Archive for the ‘Lagers’ Category

Wow, this site is still here? I guess I will update it.

Since last we were here…..

Oktoberfest 2011 came and went.   Fun again, good beer, first use of my “pin” cask.   The cask worked out great, I brewed an ESB and loaded the cask with whole Centennial hops and I was really happy with the result (well other than the beer that sprayed all over when we vented it – a little lighter on the carbonation next time!).   Still up in the air if we use the cask again this year or not though.

The whiskey barrel aged imperial stout has been kegged & bottled.   1/6th of it has Intelligentsia Black Cat Expresso added, and it turned out fantastic.   As a change I took some Intelligentsia Analog Expresso and added it to a second keg.  I didn’t think this was as good as the first, but still interesting.  The rest of the barrel has been either bottled, will be soon or I may keep one keg full for winter.  Currently, the barrel is filled with a sour Belgian stout that is tasting really good and I will likely pull some of that off in the next month or two to bottle and then continue to use that barrel “solera style” for sour stout like I am with the two wine barrels with the lambic and flanders red.

I rebrewed some of the lambic a few weeks ago to pull some out to use a bunch of the door county cherries we had gotten last year so hopefully that should be ready in a few months.   I plan to use the rest of the cherries we got last year in a small batch of the sour stout.

I know that it’s still 3 months away, but one of the beers for our Oktoberfest party is already done and lagering.  I brewed a helles bock type beer for the “official” festbier.   We didn’t have any lagers last year so I really wanted to do one this year.  It was down to a helles, a traditional bock, and the Vindicator doppelbock.   Since I was already going to have a big double IPA on draft, I figured the lighter of the options might be the best choice.   Anyway, I sampled the helles a couple days ago and it’s quite good.   It should only get better as it lagers in the low 30s.   I brewed it on one of the hottest days of the year so far (98 degrees) so it was quite the brew day but I eventually got it chilled and seems like everything worked out great.  The rest of the beers are best served fresh (IPA, Double IPA, Hefe, etc) so I’ll likely get them done at the end of August or first week of September so they are at their prime come the end of September.

In the last couple of weeks I brewed 3 different beers, all of which are hop focused.   The first was a 100% Citra hopped IPA.   This was a repeat (with a few tweaks) of a beer I did last year and I think I have this recipe down, it turned out great.   The second is a hoppy wheat beer brewed with WY3333 German Wheat yeast and Amarillo hops which is currently fermenting.  This was also the first beer I used my hopback on which was packed with Cascade and Centennial hops.   Can’t wait to try this in a few weeks, it should be interesting – partly because I had a few issues with the mash, and it ended up a bit lower than I wanted.  The third beer I brewed recently is a “Session IPA” – basically a lower alcohol version of an IPA I guess.  I am thinking this should come in around 4.5% abv, and about 42 IBUs, all provided by Simcoe and Amarillo hops.   It smelled fantastic so I can’t wait to try this one also.

Lastly, I think it is time to upgrade some/most of my equipment so I will likely not be brewing anything for the next month or two as I try to gather all the necessary materials & parts to build a new system.  I might put some pictures up during the fabrication, but then again it’s been 15 months between posts so maybe not :)

Long time, no Post – CBC, Brewery Updates

OK I’ve been a little lackluster in keeping this updated so here’s where I am at.

Back to the beginning of April, the CBC was held in Chicago this year.  I didn’t have the time or financial resources to dedicate to attending the actual conference and associated seminars, but I was happy to find a wheat/wit bier seminar being held at Goose Island was open to the public and FREE.  Very detailed and terrific presentations from both sides of the wheat coin so to speak.  It was also awesome to talk to some great brewers from around the country and get some ideas on how to improve my Wit.   I look forward to trying some new things shared by Grand Teton in the Wit specifically, and it was also great to chat for a bit with Rob Tod from Allagash about sour & spontaneous brewing.  Of course after the seminar I had to sample a few Goose Island beers including the Bacon Stout, Bourbon County Stout, Bourbon Barrel Aged Doppelbock and a Sweet & Sour Brown.   The first three were great.  The brown was quite bland, flat, and really not my thing.  It was also great to catch up with Chris and of course discuss the merits of the Bourbon County Stout, as they are many.

