Cooking with Beer: Chocolate Stout Cake

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Future Plans

Coming up, I have a few plans for home brewing. I figure I'll fill you in!

1. Kolsch.

Coming up next is Kolsch. I have all my stuff ready to go and as soon as my final exams are over, I will get to brewing it. For a 5 gal batch, the recipe is:

7# German Pils
.5# Light Munich
.5# German Pale Wheat

1 oz Hallertau @ 60 minute
1 oz Hallertau @ 30 minute

Irish Moss and Yeast Nutrient in boil

Wyeast 1007 - German Ale Yeast

Single step infusion mash at 149 degrees F.

This is going to be the summer beer that I brew. What's more refreshing than a Kolsch? Not much. I'm using Wyeast 1007 because I've used it before and I got a very clean flavor from it, and Kolsch yeast doesn't sound easy to work with.

2. Iris Saison - Take Two

After learning a lot from brewing my first saison and from reading Farmhouse Ales by Phil Markowski, I think retackling this beer will be a good idea. The recipe will be adjusted as such:

8# Belgian Pils
.5# wheat malt
.13# Belgian debittered black malt
.25 # table sugar

1 oz Hallertau @ 60 minute
1 0z Hallertau @ 15 minute
1 oz Hallertau @ 5 minute

Yeast nutrient in boil

Wyeast 3711 - French Saison

Mash schedule is:
  • Rest at 113 degree F 30 minutes
  • Raise to 131 degree F 15 minutes
  • Raise to 144 degree F 30 minutes
  • Raise to 154 degree F 15 minutes
  • Raise and mash out at 165 degree F
French Saison yeast is easier to use and is less of an emo yeast, the malt bill will make for a lighter beer, traditional hops might work better than the American ones, and the mash schedule is out of Farmhouse Ales.

3. Either a Chocolate Oatmeal Stout or a Smoked Porter.

I figure this will get brewed around July and will be drinking in August when its starting to cool. The oatmeal stout will look like:

7# Maris Otter
1.25 # flaked oats
1# Caramel 10L
1# Carapils
.5# Carafa 1
.25# pale chocolate
.25# chocolate
.25# dark chocolate

1 oz Chinook

Irish moss, yeast nutrient and cocoa powder in boil. Cacao nibs in secondary.

Wyeast 1084 - Irish Ale Yeast

And the Smoked Porter...

8# Golden Promise
1 # Carapils
.5# CaraMunich III
.5 # Chocolate
.25# Peated Malt
.25# Black Patent

1 oz Chinook @ 60 minute

Wyeast 1084 - Irish Ale Yeast

Both will make for easy drinking and more robust beers for the beginning of the fall.

4. An Imperial Russian Stout.

Still working on ideas for this, but I figure I brew this at the end of the summer and its drinking by the middle of the winter.

5. An Imperial Porter or Export strength stout with pumpkin for the fall.

The girl loves pumpkin beers, I've only had one I really liked (Southern Tier's Pumking), but I figure a big, dark beer with some pumpkin might please us both.


Citra Imperial IPA Tasting

Look: a little gunsmoke is visible as soon as I pop the bottle. Some sediment is suspended in the glass, which is an effect I really like in my IPAs. Thin, white foamy head that doesn't retain very long and quickly ends up as thin layer of bubbles around the sides of the glass. The beer has a little bit of spotty lacing.

Smell: though not as pungent as I would've liked, it has a big passion fruit, citrus, tropical aroma with some papaya and mango as well. Very pleasant aroma and I'm very pleased with this.

Taste: follows the nose well with a delicious blend of passion fruit, papaya, pineapple and some mango with a little bit of citrus zest. The malt is hardly detectable, which is something I appreciate.

Feel: medium bodied and a little more full bodied for a DIPA than I think I would want. The carbonation is good. The alcohol isn't noticeable and its not overly bitter but there's no sweetness to be found either.

Drinkability: fairly easy drinking and though its a little big for a session beer, its still something you could have a few pints of without a problem.

Overall Impression

Overall, I thought this was pretty good and with some tweaks, I can see it being very excellent. There are some adjustments I'm going to make to improve it, but otherwise, I am pretty happy with how this one came out.

