Cooking with Beer: Chocolate Stout Cake

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Craft Beer Beer (Arts &) Crafts... and a saison update.

My girlfriend and I had off yesterday and since we're a pair of craft beer devotees and (almost) foodies, that meant beer and food related activities all day long. We visited Blue Point Brewing Co, which is probably the most popular Long Island brewery, for a quick tour and some tasting. Later on, we drank a bottle of 2011 Sexual Chocolate. If you would like to read my review on BeerAdvocate, here's the link.

But first, we did some arts n' crafts. If you're an avid beer drinker, you might have developed a habit like ours... we save almost every bottle (they are too cool to throw away/recycle/reuse for homebrew) and save all the intact bottle caps you can. We thought it would be cool to do some bottle cap magnets for the beer fridge:

Yeah, that's a Heineken case. No, I don't drink it. I had a bunch o' bombers packed into it at the distributor.

My girlfriend also made the Blue Point bottle cap flower, since one of her favorite Blue Point brews, Spring Fling, is coming out now. She made it out of Sculpey and hot glue. The magnet in the middle between the Ben and Jerry's sticker and the Fat Tire sticker is a magnet she made for me Christmas and says "Beer is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy" and the picture is me enjoying a Stone Imperial Russian Stout aged in bourbon barrels at Rattle N Hum for the Total Tap Tower Takeout Tour 2010 event.

We also had a 4 oz (or so) sample of my saison, that has been fermenting for a week at this point. Some notes:
  • the color isn't as bad as I thought it was going to be based on the way the mash/boil looked. Bright golden body with a bit of a wheat haze. Might be a bit light for the style, but that's okay.
  • The hops are still pretty forward, which will ease a bit as the beer ages.
  • The malt is still there but that should get fermented out.
  • The familiar saison spiciness isn't really there yet.
  • I stuck a heating pad under the fermentor so hopefully the increased temperature will help bring out some saison familiar tastes.
So maybe the saison brewday wasn't a total loss.

I also got some reading material and I'm currently reading through Phil Markowski's Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition. Markowski is the brewmaster at Southampton Publick House, probably the best Long Island brewery. So far, its about the history of biere de Garde and saison and not so much about actually brewing it but its pretty interesting so far.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Brewday: Saison. Or, How Not to Brew.

Yeah, so my parents' freakishly groomed cat will be the mascot of today's brewday.

I am Lucy. Destroyer of worlds.

Ok, so some times things just get out of hand. On almost every single brewday I've had, I've managed to do something wrong. Something either spills or I hurt myself or I realize I'm missing something important. For instance, my first all grain batch featured a stuck mash. Nonetheless, I managed to unstick it and even though it wasn't the greatest situation, I still ended up with a good beer in the end. Usually its not an issue to readjust and improvise something on the fly. Well, today didn't go so smoothly but that's okay because there's still stuff to learn from and hey... maybe the beer will turn out all right anyway.

Inverting Sugar

The first thing I had to do was get my sugar inverted. If you remember, my recipe called for 12oz of amber candi sugar. After doing some reading on the internet and in a good book called Radical Brewing, I learned that homebrew store bought candi sugar is a rip off. Its really just sucrose (table sugar) and a process you can do at home.

The first step is to add a little bit of lemon juice for the citric acid, a little bit of water, and then boil it. I actually added too much water, I think. So don't do what I did.

Once it gets to the color you want, you want to pour it out onto a baking sheet with some wax paper laid down.

It'll harden again. To speed this process along, I stuck it in the fridge. Once it came out, it was pretty solid so I broke it up so I could get it into my boil without much issue.

I think there's some debate as to whether or not inverting sugar is necessary. Some people seem to think you can throw table sugar into beer without much issue, others seem to think it will make your beer taste like cider. I figured, ehh, why not? Its not really that much extra effort.

Behold, my state of the art mill!

After getting that stuck mash the last time I brewed, I figured I would revert the mill to the factory setting. Here's my milled grains.


As always, this is where it started going down hill. Here's my set up for y'all to pine over it:

One thing you might've noticed is that this is set up outside. And its the middle of the New York winter. Well, it was really nice almost until the minute I had to turn on the tank. Then it became a windy, nasty day from hell. The result was that my fire kept getting blown out and I had to sit out in the cold watching the fire instead of setting it on auto pilot and getting warm.

Last time, I mashed a little too hot. I hit 185 degrees for my strike water last time and my mash ended up being at around 160, so this time I did 175 and it ended up just right at around 150.

While that sat for an hour, I sanitized my fermentor and prepped my boil additions.

Again, I ended up with a stuck sparge. I think I'm gonna switch out the square cooler for a cylinder and get a false bottom. This shiz is ridic, yo. At times it was so bad, I seriously considered just tossing it, or just fermenting what I had and seeing what the area's wild yeast could do. I also didn't clear the sparge so easily this time and ended up losing a good deal of the mash as a consequence. I ended up with about 5 gallons going into the boil when the target was 6.5, which would've yielded a 5 gallon batch. Oh well!

The Other Stuff

I had to crush 1 gram of grains of paradise to add to the boil. I didn't have a spare grinder so my brilliant plan was to stick it in a ziploc bag and hit it with a mallet gently until they popped open. It worked!

