Cherry Wood Smoked Porter

Smoked malt is a traditional brewing ingredient. At one point most malted barley was smoked. Not because people meant to make a smoked flavored malt barley, but at one time all malts were in-directly smoked during the kilning process whether they liked the smoke flavor or not. The process of kilning the malts was done over fires of different types of wood, which in itself created unique flavors. Today I'm using a malt that was smoked over Cherry wood. Un-smoked malted barley is a new invention of the 19th century.

This malt was created by the Briess malting company and this is what they have to say about their malt:"There’s nothing like brewing a beer with smoked malt. Smoked malt delivers exceptional brewing creativity, making it possible to develop complexity in Scotch Ales to rich, robust smoky flavor in Rauch Beers and Porters. And now, with Briess Smoked Malt, you can brew all that and more without infusing astringent, phenolic harshness in your beer. That’s because Briess Smoked Malt delivers an intense yet smooth, sweet, smoked malt character not available in any other commercially available smoked malt, and that lends itself to use in many beer styles."

From Wikipedia, they have this to say about smoked beer history:
"Drying malt over an open flame may impart a smoky character to the malt. This character may carry over to beers brewed with the smoked malt. Prior to the modern era, drying malted barley in direct sunlight was used in addition to drying over flames. Even though kiln drying of malt, using indirect heat, did not enter into widespread usage until the industrial era, the method was known as early as the first century BCE. Also, there have been various methods over the years of preparing cereal grains for brewing, including making beer from bread, so smoked beer was not universal. However, it is known that beer made from malt dried over flame was common in England from the 16th to the 18th century. Beginning in the 18th century, kiln drying of malt became progressively more common and, by the mid-19th century, had become the near-universal method for drying malted grain. Since the kiln method shunts the smoke away from the wet malt, a smoky flavour is not imparted to the grain, nor to the subsequent beer. As a result, smoke flavour in beer became less and less common, and eventually disappeared almost entirely from the brewing world."

Good brew day today. Started off sunny with a huge storm rolling in by the time I started the boil. I'm using whole leaf fuggle hops today. I really enjoy there earthy spice in darker beers. There is 15% smoked malt in the grist which should give a slightly noticeable smoke character but not overpowering. Overpowering would be upwards of 60% smoked malt in a darker beer such as a porter, using this specific smoked malt at least. Well, I'll pick up ten pounds of it next weekend and see if 100% of this smoked malt is to overpowering. It's five lovibonds so it should make a nice pale cherry smoked slim jim. 

Nugget Pale Ale

Using a single variety of hop in a beer really gives you the full circle of what flavors you get from a hop variety. In today's pale ale I'll be using Nugget hops. This is an old school hop variety. One of the first high alpha acid west coast hops to be embraced by craft brewers. The hop was originally released in 1982. A cross between female Norther Brewer hop and a male high alpha acid hop with good storage property's. The aroma is described as heavy, pungent, and herbal. I'll be using a very basic grist bill for this pale ale recipe using pale and amber malt, as well as some flaked barley for mouth feel. Generously hopped throughout the boil with aforementioned Nugget hops. I'm looking forward to their pungency. The yeast is Wyeast 1275 Thames Valley which from their website they claim. It "Produces classic British bitters, rich complex flavor profile, clean, light malt character, low fruitiness, low esters, well balanced."

Single infusion mash at 145 degrees to promote alpha amylase so make sure this beer dry's out. A nice west coast style dry pale ale. Right now to vorlauf the wort I use two kitchen bowls to collect the wort. This way I don't have to stop the process and it clears up very quickly. Fill up one bowl while pouring the other. You just have to be sure to run it off really slow during this process or the bed will collapse. Had a great runoff for this batch, but could always go a little slower as to not leave any extract behind. These hops are extremely spicy and herbal, a little mint. Should be interesting to see what happens when a malt accentuating English yeast strain is put under the distress of all those alpha acids. This ale will need some time to mellow out in a bottle and take off the rough hop edges. Nugget is an ancestor of norther brewer though which is a classic English bittering hop. Overall looking forward to tasting this single hopped ale. The recipe kept evolving has I was brewing. Well the hop bill kept getting larger is what I should say. Kept adding more and more hops. Ended dumping a quarter pound of hops in the kettle. With a sack of hops that big is was hard to not put more in. I've never had a pillow of hops that big before. It was 1/2 a pound but since the cones were not compressed it looked impressive.