Adjustments for Next Time

I'm going to adjust the malt bill. I'm thinking of adding carapils, reducing the caramel malt but using a higher lovibond malt for color adjustment, using some wheat for head formation/retention, and some sugar to lighten the body. I'm thinking:

11# 2-row malt

1# Carapils

.5# 120L Caramel

.5# US White Wheat

1.75# table sugar

I'm also going to up the hops. 93 IBU is good but there could be more hoppiness to it to really make this beer an exceptional DIPA. I've been tinkering with it and I think the goal should be to get to 120IBU but to stick with all Citra hops. I think the schedule might look more like:

1.5 oz @ 60 minute

2 oz @ 30 minute

1 oz @ 15 minute

2 oz @ 5 minute

1.5 oz @ turn off

1 oz dry hopped

That gets me up to 118.9 IBU. The issue is... that's a lot of hops. This recipe lost a lot of volume to vegetal matter and it was only using 6 oz of hops all together. This uses 9 oz. So I think the plan will be to brew more wort and to use a hop bag for the dry hopping.

Blog Posts About This Beer

Bottling the Citra DIPA

Citra Double IPA Label

Citra DIPA Brew Day

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bottling the Citra DIPA

Annnnd the Citra Imperial IPA is bottled! I am surprised how much volume I lost due to the 4 oz of pellet hops from the fermentor and the 2 oz of full flower hops from the dry hopping. The next time I brew such a hoppy beer, I'm going to have to do a better job stopping that from happening. Bagging the hops would probably help or using some other piece of equipment, and maybe brewing a larger batch so it ends up with more beer in the final product.

As always, did a little into a glass just to see how it is right now. A little chill on the glass because I stuck it in the fridge in the glass to get it to slightly above room temperature before sampling it.

While you can't really tell what the final product is going to be like from this given that its pretty flat, you can tell that the dry hopping really added a lot in the nose of this beer. Big, tropical hop character in the nose and a little more bitterness in the taste than it was before it was dry hopped.

I tried pitching some yeast (used White Labs California yeast) to the bottling bucket to see if that helps my history of under-carbonated beer.

I also printed out the label I posted earlier and just taped them on really quickly so they look pretty. I'll bottle condition them for a week and then we'll see how they are. Can't wait!

The photos are a little poor because I was taking them with my phone's camera. Cheers!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Top 10 Commercial Beers of All Time

Well, I figured I would blog about this. Why? I dunno. Maybe it will help give you an idea of what I like and thus will give you some insight into the madness that is my brewing. Mostly, I just feel like posting some beer advocacy can't hurt and I haven't blogged in awhile. Each of the beers will have a link to my BeerAdvocate review so if you want to check that out for a more detailed, and timely review, go right ahead.

(don't worry; bottling the Citra DIPA soon and brewing a Kolsch soon too! And after that, who knows? Maybe an IRS to age until the winter or another shot at saison)

Of course, in making a top ten list, a lot of things get left out, so I think my list is closer to beers that made lasting impressions than anything.

Without further ado...

Oh, Stone Smoked Porter. This was the first beer that made me go "Damn! That's good!" Its complex enough to keep you interested without being so complex as to make it unsessionable. The smoke isn't obnoxious. All around, it continues to be one of the beers that I have the fondest memories of and like going back to when I get a chance.

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout holds a special place in my heart because it was one of the first Russian Imperial Stouts that I had. Also, despite being amazingly delicious, it gets extra points for the fact that its incredibly accessible. If I wanted to, I could head to the distributor right now and buy a case of it and I wouldn't have to break the bank to do so. This is comforting in a world where most Imperial stouts are overpriced! This is the best beer the Brooklyn Brewery makes, in my opinion.

Southern Tier seems to be a hit or miss brewery. You either love 'em or hate 'em. Though I've been underwhelmed by their regular line up and their hoppy beers particularly (all of their DIPAs taste like barleywines to me), their Black Water imperial stout series really hits the spot when you want a desert beer. Of all of them, my two favorite are Choklat and Mokah, which is a blend of Choklat and their coffee stout, Jahva. Of all the chocolate added beers I've had, Choklat is undoubtably the best. It features the chocolate prominently without being one dimensional.