I went back downtown on Friday as Reggies Music Joint was hosting Founders and Stone.   Of course I could not miss that, so Jeremy and Brian joined me to sample some delicious Founders brew…Specifically, the Hand of Doom was terrific.   This was one I had not tried previously, and REALLY enjoyed it.  The usual Backwoods and Dirty Bastards were terrific as well.   It was good to see Mitch Steele from Stone having as good a time as we were, so I briefly spoke with him and we headed out.   Clark St Alehouse had a terrific tap lineup that night as well…it was Two Brothers night and they still had a lot of great stuff from previous nights.  We got to try the Brett Moaten which was great – the first Moaten Two Brothers bottled was a bit of a disappointment, but this one was a big improvement.   I think I also sampled a Merlot barrel aged porter from Ska which was really good,  as well as the Lagunitas Fusion that they brewed for the conference.

In between the two stops, we had a bit of a disappointment at another bar which was featuring some special brews for the conference.  I will just say this, if a brewery has it’s own draft system in a bar that they are serving from, they should: (a) know what the bar is charging for their beer, and (b) know where people need to go to get a glass to get the beer.   Telling patrons, “I don’t know, I just brew it” is not the right answer.  It was a shame, because the beer was good, but between the confusion, HIGH prices, and big crowd, we enjoyed our one beer and moved on to better things.

All in all, a lot of great things and I am glad the conference seemed to be a huge hit with all the breweries in attendance (so it can be held here again soon!).  I am looking forward to Chicago Craft Beer week next month if this was any indication of how that will go.

Last weekend I was able to go brew with Jeremy and we churned out what is best described as an Imperial Berliner Weisse.  I realized I did not have enough yeast for the batch we planned so we cut the volume by a third and ended up with a 15 plato berliner.   Oh well….We also brewed up a Hefeweizen.  I think I only have brewed maybe 2 of these ever, so it was a good chance to put into practice some things learned in the wheat seminar.  I think this one will turn out well, and serve as a nice warm weather beer for the coming month or so.  On Friday night last week we attended the reserve tasting at Sprecher.  This was really pretty cool, $15 gets you into a tasting where they pair 10 of their beers with 10 different cheeses.   The beers are mostly their reserve/premium line which was great…we got to sample things like their Barley Wine, Barrel Aged Doppelbock, IIPA, Belgian Tripel, and a Raspberry Porter.  I wasn’t a fan of the Nut Brown, and their Hefeweizen is just ok, but the rest were good.  The cheese also was really good, though they could have been a little more generous on the portions (think nickel sized pieces)

We also held a “Battle of Wits” in which we had 6 commercial wit biers up against ours in a blind tasting.   The consensus seemed to be the Blanche de Chambly, Hoegaarden, Allagash, and ours were all pretty close….Blue Moon, Ommegang Witte, Chameleon Witty were all at the bottom.  I think ours was most similar to Allagash, as Hoegaarden was really quite light and the Unibroue version had a sweet/tart, champagne thing going on.  We’ll have to try it again this summer with the newly tweaked recipe and see how we do.

In the spirit of competition we also picked up some American Light Lagers to hold a blind tasting…Coors Light v Miller Lite v Bud Light v Busch Light.   Nobody was able to correctly name all four, and I only correctly picked Busch Light (I learned something in college).  I am not sure if it was all the wit, or the Fantome bottles we had earlier but they all really tasted the same to me.  It would be interesting to give the challenge to someone who swears by one brand and see if they can tell them apart, as I RARELY drink any of these and clearly could not tell.

Back on the homefront, I actually kegged the Vindicator tonight.  The sample I took, though uncarbonated and still young, was delicious.   The color looks to have turned out a bit lighter than previous years but the flavor is all there.