Kegged the nugget ale tonight. Twenty two day after brewing. The taste was balanced between the malt and hops. Still heavy on the hop hand, more like a British IPA. To the keg I added an ounce of, well more nugget hops of course. Let sit for five day's then put in the fridge, carb and enjoy. Looking forward to how these pungent hops play out in the final beer. Really amazing how the yeast just destroyed the quarter pound of 13.5% aau nugget hops that went in the kettle. What was left though is a malty, hoppy beer.

Toasted Rye Brown Ale

Started this nice Wednesday morning mashing in a grist bill for a robust brown ale. Brewed with pale 2 row malt, toasted rye flakes, crystal rye malt, coffee malt, and chocolate malt. The toasted rye flakes make up 25% of the grist which will add texture to the mouth feel. By mashing in at a range of 152 to 156 your promoting enzyme activity that will create dextrins, which are sugars that aren't fermentable and will be left after fermentation. These dextrins are very important in overall mouth feel of the beer. If your all grain beers taste thin try mashing in warmer and add a half pound of cara pils to the grist bill.

As Randy Mosher says in his book Radical Brewing, "Poor unloved brown ale." in the modern world brown ales take a back seat to the casual beer drinker and beer geeks style of choice. It's not the most beautiful to look at. Doesn't have the golden, copper, amber hues you can see through or the opaque black of night stout to get lost in. Brown ales may range in color from just barely brown to near black. They also range in alcohol and hop levels. The one thing most all browns have in common is a toasted malt character. Maillard reactions are wonderful. You know when you grill a steak or toast bread and the outside browns to a golden brown, that's maillard reaction in action. Maltsters do the same thing to malted barley and then brewers can use a little crystal, chocolate, biscuit malt, etc. to create beers of different colors and flavors. So, who doesn't like bread more when it's toasted? Then go try some brown ales.

The history of the brown ale is longer than that of today's clear/filtered beer. For the most part all the ales quaffed back in day were brown in color more or less. Mostly because people weren't drinking their beverages out of much glass so the appearance of it didn't matter. Malting techniques in the 19th century changed the color of beers forever though. Now you could use just pale/pilsner malt and get a bright golden ale to behold. Before this ales, especially in England, were being made with 100% Amber and brown malt. As technology improved, recipes changed to the point where brewers were using base malt and a little black patent malt to create the color desired. This is seen clearly in the evolution of the porter style in London. These two beers, one all amber/brown malt and one base malt and a little black may look the same but surely don't taste it.

Here is what wikipedia says about brown ales. "Brown ale is a style of beer with a dark amber or brown colour. The term brown beer was first used by London brewers in the late 1600s to describe their products, such as mild ale. Though the term had a rather different meaning than it does today. 18th-century Brown Ales were lightly-hopped and brewed from 100% brown malt. Today there are brown ales made in several regions, most notably England, Belgium, and North America. Beers termed brown ale include sweet, low alcohol beers such as Manns Original Brown Ale, medium strength amber beers of moderate bitterness. In the 18th century, Brown Ales were brewed to a variety of strengths, with gravities ranging from around 1060º to 1090º. These beers died out around 1800 as brewers moved away from using brown malt as a base. Pale malt, being cheaper because of its higher yield, was used as a base for all beers, including Porter and Stout. The term "Brown Ale" was revived at the end of the 19th century when London brewer Mann introduced a beer with that name. However, the style only became widely-brewed in the 1920s. The Brown Ales of this period were considerably stronger than most modern English versions. In 1926, Mann's Brown Ale had a gravity of 1043º and an ABV of around 4%. Whitbread Double Brown was even stronger, 1054º and more than 5% ABV. The introduction of these beers coincided with a big increase in demand for bottled beer in the UK. In the 1930's some breweries, such as Whitbread, introduced a second weaker and cheaper Brown Ale that was sometimes just a sweetened version of dark Mild. These beers had a gravity of around 1037º. After WW II, stronger Brown Ales, with the exception of a handful of examples from the North East of England, mostly died out. The majority were in the range 1030-1035º, or around 3% ABV, much like Mann's Brown Ale today.North American brown ales trace their heritage to American home brewing adaptations of certain northern English beers."

