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Creating Syrup from First Runnings

Posted by homebrewdad on 11/03/2014 at 04:47:10 PM

 

This past weekend, I brewed my Christmas ale.  I'm hoping for a rich dessert beer; ideally, I'll have big caramel flavors, some nice plum/dark fruit, with a little roastiness to help balance things out, accented off by a blend of traditional holiday spices.  If all goes well, this beer will be special.

One of the techniques that I employed for this beer was the conversion of a little over a gallon of my first runnings into a little under a quart of syrup.  The maillard reactions from this process really emphasize those caramel flavors, and can help to enhance a variety of beer styles.  It's not a complicated process, but I do see questions about it fairly often, so I figured that I'd put together a step by step to help guide those who have never done it before.

First off, be sure to collect first runnings for this, as you absolutely want that sugar-rich goodness for the process.  While you can certainly do this with second runnings, you get noticeably more water in that pass, and your syrup won't be nearly as rich or flavorful.  In case you are unfamiliar with the terminology, note that "first runnings" refers to the sweet wort that you drain from your mash prior to any sparging (rinsing) of the grain.

I collect a gallon of the first runnings into a pitcher, which I then dump back into the mash tun.  This process (known as vorlaufing) helps to set your grain bed, which then acts as a filter - which in turn means that you get virtually no solid bits of grain when you drain again.  While I'm confident that a few grain bits wouldn't actually hurt your syrup, It's something that I personally want to avoid.

Once this is done, I then collect the very first gallon of my runnings into a pitcher.  When this is full, I continue as normal with draining the rest into my boil

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I can't imagine how it looks like..I'll try that this weekend..

posted by NatashaPoidevin04 on 5/12/2015 at 04:16:16 AM






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Tags for this post: syrup, first runnings, caramel, boil, maillard reactions, Christmas ale, homebrewing

My Award Winning Chili Recipe

Posted by homebrewdad on 10/30/2014 at 05:21:28 AM

 
Last week, I posted about success brewing for my company, followed by winning the company chili cook off. It was a pretty cool week for me, no doubt.

Well, a surprising amount of people have contacted me to ask for my chili recipe. I'm not one of those "it's a secret you'll have to pry from my corpse" kind of guys; I'm happy to share.

A few notes:

I am aware that some (looking at you, Texas) hold that "real" chili contains no beans. That's fine, but mine does. It has two kinds of beans, as a matter of fact. If that bothers you... well, this isn't the recipe for you.

This chili is rather spicy; I feel like if you don't get a bit of a runny nose when you eat it, then it's not hot enough.

Please understand that I learned to cook from my mother, who is a notorious "pinch of this, dash of that" kind of cook. This is her base recipe, though I have changed and adapted it over the years (for one, it WAY spicier than she used to do).

Every single time that I cook my chili, I season it to taste... which means that the exact amount of pepper and such does vary. I'll give some wild approximations on seasoning in the ingredient list below, but you really should follow the "season to taste" methodology to ensure that you're happy with the end result. Realize, too, that red pepper tends...
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Tags for this post: chili, recipe, award, winning, cooking

Success and Failure: Bottle Infections and Experimental Beer

Posted by homebrewdad on 10/27/2014 at 04:04:27 PM

 

According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2014 is the Year of the Horse.  For me, 2014 could well go down as the Year of the Bottle Infection.  As you may recall, I've had multiple nice beers ruined by creeping bottle infections.  The beer would seem to be great in my bottles for a few weeks, but invariably, I would get crazy foam gushers, the beer in question would see the body suffer, etc.  It's bad enough to have an ale suffer this fate, but having it happen to a bock (with months invested in the brewing and lagering) was really, really painful.

I got lots of advice on the issue; some of it was good, some was more suspect - yes, I am quite certain that four weeks in the fermentor meant that gravity was stable whether or not I did multiple hydrometer checks!  A thorough cleaning regimen - namely, long soaks in strong bleach solution, PBW solution, strong starsan solution, with plenty of rinses in between - did no good. At any rate, I developed the following plan.

1. Replace all plastic bottling gear - the bottling bucket, the autosiphon, the bottling wand.

2. Boil the silicone tubing for an extended period (my LHBS sadly does not carry silicone tubing).

3. Pre rinse all bottles with a bottle washer.

4. Keep the bottling bucket covered with a lid at all times.

5. Immediately place caps on bottles as they are filled.

6.

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Tags for this post: bottle, infection, infections, roggenbier, homebrew

Brewing for My Company: the Aftermath

Posted by homebrewdad on 10/23/2014 at 05:34:03 PM

 

A few weeks ago, I posted about being asked to brew beer for a major company event.  This past weekend, that event took place; I figured that I would follow up and relate how it went.