I don't drink a whole lot of Mikkeller. For one, their beers are a little too expensive. Also, some of them are a little gimmicky if you ask me. That said, Beer Geek Breakfast was my favorite beer of 2010. Though not really a very big imperial stout, the Guiness-esque head makes it a beautiful stout, the body is great and the flavors work together well. Its also not (that) hard to find.

I was debating which of Founders' stouts to post to this list, because Breakfast Stout and Imperial Stout are both amazing. This is one of the more balanced barrel aged beers I've had and doesn't taste anything like the 11% ABV beer it is.

The fun story about this is how my girlfriend and I managed to get 4 bottles at our local beverage distributor despite a 1 bottle limit. The moral of the story: be a regular somewhere and spend five minutes chatting up the owner and be friendly. You'll get extra beers out of it.

I was lucky enough to have a pint of Stone's Smoked Porter with Vanilla Bean at Rattle N Hum's Stone Total Tap Tower Takeover Tour Two Thousand Ten. I already told you how much I loved Stone Smoked Porter, but the vanilla version is extra good. When are they going to bottle this? Hopefully soon. In a night filled with super rarities like 2008 IRS aged in bourbon barrels, brandy barrel aged Double Bastard, this simple yet amazing porter beat them all and was the most memorable of the night for me.

Also, for the brewers out there, there's an old Stone Blog entry about brewing this beer! Cheers!

The Alchemist is another must on the beer fan's travel itinerary. All their beer is amazing, but I'm going to focus on Heady Topper to prevent this from being a "Best Beers by the Alchemist" list. My girlfriend and I visited Vermont for Valentines Day, largely to see what the Alchemist was about. I asked the bartender if Heady Topper was on tap, because it wasn't listed on the beer list. To my surprise, it was! Getting a 12 oz pour and apprehensively expecting yet another ultra-hyped beer to fall short of my expectations well, lets say I wasn't let down. Its an incredible beer and its coming to cans soon! Drink it as soon as you can.

Stone's Ruination IPA was probably the first DIPA I had and I think it was the first hoppy beer that I really truly loved. While many other IPAs that have been released since Ruination are more aggressive and more palate destroying, this beer really hits what a DIPA should be on the head for me and its beaten out some classic DIPAs in my mind, like Pliny the Elder (which I'm not a big fan of, by the way). And one of the best things about Stone beers? You can get them pretty easily almost no matter where you are.

Southampton Publick House is the best place for a beer fan to visit. Their beers are all excellent and Phil Markowski, the brewmaster, does an excellent job when it comes to things like saison. Hell, he literally wrote the book on saison. Their IRS is one of the best I've had. What adds to how good it is, for me anyway, is that it doesn't resort to things like barrel aging or added ingredients to get its luscious flavor. I'm glad my cellar has five waiting for special occasions.

Black Tuesday is notorious in beer circles because it is pretty much everything a beer geek could want. Its over 18% alcohol, an imperial stout, aged in bourbon barrels, and incredibly rare. My bottle kind of fell into my lap. I set up a trade on BeerAdvocate, sent out some aged Dogfish things and some locals, and said "Just send whatever" and I got a Black Tuesday. Not bad!

As for the beer itself, its pretty amazing to me how they got it up to 18% alcohol without it tasting like rocket fuel and in fact have made a beer that is wonderfully complex and unlike anything else I've ever had. If you can score a bottle, definitely do so!

And for some honorable mentions: Cigar City Hunaphu, Ithaca Flower Power, Stone Double Bastard, Deschutes Black Butte Porter, North Coast Old Rasputin, Pretty Things Jack D'Or, and probably a dozen others. Cheers!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Saison Tasting

Without further ado, here's the tasting results of the Saison!

Look: cloudy, yellow body. Thin, bubbly head forms at the top but doesn't retain for more than a few minutes, ultimately just becoming a thin layer of foam and bubbles hugging the sides of the tulip. A little bit of patchy lace is left behind as well.

Smell: actually, quite promising. The fact that Wyeast sells the Saison DuPont yeast is fairly apparent in the nose, and the beer is filled with those familiar esters. Hints of fruitiness from the hops are there as well.

