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Homebrew #15: Late-Hopped Xtra Pale Ale

14 May

I’ve homebrewed in my tiny kitchen 15 times since becoming interested in it two years ago (20 brews if you count split experiments)– that’s a nice round multiple-of-fingers-per-human-hand milestone. I still enjoy the process and (usually) the result, so I’ll probably keep doing it… though I have no desire to scale up in volume.

For brew day #15, I finally achieved a session (low alcohol) homebrew I’m quite happy with:

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The general brewing rule of thumb is that hops early in the boil add bitterness, hops late in the boil add flavor, and hops late in fermentation (“dry hopping”) add aroma.

A few brewers make “late hop” IPAs and pale ales where most of the hops are added late in the boil. You need more hops for the same amount of bitterness for the hops so it’s a more expensive way to make beer, but at a homebrewing scale that’s not as much a concern. I’ve often seen these done in the context of an IPA, because alcohol, maltiness, and bitterness balance each other, so heavily-hopped beers are also often higher in alcohol.

For a while I’ve wanted to make a good session (low alcohol) beer, but it’s hard– there’s not as much alcohol or malt flavor, so the beers can be on the thin and boring side, and there’s also not enough alcohol to balance out the bitterness of significant hopping. So what if I make a heavily-hopped session beer based on only late hop additions (late boil and dry hopping), to avoid this?

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I made a small 2.5 gallon all-grain batch, as I typically do these days (allowing brewing to take just 4 hours from start to finish). The recipe, briefly:

  • 6 lbs pale malt, 5 oz rye (for a little spice), 5 oz Munich (color, complex sugars), 5 oz wheat (tartness, head retention)
  • Brew-in-a-bag mash at the low end of the temperature range (148-150F) for fewer complex unfermentable sugars, aiming for a dry beer
  • 0.5 oz Amarillo, 0.25 oz Perle, 0.5 oz Citra hops @ 15min [ i.e. 15 minutes before end of boil ]
  • 0.5 oz Amarillo, 0.5 oz Perle, 0.25 oz Citra hops @5min
  • S04 dry yeast (unremarkable, neutral, for hop-focused beer)
  • Fermenting at room temperature (60-70F typically) for 2.5 weeks (primary and secondary/conditioning in the same fermenter)
  • Dry hopping with 1 oz Amarillo, 0.25 oz Perle, 0.75 oz Citra hops 4 days before the end
  • Cold-crashing the entire fermenter in my fridge for a day before bottling for clarity

Overall this involved 4.5 oz of hops for a 2.5 gallon batch, equivalent to 9 oz of hops in a 5-gallon batch– this would normally be an exorbitant level of hopping for anything but a strong IPA, but with most of this as late hopping and dry hopping it was more reasonable.

I chose Amarillo as my usual go-to hop for IPAs and pale ales– an unusual slightly tangerine/tropical/grapefruit flavor I’ve always liked, along with Citra (classic modern pale ale hop with some citrus) and Perle (slightly spicy).

Three weeks after starting fermentation, I bottled the beer– and as usual I had to make a label:

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I bottled one in an empty soda bottle (the Dr Pepper bottle Francisco had with him) as a ‘carbonation canary’– to squeeze by hand later to judge how carbonation’s progressing– with a small batch I don’t want to crack open a beer each week to check.

Then, after another two weeks it was time to try one– and I’d give it an “A-“. Much better than my earlier attempt at a session beer that was just watery. My notes: “golden, nice modest-height head that dissipates over time, good clarity / separation of sediment for an unfiltered beer, slightly grapefruit and resinous hop aroma. Up-front bitterness is very mellow. No residual sweetness– extremely dry. A little tartness (wheat, rye?), and both hop taste and aroma of tangerine, other citrus, tropical fruit.”

A good, flavorful beer for something that’s only 4% ABV. If I made it again I’d probably go a bit less dry (e.g. slightly higher mash temp or Crystal grains for some unfermentable sugars), and add some flavor hops at 0 minutes or even 5-10 minutes after the boil ended and let the hops steep a bit more before moving it to the fermenter, and maybe let the dry hopping sit a few more days.

As I drank it, I was already starting my next beer– a very small test batch of a Belgian…

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Wine Tasting around Healdsburg

8 Mar

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A relaxing weekend with H in the picturesque environs of Healdsburg (Alexander, Dry Creek, and Russian River Valleys), about an hour North of San Francisco.

Sometimes this blog is a place to jot down quick food/drink notes to look up later / in case I lose the paper notebook, and this is one of those times:

Favorite wines of the 35ish tasted, all brought back for further “investigation” with friends and food:

  • MacRostie Wildcat Mountain Pinot Noir (2012) – initially not much aroma, later smelled of cedar and vanilla, very smooth and light, not too sweet or strong, an overall very, very good Pinot.
  • MacRostie Wildcat Mountain Pinot Noir (2010) – my favorite wine of the trip — slightly peppery, smooth, some bite up front but not a long overly tannic finish, slight tartness, and just overall one of my favorite examples of a Pinot in a long time. I’d always be happy to just sip a glass of this on its own…
  • MacRostie 25th Anniversary Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley, 2012) – a slightly more robust Pinot, a bit smoky, should also go well with a dinner featuring meat.
  • Preston Petite Syrah (2012) – excellent — forceful, earthy, made me think of a quarry, bold — I look forward to trying it with a steak.
  • Woodenhead Russian River Pinot Noir (2011) — a bit of an aroma of brassicas with a bit of butter or lard. Smooth, solid, slightly tart Pinot with some surprising bite evocative of mustard seed. Unusual. I bet it will be good with a ham sandwich and pickles..
  • Arista Russian River Valley Chardonnay (2012) — blend of three wines — I don’t drink much white wine and especially Chardonnay, but this was quite nice– floral, lemon-lime finish, and atypically I liked the bit of butteriness.
  • Preston Viognier (2013) — hints of orange blossom, smooth, slight honey sweetness. Immediately a wine I can imagine drinking before a beachside fish feast a la La Huella.