I've also learned that its always a good idea to arrange your boil additions before you have to put them in. That way, when the boil is going you don't have to worry about measuring out hops or looking for this or that.

If you noticed the hop bag, its because I'm a moron and ordered whole leaf Cascade hops instead of pellets. Pellets are much easier to work with and they are the same as whole leaf hops in terms of quality so I usually go with those.

Whole leaf hops are pretty though.

I also decided to go with some Irish moss because the wort looked so cloudy that I figured some Irish moss would help make it look a little better.

The Boil

After being disappointed that I only collected 5 gallons from the mash, deciding not to lauter again, I began the boil. I also was not happy with the color, but since this is the first brew I'm doing that's supposed to be fairly light in color, maybe fermenting and letting the sediment settle a bit will give this beer a more appealing color.

Waiting for the hot break.

After that, I chilled it down to 65 pretty quickly. Pitched the yeast. Stuck it in the closet and covered it in a blanket to keep it nice and warm so that saison yeast can go to town.

Hopefully it works out in the end. The worst of all possible brewdays usually are redeemed in the end when you finally drink the beer. I think my next batch (the Citra DIPA) will mostly be done on the stove top, which is easy because it is a smaller batch.



That means "Relax, don't worry, have a home brew." It was said by Charlie Papazian. He's the guy who wrote The Complete Joy of Homebrewing. Its something to keep in mind when a brew day goes to hell the way today did. Here are some pictures of some of the reject batch of Vanilla Porter. They are called rejects because I bottled them in twist off bottles with pry off caps. Still quite tasty!

Half full so you can see the lacing.

I'll post about my horrific saison brewing experience next post... so as not to infect this post with its negativity.

Friday, February 18, 2011


Ok, so I never got around to brewing that Saison. I have been busy with random beer adventures with the girlfriend, work, and school so there hasn't been much time. Brew day is tomorrow though.

After reading about brewing Saisons and realizing that its gonna take a while to brew, and the fact that my vanilla porter is almost gone, I am gonna do a small batch of something else while the saison conditions.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you... Tri-citra-hops! A Citra DIPA.

Batch Size: 2.5 gal
Expected OG: 1.089
Expected FG: 1.020
Expected ABV: 9.3%
IBU: 114.8

Grain Bill
6# US 2-row 75%
1# US Caramel 20L
1# US White Wheat

Hop Schedule
.25 oz Citra @ 60 min
.25 oz Citra @ 45 min
.25 oz Citra @ 30 min
1 0z Citra @ 25 min
.25 oz Citra @ 15 min
.5 oz Citra @ 5 min
.5 oz Citra @ turn off

White Labs WLP001 - California Ale Yeast

Mmm. Citra hops. Should be fun. Keep an eye out for Saison du Boner's brew day blog. Cheers!

Friday, February 4, 2011


Got my ingredients today. Rebel Brewer gets their stuff out quick. I dunno when brew day is going to be... maybe I'll do it before the Superbowl on Sunday. Cheers!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Saison du Boner

Ever hear of Saison du Buff? Well, now you have:

Partly inspired by this and partly inspired by a recent trip to Southampton Publick House and a few recent saison tastings, I figured I'd jump the gun and brew something slightly out of season and do a saison.

Here's the recipe for the 5 gallon batch:

Malt Bill
8# Pilsner Malt 74.4%
1# White Wheat Malt 9.3%
1# Munich Malt 9.3%
.75# amber candi sugar 7%

1 oz Amarillo @ 60 min
1 oz Cascade @ 10 min
1 oz Ahtanum @ 5 min
1 oz Amarillo @ 5 min
1 oz Amarillo @ turn off

Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saison

1 g Seeds of Paradise, lightly crushed @ 5 minutes in boil
5 teaspoon yeast nutrient @ 10 minutes in boil

Expected OG: 1.062
Expected FG: 1.011
Expected ABV: 6.9%
Expected IBU (using Tinseth): 34.2

Ok, so before you crap your pants at how untraditional this is, lemme defend my choices.

First, I'm using American hops and this is going to be on the upper end of bitterness for the style. One of my favorite saisons, if not one of my favorite beers, is Jack D'Or by Pretty Things. If you've ever had it, you know it uses a good amount of American hops and comes in at 45 IBU, which is 10IBU higher than the style is supposed to be. I've also had some maltier saisons and I prefer some hops.

Saisons also aren't the best defined style, historically. Traditional saisons were brewed with whatever was around. If you are brewing according to the BJCP style guidelines, it might not work but since I'm not entering this into a competition, I'll make it how I damn well please.

Anyway, I like Amarillo hops a whole lot. Cascade is cool too. I've never brewed with Ahtanum, but its a hop used in Ithaca's Flower Power and that's a delicious beer so I'll give it a try. The heavy emphasis on the late hop additions will give it a good boost in terms of aroma without adding bitterness.

I'm excited to brew it. I'm also going to do something a bit experimental with this batch. Are you ready? Well, I am going to bottle half of the batch as you see above. The other half? Well, I'm going to transfer that to my smaller carboy and let it age on some white wine soaked oak chips and I'm gonna pitch a strain of brett to try and make a sour. That'll age until the summer when I think I'll bottle some straight up and for the rest I'll condition it on some kind of fruit... maybe blueberry, strawberry or something more traditional like raspberry.