Taste: annnnnd here's the let down. The Munich malt comes out way too strongly here and it kind of drowns out the other flavors, sticking them in the background. There's the saison yeasty goodness back there along with some grapefruit and some tartness. Its also missing the paradise seed.

Feel: a little fuller than I would've liked and not quite as dry as I would've liked either. The carbonation is fairly decent though.

Drinkability: fairly easy drinking, could see this being a decent summer beer if not quite exactly a perfect saison.

Overall, its not quite what I wanted it to be. Saisons are tricky though, so at least I learned some things. For my next saison I'm going to:
  • Adjust the grain bill. I'll use a little less malt overall, cut out the Munich, halve the wheat and maybe cut down the sugar. So basically, all pilsner malt with a little wheat, maybe some sugar and maybe an oz or two of debittered black for color adjustment.
  • Adjust the hops. I think I'll go a more classic route and use something like Hallertau.
  • Phil Markowski, in Farmhouse Ales describes a few different mashing schedules, and I think I'm going to try the one from Saison DuPont.
  • For the yeast, I'm going to stick with the Saison DuPont yeast because I do like the characteristics this yeast has. However, I'm going to make a starter and after the fermentation has gone for a bit, I'm going to pitch another yeast strain to dry out the beer.
You live and you learn! Saisons are tricky and mine may not quite be on par with world class saisons, but I'm glad I attempted the challenge of brewing it. I'll try and age a few bottles for an extended period of time and see how they develop. Cheers!

Blog Posts About this Saison:
T'is the Saison to Bottle.
What's Brewing.
Saison Update.
Craft Beer (Arts &) Crafts... and a Saison Update.
Brewday: Saison (or how not to brew).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Citra Double IPA Label

Fermentation is pretty much complete. I tried a sample and it is quite tasty. Citra is really a very interesting hop and there's really nothing quite like it. The passion fruit character is unlike anything I've had elsewhere, along with hints of melon, papaya, pineapple, and grapefruit. It has just enough malt backbone to balance it out a little bit but not so much as to make it sweet and its still pretty dry.

For a more powerful aroma, I'm going to be dry hopping it with 2 oz of even MORE Citra hops. I've never dry hopped before so I've been looking at different dry hopping methods. I think I'm just going to let the hops loose in the carboy until I bottle.

And speaking of bottling, I worked up a simple label for this beer. Basically just a quick and easy filter of a image of hops and text added in Photoshop. Let me know what you think!

EDIT: Transferred the beer onto 2 oz of Citra hops for some dry hopping action. After reading a bit about dry hopping, I decided just to do the hops directly into the beer so I don't have to worry about sterilizing my hop bag.

But on a sad note, 4 oz of dry pellet hops led to a serious about of trub at the bottom. Holy moly!

That's about 1 gallon of unusable stuff. That's the price you pay for high IBUs. Cheers!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Just got a Twitter.

Why? I don't know. Maybe it will help me promote this blog in the future if I ever end up caring about the volume of readership this blog gets. Follow me by clicking the link to the right!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Tis the saison... to bottle.

So, I finally got around to bottling the saison. I lost so much volume from the craptastic brew day that I only ended up with one case of 500ml bottles and enough to fill one pilsner glass to see what its tasting like:

Granted, its tough to tell exactly how it will taste when its served a little cold and after its carbonated, but I do like the color. Its much better than how it looked in taster glasses. As for taste, it has some definite fruity elements, like apple and pear, some tropical fruit from the hops, and some pepper from the seeds of paradise. A little sweet, so I'm thinking maybe next time I brew a saison I'll pitch a different yeast strain to finish off to help dry it out... but maybe carbonation will help make it taste drier.

I used the flipper top bottles because saison doesn't seem appropriate when bottled in normal 12 oz bottles or bombers and I don't have enough 750ml bottles to bottle the batch. I'm going to cellar it for a few weeks before popping it open to see how it is.

The handwritten label on the case just has the ingredients, brew date, bottle date, etc on it so I'll know what's in the bottles if I end up leaving some down there for a few months.

Also, checked on the Citra DIPA and it has a good krausen formed already so fermentation is nice and underway! I'm excited for that beer!


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Citra DIPA Brew Day

Finally, an all grain batch goes (relatively) smoothly!