Icelandic Cocktail Party

21 Feb

We threw a cocktail party / trip slideshow inspired by the food and drink of our trip to Iceland, squeezing about a dozen people into my tiny apartment.

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It started as an excuse to share the Brennivin (somewhat harsh icelandic schnapps with caraway), Lava Smoked Imperial Stout, and a cocktail centered around Birkir, the excellent birch-branch-infused liquer we’d carried back in our luggage (Birkir + lemon juice + simple syrup + soda water).

And then the planning spiraled a bit out of control, as tends to happen with dinner parties– we decided we needed to make individual-serving-size appetizers based on various combinations we’d seen in Iceland (lamb + rutabaga, arctic char + fennel + apple + dill, salmon + horseradish + cheese). Fortunately we were able to find char in one of the bay area fish markets.

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We tried a few ways of cooking rutabaga and ended up boiling and then deep-frying thick chips of it to layer carrot puree, lamb, fried onions, and salt on:

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The salmon (house-cured gravlax — raw salmon packed in sugar and salt and dill and let sit) with cheese, pickles, onions, dill on rye. This was all inspired by a dish at the “Unnamed Pizza Place” in Reykjavik operated by the Dill team that in retrospect I think was a substitution– the menu said it was salmon and fennel, but the first night we went there it came with cottage cheese and pickles and horseradish instead, which ended up being a great combination.

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Parnsip puree, arctic char (pan fried in butter), salmon roe, fennel (pickled and fresh), dill:

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A dessert hannah created visually inspired by the snow-covered lava boulders– Icelandic Skyr + dry chocolate cookies (almost sables) + a licorice caramel.

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More of the spread, before people showed up:

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All surrounded by souvenirs (lava, wool, volcanic ash) and a slide show of some memorable trip photos:

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Homebrew #14: Mild Stout in a Petite Keg

30 Jan

Continuing my transition to all-grain and smaller-batch brewing, I made a 2.5 gallon batch of stout for a work party. Pale malt, Maris Otter, and a little Crystal (80L), chocolate malt, roast barley, and flaked barley, with East Kent Goldings for the hops.IMG_20141203_215208996

It was good– a bit of roasted chocolate flavor, very slightly tart/acidic, a solid stout.

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This was also my first time kegging instead of bottling. I bought a petite 2.5 gallon Corny keg (half the size of the typical 5 gal Corny kegs), which even full of beer is about 20lbs, reasonable to carry one-handed.

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Paired with a neoprene jacket and a tiny 2.5lb cylinder of CO2, it’s a compact easily-transportable package of beer for an event:

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Strong Beer Jelly

17 Jan

Rochefort 10 + gelatin. Why not?

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Floreria Atlantico, literally underground cocktails in BsAs

25 Nov

A week and a half ago, I was here.

Walk into a flower shop:

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Head through the back door and down metal stairs:

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Have a drink:

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Just one page of the loosely themed menu:

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One of the best cocktail bars I’ve been to in my life, by far. Every single cocktail was remarkably good, and distinctive– glass jars of eucalyptus, cocktails infused with smoke from the grill, beer and amaro, a cocktail in pieces you combine as you drink… but none of it felt ‘conceptual-cute’ or forced. Really well executed cocktails that happened to have some structure to the presentation. I’m in awe.

London 2014: Beer

26 Oct

In London earlier this summer I sampled about a dozen beers over two days (having people to share tastes with helps), at locations ranging from a unpretentious 19th century English Pub with many 3.5-4% session beers on Cask (at The Wenlock Arms— I highly recommend it)…

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…to a new craft beer oriented bar (Brewdog) carrying the likes of Mikkeller and other unusual beers, in the controversial-in-London Shoreditch

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…to a range of tiny top-notch modern microbreweries located under support arches in an industrial part of South London, formerly business-oriented but now open to visitors on weekends and dubbed “The Beer Mile“…

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Digging up a worn notebook from the trip, these were my favorites:

  • Beer By Numbers (‘bbno’, Beer Mile) had my favorite beer by far of London.
    • [A] Witbier — slightly spicy, good yeast
    • [A+] Barrel-aged Saison — exceptional. again, good funk form whatever yeast they used, moderately dry, balanced.
  • [A] Partizan (Beer Mile) Quad — intensely strong (and their brewery space was fun to have a drink in)
  • [A] Mikkeller / To Øl collaboration Betelgeuze — I love it — I’d had it once in the US in expensive bottles, but it was on tap at Brewdog. A strongly sour beer without much funk, but not just single-note acidity.

I also enjoyed:

  • [B+] Oscar Wilde from Mighty Oak (on cask at Wenlock Arms) — dark, grain tea flavor, thin but slightly creamy— sort of like a thin session stout
  • [A-] Stroud’s Ten Long (on cask at Wenlock Arms) — session bitter (3.7% ABV),  slightly dark/spicy, slight citrus nose
  • I thought the FourPure beers on the beer mile were all decent, but none were especially memorable
  • [B+] “A Wee Bit” Peated Scotch Ale. A light hand with the peat– present but not too smoky, and a good scotch ale base.