thanks!
UPDATE:  Ken Grossman, founder of Sierra Nevada bought the painting!!  Congratulations Mom, and many thanks to Ken.  I'm not sure if the painting will be on display at the brewery or his residence.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Book Review: “The Search for God and Guinness” A Biography of the Beer That Changed The World - by Stephen Mansfield

FCC (Big Brother) Disclaimer: In accordance with new FCC rules regarding bloggers receiving payment or other compensation for reviews, I need to let it be known that I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in return for a review (favorable or not) on my blog.

Now that that's out of the way, here is my review....

Stephen Mansfield  is a best selling author and speaker who deals mainly with issues regarding religion and American culture.  In "The Search For God and Guinness"   Mansfield takes us through several generations of Guinnesses to explain how faith, morals, and sometimes some good luck enabled the Guinness brewery to become one of the most respected, charitable, and successful companies the world has ever seen.

I have visited the Guinness brewery in Dublin twice over the last couple years, and Guinness has always been one of my favorite beers.  And I love history.   These are two reasons I was first interested in the book.  Though as Mansflield details in the book, he did not come at the writing from the perspective of a beer drinker or aficionado.  In fact he talks about how he actually didn't particularly enjoy beer very much growing up.  His interest in writing the book rather was to look at how faith played a role in shaping the values of the man who founded Guinness and subsequently the descendants who would run the brewery in future generations.  He also chronicles how beer has played such an important role in historical and religious occasions since the dawn of civilization as well as the beginning of Christianity itself. (I never knew that St. Patrick had his own personal brewer that travelled with him as he sought converts in Ireland!)

There are many themes of interest throughout this book that intrigued me aside from the historical:  That you serve God by mastering a skill and using that skill to serve and help others.  The idea of studying a sort of moral philosophy to learn about past history to help acquire skills needed for today.  The theme of passing of skills from father to son  is important to help each generation build upon the last. From my own personal standpoint, this helps comfort me in the sense that though my father and grandfather have passed, the things they taught me are still being put to use today.  And so they are still with me .  There are many other lessons in the book that I think will appeal to different readers for different reasons.  Whether you come to this book from a theoligical, historical, or business interest.  Or whether you are just interested in beer, there is something in this book that will captivate you.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December 1st Beer Tastings: Sierra Nevada / Dogfish Head Life & Limb and Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA

Selma's, my local pizza place here in Rancho Santa Margarita just opened up a new Tap Room. While I liked the sushi place that was there before, I've got to say, Selma's beer list triumphs over a crunchy roll any day.

So tonight my wife, daughter, and I ventured over for some pizza and brew. I was on a mission, since I had seen the beer list online prior to their opening, and was excited to see that they had the Sierra Nevada / Dogfish Head Life & Limb on tap! I've been looking forward to this beer for awhile now and was very surprised to see that Selma's was able to get it. As you can tell from previous posts, I'm a huge fan of both Sierra Nevada and Dogfish. Both are unique brewers that consistently innovate while producing highest quality brews.

Anyway, as for the Life and Limb: It's a strong beer at 10% ABV. Thick, foamy, light brown head. The beer looks and smells like maple/molasses. They actually use maple syrup from Sam's family farm, and birch syrup from Alaska to naturally carbonate the beer. Mouthfeel is very smooth despite the high alcohol content. Almost like eating pancakes on Sunday morning. Hop character is not overly pronounced as far as I could tell - would have expected maybe a little more hops with the Sierra Nevada connection. Overall this was an excellent and well balanced beer. Though I would say I taste perhaps more Dogfish influence than Sierra. It actually reminded me a little of Dogfish's India Brown Ale which is a bit more hoppy but has the similar caramel/molasses taste.

After two pieces of pizza and a pint of the Life & Limb I ordered a pint of Firestone Walker's Union Jack IPA. At 7.5% they say it's an aggressive IPA, and they're right. But this is a bit different than alot of the IPA's out there that are overly bitter with poor malt/hop balance. The hops in this IPA hit you in the nose first, then right on the tip of your tongue. That's from being dry-hopped with Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, and Simcoe. The aroma and flavor of hops here are much more overt than the bittering hops (Warrior, Simcoe). I've got to say that even though I'm a big IPA fan, the initial hop burst seems to overpower the rest of the beer. It does finish fairly clean and I like the freshness of the dryhopping, but really didn't get much malt here. I'll have to revisit this at a later time and give it another try. As for now, the Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale still gets higher marks.

On tap for me right now: I just kegged a California Common, have an Oaked Baltic Porter in Secondary, and will be brewing a Black IPA this coming weekend. Looking forward to the holidays! Sveiks!