Sunday, I decided that I should do a little smoked malt experiment next weekend.   I have some of the cherry wood smoked malt that Briess produces.   I also have a smoker and a variety of wood to use with the smoker.   I decided on using apple wood and cold smoking some maris otter pale malt which I will use in a smoked porter to compare the two malts.  I ended up smoking my malt in two batches for an hour per batch.   I moistened the malt by spraying it with distilled water before putting it on and then again at 30 minutes, or halfway through.

In comparison, my malt is a bit lighter in color, which makes me wonder if Briess uses a hot smoking method as their grain is a bit darker, almost red looking.    The aroma is noticeably different between the two, with the Briess smelling a  bit more sweet, and candy-like.  I am still working out the recipe, but I think I will stick to using the same proportion of smoked malt in both batches regardless of how it seems like the malt will impact the beer (right now I am guessing the Briess will provide a sweeter flavor and a bit more pronounced smoke flavor as well).    That way, I can either adjust the smoking process or the recipe formulation later to increase/decrease the smoke levels.  I’ll provide an update in a few weeks with tasting notes & comparisons between the two.

Oktoberfest 2010

Well, it’s been a while.  Last weekend we had our 4th Annual Oktoberfest party.  The preparty Friday night was great as Jeremy and Krissy brought some Surly down..it’s been too long since we had some of that stuff…Cynic, Hell, and Furious were all as delicious as I remember.   We also cracked into some of the sours as a preview to their parting gift of a case of mix & match sours.  There were a lot more beers that we never got to so they will just have to wait until November I guess.

Saturday, the usual food was served – bavarian pretzels, potatoes, kraut, and a variety of sausage provided by German restaurant we enjoy.   We served a nice variety of beer on draft including a berliner weisse, a sour blonde ale, hefeweizen, altbier, doppelbock, IPA, and a cascadian dark ale.  The kegs of alt, hefe, and IPA kicked and the rest were hit pretty well too.  I was sad to see the alt and IPA go as they were two of my favorites so looks like I’ll be brewing again here pretty soon.  I think everyone had a good time, it was a bit cooler this year than in years past so more time was spent inside with only a few games of bags played.   Also, people showed up later this year so we might push the start time back a bit for 2011.  I think for next year I may mix it up a bit with the beer too by lightening  up the doppelbock, and adding a smoked bock to replace the sour blonde.  I liked having the variety and we have enough sour beer in bottles for people who wish to try it so this would be a good way to add to the mix.

We did have one little mishap on Saturday…since the kegerator only fits 5 drafts, and we had 7 to serve, I bought the adapters for the taps to connect directly to the keg post and an adapter for the gas side to accept the small CO2 cylinders that are used for paint or pellet guns.   Well, someone tried to move the CO2 to the 2nd keg and started to charge, however the adapter wasn’t fully on the post so he blew the disconnect apart, launching a spring up into the HVAC duct.   It was quite loud and seeing the dent in the duct we were lucky nobody got hurt.   So then we had a little tutorial on how to work the charger and some fun at the brewery bomber’s expense.

The “party” continued Sunday with the gathering of the Packers/Bears fanatics lounging around and watching football waiting for the big game on Monday.  (and recuperating from Friday night and Saturday)   We had the usual fun tailgate with plenty of good food and beer while preparing for the Bears VICTORY later that night…all in all it was a close but sloppy game, just glad we came out on top this time.

And on Tuesday, we rested – well I did anyway.   I was so glad I took Tuesday off, that would have been a long day.   well, 51 weeks until the 5th Annual Oktoberfest party and it should be better than ever.

Lots O Hops

Saturday morning I harvested about a pound of Centennial hops off the bines at our house.  I planned on also taking some Cascades but they didn’t seem to be ready yet, very little aroma, still quite green and the lupulin was still a pale yellow.  The Centennials ended up being split into two beers brewed that day – most went into an IPA, and the remainder went to a Cascadian Dark Ale.

The IPA took on a very “C” character as I used Columbus, Cascade, Citra, and the freshly picked Centennial hops.  To take a bit of the harsh edge off, I used the “first wort hopping” technique with the Columbus, and promptly remembered why I don’t like to use it.  Normally, I take a gravity reading once the runoff is complete and I can make adjustments to the volume (boiling more or less off) without affecting too much as none of the hops will have been added yet.  With FW hopping, if you are high on volume you can’t just boil longer as you will extract more IBUs (because the bittering hops have already been added) and end up with a more bitter beer.  In this case, I was a touch high on volume so I came in a couple points light for my original gravity.  In the end, it won’t impact the beer very much, but I prefer to hit my numbers when I can.

The Cascadian Dark Ale was a new style and recipe for me.  For this I used Simcoe, Cascade, Centennial, and Amarillo.  To get the roast flavor and dark colors, I used Carafa Special III as the only dark/roast malt.  Since my water tends to leave the roasted malts extremely bitter and astringent when mashed, I used only 25% of the malt in the mash and the remaining 75% was cold steeped overnight and then added directly to the kettle.  I am thinking this should allow some of the roast character to come through while gaining the full depth of color expected from a malt that dark.

Both of these brews will be aggressively dryhopped, with the first addition probably on Friday followed by a second addition Monday and transfer to kegs on Wednesday or Thursday.  I am thinking a blend of Centennial and Amarillo for the CDA, and either 100% Centennial or a blend with Citra for the IPA.