I brewed two beers for the event - my Oakenbranch IPA, and my Thundersmoke brown ale.  The two brew days themselves went just fine (no snickering, you in the back!).  I added even more dry hops to the IPA, figuring that it would be impossible to end up with too much; the brown ale (which happens to be a "house beer" for me), I brewed exactly according to the recipe.  I did scale both recipes up a hair in the hopes of ending up with at least a few bottles of each for personal consumption.

My numbers were great on the IPA - 1.077 OG (1.076 target), 1.014 FG (1.017 target).  That did come in a bit high on ABV (8.31%, to be exact), so I was a little concerned about aging time, but there wasn't much to do about that.  The brown ale landed at 1.058 OG (target 1.057), but I got big attenuation - FG was 1.008 (target was 1.015, holy cow!). 

To be fair, I always make large starter and oxygenate well.  I think that I need to adjust my numbers a bit; Beersmith wants to set the target OG in the middle of the yeast's expected attenuation range, but I almost always hit the top (or

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Tags for this post: company, brewing, beer, IPA, brown ale, Oakenbranch, Thundersmoke, marketing

Developing Your Own Terroir (Style) for Your Beer

Posted by uberg33k on 10/08/2014 at 02:39:53 PM

 

I'm assuming if you're reading this, you like beer.  You probably have a particular beer or style you enjoy more than others.  Have you ever stopped to think how that beer style came to be?  While it may be hard to believe in the age of overnight shipping, hops available from around the globe, and hundreds of cultured yeast strains available, most styles were born out of limitations and necessity.  People were forced to make the most of the malt, water, and hops they had available in their town or village.  Their beer fermented with whatever happened to be floating around in the air or lining their barrels.  This hyperlocality of source materials gave the beers they produced a certain terroir unique to that beer.  Over time, refinements and industrialization shaped these local products into the beer styles you love today.  While it's fun to make and consume these established beers, we have lost something along the way.  We don't challenge ourselves anymore because the necessity to do so has gone.  The aforementioned convenience and abundance of ingredients have given brewers possibly too much freedom to create.  Instead of developing beers based on terroir, they're based on ever escalating gimmickry.  What does a Triple Imperial Habanero-Pineapple-Peanut Butter IPA made with 5 strains of Brett and aged in Birch barrels tell you about the brewer, the place it was made, or the locals that drink it other than the possibility of a high prevalence of head injuries?  If you're reading this

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Tags for this post: terroir, style, local, beer, ingredients, homebrew

Reviewing the Omega PHH-7011 pH Meter for Homebrewing

Posted by homebrewdad on 10/03/2014 at 02:33:55 PM

 
Disclaimer - this is not a paid review. This post is an honest assessment of the Omega PHH-7011 pH meter, which I received as a gift and have now used multiple times in my own brewing. I have not received one penny for this post, nor do I expect to do so.

One topic I regularly see discussed among more experienced brewers is the question of which pH meter is worth buying. A pH meter is invaluable to brewers who are interested in getting into (or perhaps are already well versed in) water chemistry for their brewing. Sure, pH test strips can get you in the ballpark, but precise control over your mash requires a good pH meter.

There are, of course, quite a few really inexpensive pH meters for sale, but I'm a believer in investing in good tools. As the old saying so succinctly puts it, "the bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten." Inexpensive pH meters are typically not very precise, not very accurate, and don't feature replaceable electrodes - which means that they have a limited useful life.

Now, understand, I have no desire to spend a vast amount of money on a tool that admittedly is more useful for fine tuning your beer than for making good beer to begin with. If you aren't already controlling your fermentation temperatures, if you aren't already pitching enough healthy yeast (by way of properly sized yeast starters), if you aren't...
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Tags for this post: pH, meter, tester, homebrew, homebrewing

Murphy Visits Again When I Bottle the Roggenbier

Posted by homebrewdad on 9/10/2014 at 08:16:23 PM

 
This weekend, I finally got around to bottling my roggenbier. I had planned to do so two weeks after pitching yeast (provided that gravity was stable), but then, I discovered that my old friend Bottle Infection was still hanging around, so I put it off.

I won't go into everything I have done in the past (read my last post if you want the gory details), but I did purchase a brand new bottling bucket (with lid), a new spigot, and a new autosiphon. I had planned to purchase new silicone tubing, but my LHBS only had vinyl... and I just can't see going back to vinyl. Instead, I rinsed that tubing very well, then boiled it for a little over fifteen minutes. Theoretially, that should have come very close to actually sterilizing it (not just sanitizing). I purchased a bottle washer, so prior to sanitizing the bottles, I gave them all a liberal jet rinsing of hot water.