The fun kicks up again tomorrow with a trip to Three Floyds and then Founders and New Holland to follow!!

Vindication Day

Well, I hadn’t planned on brewing for a few weeks after the marathon barrel sessions….But, seeing how well the chiller was working last week, I decided I might as well brew this year’s Vindicator for the annual Oktoberfest party.   It won’t be long before the ground water is unable to easily chill the wort to the 50 degrees needed for the big doppelbock.   So, today I brewed up roughly 6 gallons of the Vindicator.   It was nice to only be doing one brew at a time, and a small batch at that.   Things went perfectly as I was able to pay more attention to the details than during the barrel marathons.  All numbers and times were on the button so it’s looking like this should turn out as good as ever.

I kept the same recipe as last year, however I toned it down a touch shooting to end up around 8.5% abv.  I was easily able to chill it to 50 degrees and with the pair of 2 liter yeast starters, it should end up with a nice clean fermentation.

Once the brew was complete I gave everything a VERY thorough cleaning as the past few weeks were a bit rough on the equipment.   I also noticed today that the centennial and cascade hops were starting to come back.   I did not notice any evidence of the Willamette or Mt Hood that were planted last year.   They had a rough year between the heat, wind,  and beetles so I wasn’t expecting them to come back.  If they do, it will be a bonus.

In the next few weeks, I have a quite a few things going on.   I am looking forward to the Craft Brewers Conference which is in Chicago this year.   Plenty of tastings and parties to attend in the evenings – starting with a seminar on Tuesday afternoon for me.   I also want to brew up a revised version of the wit recipe I have been working on,  and I am also looking forward to trying a couple variations on a berlinner weisse using some yeast cultured from Fantome and Jolly Pumpkin.  Lastly, we are planning on a roadtrip to Michigan which will include stops at some of our favorite breweries – Three Floyds, New Holland, and of course, Founders.  It should be a great time, and I am especially interested to see Founders since I haven’t been there since they moved locations.  (and of course their beer is unbelievably delicious.)

Lastly, the Biere De Garde with the Wyeast French Ale Yeast is REALLY delicious.   I think I have settled on that recipe and yeast combination.   Unfortunately, it’s still a seasonal, but will be out in a month or two so I will have to stock up on a few I guess.

Oktoberfest tastings: Berliner Weiss, Cider, Maerzen, Doppelbock, Imperial Stout


This past weekend we co-hosted our annual Oktoberfest party. On tap this year we had a Berliner Weiss, Cider, Maerzen, Doppelbock, and Imperial Stout homebrews, and what formerly was a 1/4 barrel of New Glarus Spotted Cow.

The Berliner Weiss was my first attempt at this style and I think it turned out great. Personally, I would like it a bit more sour, but for the masses it seemed to be perfect as the corny was just about empty. Weighing in at about 3% I think this may become a staple here, as it is really a terrific session beer. I was also able to get some Himbeer (Raspberry) and Waldmeister (Woodruff) syrups from These are sometimes added to Berliner Weiss beers in order to balance out the sourness of the beer. While plain was my favorite, I also enjoyed the beer with both and was surprised that the green woodruff syrup actually gave a vanilla/cream sort of flavor. Overall, this was my favorite beer in the keg lineup and look forward to brewing it again soon.

The Cider was our standard cider recipe that Jen actually made this batch. Turned out great as usual. Nice and dry with just enough apple flavor to keep it from being too champagne-like.

The Maerzen (Hella-fest) was a modern version of an Oktoberfest beer which is to say it was lighter in color and was to be sort of a cross of a Helles and a Maerzen. This ended up with a bit of diacetyl and was not as crisp as I would have liked and had a bit of a haze to it. I need to try this again as I think the recipe is solid, something must have gone awry during the fermentation…. I remember it had quite a lag time despite a big starter. This was probably my least favorite.