With my focus lately on Belgian and sour, barrel aged beers, I think it’s been over a year since I last brewed an IPA.   Sad, I know, but I am really optimistic about how these two will turn out.   I also should have another couple pounds of Centennial and Cascade hops from the yard to play with in a month so there may be an overly hopped American Amber, Double IPA or American Barleywine in my future…


Well, back  from our vacation to the Pacific Northwest for a family reunion and beer tour.  It all started at Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee with a New Glarus Spotted Cow…In Seattle we visited Pike Brewing, as well as Elysian’s Capital Hill Brewpub.  Pike was pretty good with a decent IPA but the main attraction for me was the Red Barn Firebarrel Bourbon Barrel Aged Cider.  I liked it quite a bit…a nice dry, tart cider with hints of vanilla and oak from the bourbon barrel.  Might be something to experiment with in the future.  Elysian was great.  Their dry-hopped IPA was delicious, the ESB was nice,  and the food was quite good as well.  I wish we had more time to spend there and try a few other beers.  I also need to mention that it was GREAT to attend a baseball game and have quality craft beer available…I wish the White Sox would follow suit with at least some Goose Island beers.   Hard to beat an Alaskan Amber while watching a White Sox win though.

We also got to sample some homebrew at our family reunion as Betsy brought a few for everyone to try.  I really liked the IPA (all centennial hops) and the Rye (pale ale?).  A lot of rye beers I have had are done with too much rye, but this was a nice blend with enough rye to give it a spicy flavor but not so much that it is all you could taste.

**Note to self – send Betsy a package closer to Oktoberfest with some of what will be served.

In Portland, we were able to go to the Rogue brewpub, as well as the Deschutes brewpub.  Rogue was nice, a bit pricey, and not very busy when we were there.   That might have been due to it being opening day of OBF.  I tried the 200 Meter IPA, a 90 IBU IPA with Horizon, Amarillo, Centennial, and Simcoe hops.  It was delicious, very aromatic and flavorful, while not being too harsh/bitter.  We also sampled the Northwestern Ale, Shakespeare Stout, and took home a growler of Mom Hefeweizen.  Additionally, I tried the Dead Guy Whiskey and the Hazelnut Spice Rum.  Normally, I am not a “spirits” guy, but the Hazelnut Rum was really quite good.

Deschutes was great, I liked it better than Rogue, even though it seemed like a more “sanitized” version of a brewpub.  Very clean/modern/new looking as opposed to Rogue looking more like a watering hole that has been there a while.  Here I had their Green IPA, Hop in the Dark Cascadian Dark Ale, and Quadsimoto (barrel aged quad with Brettanomyces) and they were all really good.  I was surprised I liked the Hop in the Dark so much as I have had some “Black IPAs” that I really didn’t like – the clashing of roast and hops was unappealing….this one is great though – far more hoppy than roasty.  The food at both brewpubs was good as we stuck with our pattern of all seafood on this trip.

OBF was everything I expected and more.   Great crowd, great beer, and a lot of fun…the only disappointment was that we didn’t realize what the “Buzz Tent” was until some real treats were already gone.  Regardless, we certainly had our fill and enjoyed every minute of it.  Here’s what we notched our belt with:

Cascade Summer Gose
Maui Coconut Porter
Bayern Brewing Dumptruck Bock
Upright Reggae Junkie Gruit
Rock Bottom Oud Heverlee
Kona Big Island Brown
Moylans Pomegranate Wheat
Alaskan Pale Ale
Rogue 21
Surly Bitter Brewer
Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA
Lompoc Son of C Note
Bridgeport Stumptown Tart
Caldera Hibiscus Ginger Beer
Fearless Scotch Ale
Boulevard Tank 7
Deschutes Quadsimoto
Flying Fish Exit 4
Maui Brewing Heaven and Hell
Bruery 7 Grain Saison

Highlights were Cascade, Maui, and Boulevard.   Disappointments were Fearless, Moylans, and Rock Bottom.

All in all, Portland is a great town.   OBF is a great fest.   We definitely need to go back when we have more time to sight-see (we arrived Wednesday night and left Friday morning and spent most of Thursday at OBF).   On our way out of town, we stopped at Belmont Station to grab some things to bring home.  I was more than happy to pick up Russian River Consecration and Supplication, Cascade Apricot, Cascade The Vine, Boulevard Saison Brett, and a 4 pack of Coconut Porter.


Well based on the tasting the other day, I went out and purchased a bunch of fruit to add to some of the barrel aged beers.  I brought home apricots and raspberries for the lambic, and bought some blackberries to use with some of the flanders red.  I also had some cranberries in the freezer from last year to use with a portion of the lambic.  For all of these fruit additions I went with a ratio of about a pound of fruit per gallon of beer.   I held some fruit in reserve to add later as I have found this to be an effective way to make sure the yeast doesn’t completely scrub out all the fruit flavors.  I also pulled some of the flanders to age without fruit as I wanted to end up pulling 1/4 of the barrel volume out in order to keep the oak flavor in check.    Lastly, I bottled 2 cases of 750s of each of the beers straight, so that I have a bunch of the original batch preserved for later comparisons.  The only issue all night was due to some shitty crown caps that wouldn’t seal well, so I ended up having to pull and re-cap about 15 bottles.  From now on I am sticking with the oxygen barrier caps as they always seem to seat well on the 750ml champagne bottles I use.  I had planned on also bottling the kriek, however I was low on bottles and didn’t want to risk running out and losing some beer….I still may do it at some point this week….then it’s off to Seattle, Portland, and OBF!!!