Furthermore, I have decided to add in a couple of extra precautions to my bottling - namely, I am keeping a lid on my bucket the entire time, and am placing a sanitized bottle cap down onto the beer bottles the moment they are filled (in the past, I would fill them in one pass, then cap in another pass).

Saturday night, I started the process. In the past, I have always boiled my priming solution first, then racked the beer on...
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Tags for this post: bottling, roggenbier, rye, screw-ups

I'm Discouraged - Bottle Infections Suck

Posted by homebrewdad on 9/02/2014 at 03:34:09 PM

 
As I look back over my time in the hobby, I realize that I have come a long way - if you'd like to confirm, I dare you to jump back to my first few posts on this blog (man, they hurt to read). Back then, I was as green as any newbie brewer, but I immersed myself in the craft, and I have learned a lot.

If I objectively consider my beer, I can state without a bit of exaggeration that it is consistently quite good. It's been more than a year since I've brewed a beer that I felt was anything less than very good, and that one was a freebie kit with some suspect ingredients (apparently expired dry yeast, for one).

Recipe design is one of my absolute favorite aspects of brewing, and I feel like I have a real knack for it - by and large, the beers I create seem to flirt with excellence; even my failures seem to turn out to be pretty tasty, though they may be not quite the beer that I intended to brew. My flaws seem to be in small details; maybe a beer has a bit of a chill haze or a head rentention issue, but by and large, I can find and correct the causes behind these flaws pretty easily.

When I share beer (and I give away a good bit more beer than I drink), the reviews are consistently extremely positive. I've had multiple...
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Tags for this post: infection, infections, bottle, beer, brewing

Friday Fluff Post: Video of a WLP037 Yeast Starter

Posted by homebrewdad on 8/29/2014 at 02:37:52 PM

 
I know, I know. It's just a yeast starter. It's hardly a unique sight in and of itself. Still, I thought that the WLP037 (Yorkshire Square Ale) yeast was pretty mesmerizing to look at.

After my recent experiences with Conan yeast - which apparently views flocculation as a cardinal sin - the 037 is absolutely miraculous in this department.

As you can see in the video, even while being fairly vigorously stirred in my erlenmeyer flask, the yeast continues to form visible chunks that result in a cool "stormy" effect.

If you bump the Conan starter, the yeast will jump back up into solution even after more than a week in the fridge; this makes it a pain to harvest.

On the other hand, after just eight hours in the fridge, the 037 flocced out into an almost concrete like substance on the bottom. I was able to decant my 3 liter starter down to a half liter, and even after vigorous shaking, I had massive chunks of solid yeast left (it took effort to get my stirbar to unstick from the bottom of the flask). I did have to use a little plain water to rinse all of the chunks out, but to me, that's way easier to work with than being afraid to decant almost any liquid for concern over losing yeast.

At any rate, enjoy this short, grainy video of a yeast starter. If you're a homebrewer, this may appeal to you on...
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Tags for this post: fluff post, yeast, starter, wlp037, Yorkshire square

A Big Day - I've Been Asked to Brew for my Company

Posted by homebrewdad on 8/20/2014 at 03:36:13 PM

 

As you probably know if you read much of my blog, I love to brew but don't actually drink that much.  I'll have a single beer on most evenings, though there are often days that I don't drink even that.  As a result, I end up sharing a lot of my beer.

Presentation is important to me; I feel like if I'm going to spend hours researching and brewing a beer, I want it to be impressive from the moment the bottle is in someone's hand.  To this end, I purchase custom bottle caps from bottlemark.com, and an artist friend of mine creates custom labels for me.  People seem to appreciate the effort; they are usually surprised to get what is darned close to commercial quality packaging in their hands.

Of course, that wouldn't matter if the beer wasn't good.., but I digress. 

At any rate, I have been sharing bottles with my company's owner for some time, now.  While not a homebrewer, he does enjoy craft beer - so much so that he apparently came very close to opening his own brewpub a little over a decade ago.  He doesn't give me deep analysis of my beers, but he's always appreciative of them, and will politely let me know what he enjoys and what isn't his favorite. 

Yesterday, I mentioned to him that I would probably be bottling my roggenbier this weekend, and that I would be bringing him some soon after.  It was at this point that

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Tags for this post: company, event, brewing, boss, homebrew, craft special

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