American style Amber Ale

With my keg setup coming together I need to start filling the taps with quaff able beers. Today I'm brewing an amber ale, American style. American because I'm using an American dry yeast strain (chico) and the classic American hop, Cascade. Cascade is most widely known in the beer, Sierra Nevada Pale ale. Cascade is probably the most recognizable hop today. You can smell it in the aroma from an arms length away. It's a very grapefruit, citrusy hop. There are South American variety's of Cascade that don't have really any of the 'classic' Cascade flavor at all though. They are more similar to the noble hops of Germany, such as Hallertau. Showing how much the terroir more than the variety affects all agriculture.

Amber ale brew is going well. Nice runoff, collect six and a half gallon. Should evaporate about a gallon which will bring my batch size down to about five and a half gallons. Target gravity of 14.5 plato. Used Crystal 80 and Special B for color. For bittering I'm using galena hops, and of course for aroma and flavor Cascade hops. Happy 5th of May.

When rack to 2nd twas dry hopped with 2 oz Cascade. Aged for another week and kegged.

Farmhouse Saison

Grist case is working well. To the left you can see where the funnel is attached to the bucket with the bottom cut out. I drilled holes in the bottomless bucket and funnel then attached the funnel with nuts & bolts. The knife valve is simply the funnel shortened and cut into on both sides to create a slot that a piece of cardboard, for now, is used as the knife valve. I will be making a piece of wood to serve this purpose that will have a hole cut in the middle to better control speeds.

Today's brew was a countryside style farmhouse Saison. I used four grains to form the grist bill. Barley, wheat, oats, and rye. Also used some honey to dry out the mouth feel. Mashed in at 149 and rested. Lately I've been mashing out to 168 with great results. By doing this you denature the enzymes and lock in the sugar profile you've created. The enzymes stop chopping chains. The hops I used were two variety of Golding hops. East Kent Golding and Styrian. These hops are part of what brewers call "noble" hops. Basically meaning they have a long and storied pedigree in brewing lore. The target gravity is 15.5 plato, and if the yeast behaves should get this beer to about 6.5 % abv. This goes toward the strong end of the saison style. Session versions are great, but are usually made with some type of funk character from Brettamyces. Which at this time I am not ready to introduce to my home brewery.

Here is what wikipedia has to say about Saison. "Saison (French, "season") is the name originally given to refreshing, low-alcohol pale ales brewed seasonally in farmhouses in Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium, to refresh farm workers during harvest season. Modern-day saisons are also brewed in other countries, particularly USA, and are generally bottle conditioned, with an average range of 5 to 8% abv, though saisons at the more traditional 3.5% strength can still be found. Although saison has been described as an endangered style, there has been a rise in interest in this style in recent years, with Saison Dupont being named “the Best Beer in the World” by the magazine Men's Journal in July 2005.
Historically saisons did not share identifiable characteristics to pin them down as a style, but were rather a group of refreshing summer ales. Each farm brewer would make his own distinctive version. Modern saisons brewed in the USA tend to copy the yeast used by Brasserie Dupont, which ferments better at blood warm temperatures (85 to 95 Fahrenheit) than the standard 65 to 75 Fahrenheit fermenting temperature used by other Belgian saison brewers."

My saison started fermenting nicely within 5 hours after pitching. As of now temperature is in the low 70's. Picture to right was taken 24 hours after pitching. Small krausen forming and lots of carbon dioxide production.
My farmhouse saison has since stalled. I pitched dry Safbrew yeast and aerated. There is activity from the airlock but no visible krausen. Wait and see. OG was 14 plato and is currently at 12.8 plato. The yeast prefers very warm temeratures, up to 95 degrees.
Good news. The saison has fermented out. Checked tonight and the gravity is 2.6 Plato. This puts the beer at 6% abv. It's a big relief to have the batch ferment. I'll rack to 2nd fv tomorrow and condition for a week before kegging. Decided to dry hop with one ounce of Czech Saaz hops.