That's a lot of Citra hops...

This is the first beer that I made a yeast starter for. Since the original gravity is going to be kind of high on this one, a yeast starter helps the yeast ferment a bit better.

I got my strike water to 165 and when added to my grain, I got a mash temperature of 150. Its a little lower than I have done in the past, but this should help the beer dry out a little bit more. I don't think there's anything worse than a sweet DIPA. I was aiming for 7 gallons of wort and boiling it down to 5.5, but I ended up getting 6.5 and boiling down to 5. I wanted some extra for a 5 gallon batch because with a DIPA, you end up losing a lot of volume to vegetal matter from the hops.

I had an extra .1 oz of hops so I added that to the 5 minute addition so as not to add more bitterness. I also decided to add some Irish moss to the beer to clarify it a bit. Once I stopped the boil and started cooling down to get to pitching temperature, I noticed the ridiculous amount of hops floating around. You can kinda see it here...

And after aerating, pitched a nice amount of California ale yeast.

Overall, had a relatively easy brew day. I'm planning on bottling the saison tomorrow. I'm gonna be using my flip top bottles, which are 16 oz so hopefully it goes quick. Tonight, we're celebrating with a trip to Bobbique! Cheers.

Everything and the Kitchen Sink Imperial Porter Tasting

This was one of the last extract beers I brewed. I decided to kinda throw everything that is hyped in the craft beer community into one beer. After the beer sat on a primary for awhile, I threw basically everything at it. Bourbon soaked American oak chips, coffee beans, cocoa/chile powder, vanilla beans and some vanilla extract. I aged it for about 6 months before bottling.

Let's just say, way too much oak and way too much bourbon when this beer was fresh. Not only that but I think my palate wasn't developed enough to be able to pick the flavors apart and given that I wasn't even a huge fan of barrel aged craft beer at the time, this beer stood no chance for me to like it... much less everyone I know who doesn't even care for craft beer.

Well, I'm brewing the Citra DIPA today and I was heading to the basement to retrieve some equipment when I found a few bottles I had designated to open after six months in the bottle. I figured, ehh! What's the worst that could happen? The worst that could happen is I kill some time while waiting for my beer to brew! Popped one open just to taste it. Its been cellared for about 7 months.

12 oz bottle poured into a snifter and served at cellar temperature.

Look: dark brown but not quite black. There are brownish, red highlights when held to a light source. The head is tan, one finger thick, and has excellent retention. There's a bit of patchy lace left as I drink it but it quickly disappears but leaves a few pockets of lace here and there on the snifter.

Smell: hints of coffee, some oak and chocolate. The bourbon is subdued but certainly there.

Taste: follows the nose fairly well with the oak standing in the foreground. A bit tannic, with some light chocolate and vanilla notes. Whether the vanilla is from the actual vanilla or from the age in the oak, I can't tell. Coffee stands out when the beer is first poured but as it warms, it kind of loses that flavor and yields to a more bourbon/oaky flavor. The bourbon is distinct in the finish and leaves my mouth tasting like I just did a shot of bourbon, but it isn't quite as sharp. The time in the cellar has smoothed this one out and the flavors have begun to mesh quite well.

Mouthfeel: medium bodied, actually decently carbonated and is accurate for the style compared to other Imperial porters I've had. A bit of boozy bite in the front of my tongue and a little booze throughout the taste without being overwhelming. The beer was around 8% alcohol based on gravity readings but the bourbon added to it added some alcohol to the beer, but it was beyond my ability to measure that contribution. It drinks like a 10% beer.

Drinkability: certainly a sipper and not so much a sessionable ale. After all, its a bit above 8%!

Overall Impression: I'm surprised how well the flavors have come together in this. The oak has really been tamed and the bourbon is working very well for me. I don't think this is a beer for people who aren't into barrel aged beers, but I actually like it and its something I would've been happy with if I ordered it at the bar.

One of the earliest pieces of advice I received about brewing was that if you don't like your beer at first, let it age a bit and age can take care of many problems. While that isn't true for things like IPAs and DIPAs, it nonetheless worked for this beer. I'll keep this in mind when I decide to brew another "barrel" aged beer in the future. Cheers!