The Doppelbock was the same recipe that I have used the past two years, but ramped up a touch. I did however substitute Wyeast 2124 for the 2206 I usually use as I couldn’t find any locally. It turned nice and malty, but fairly dry (ie not too sweet) with just a hint of alcohol on the back end….not surprising based on the starting gravity and really nothing to cover it up (ie not an imperial IPA) This one is delicious and I am glad the high ABV seemed to have scared some people off because there is plenty left over.

Lastly we had the Imperial Stout I brewed with Jeremy up at his place last winter. I am super happy this has been in the keg for around 9 months and shows NO signs of aging at all. Still is really delicious, not sweet, not too roasty, and you really don’t notice the alcohol at all. Just a big, smooth stout. I would say this is maybe a touch ahead of the doppel but they are close as my second favorite draft we served. I really need to try building up my own water from distilled or R/O as the Muskego water makes delicious stouts and the same recipes with my water end up too roasted/burnt/acrid.

In addition to the drafts, we pulled out some bottles as well….we had a bottle of the imperial stout we had used some bourbon soaked oak cubes in. This was still too oaky for my taste, so next time maybe cut the quantity of cubes in half. The Drama Queen has taken on an even more cherry-like flavor most likely from the Brettanomyces Lambicus. My original batch of lambic-style beer that was finished half straight and half on raspberries has gotten even better after nine more months in the bottle. It’s really about perfect right now, a good balance of sourness/dryness/mouthfeel. Unfortunately, I only have a couple bottles of each left. The imperial pilsner from 2 years ago has lost most of it’s hop presence but is still quite good….like an aged pale barleywine – a bit oxidized, a bit sweet, but delicious. I think I have two bottles left so might have to brew this again soon as well.

All in all, it was a good time with some tasty brews and I am already looking forward to next year and the return of the IPA.

oh, it’s on….

Well, after changing my mind a dozen times, I decided to brew the Vindicator Doppelbock again for this year’s party. Lagering for a month after fermentation isn’t ideal, but the last 2 were pretty good fresh as I sampled, so hopefully this year’s will be too. Being so busy lately I had finally set aside time this coming weekend to brew it. Yesterday I saw that the weekend forecast was calling for mid to upper 90′s so I decided to brew it tonight while it was still only in the upper 70s.

It actually went pretty well considering I haven’t brewed in a while and I needed to chill the beer down to near 50 with the ground water a balmy 63. To do that I used both chillers and recirculated the CFC back into the kettle for about 15 minutes before running off to the fermenter, which then sat in a tub of ice for another 30 minutes and then we were good to go.

I actually ended up a little high on the OG (21-22 plato), but it was fine because I was shooting for the lower end of the doppelbock range, so now it’s more in the middle. I also had a bit of a change on the recipe to account for grain I didn’t have, namely caramunich 60 which I subbed some Weyermann caramunich II that was in the 42-49 lovibond range and then added a pinch of carafa special to make up the color and some crystal 80 to make up the malt. Additionally, I couldn’t get any Wyeast 2206 so I ended up with the 2124….first time using that so it will be interesting to see how it works out. I really like the 2206 though, so I wasn’t too happy about not finding any. Actually someone cleaned out the one store by purchasing the four packs they had left only a couple hours before I got there….oh well.

I was reminded how much I hate weeknight brewing in the summer….mosquitos, the heat, and now it’s starting to get dark a little earlier. I think I will try to stick to weekends once we get the rest of the basement complete.

Here’s the recipe (when I get time I will add the promash files for all these, but this will have to do for now) for the Vindicator:

Munich Malt 70.7%
Pilsen Malt 21.3%
Weyermann Caramunich II 6.5%
Carafa Special II “just a pinch”
Crystal 80 1.5%

Hallertau 11.2 IBU @ 60min
Hersbrucker 8.1 IBU @ 60min
Hallertau 5.7 IBU @ 30min

Wyeast 2124 had a 2L starter with 2 packs, and an additional pack with no starter.

Fermenting @ 50