Beer update: in with the old, out with the new

February 18th, 2012 | Tags: , , , ,

You all knew it was coming: another beer post. This is really where my motivation comes from–as my friend Sparrow was saying to me earlier this week, alchemy is irresistible. I tried to hold off, but the stuff I put out in between was just senseless emo rambling, so we’re back for another update on that delicious ambrosia that is the result of letting organic machines do the work for us. :) Unfortunately, no pictures today. I will get that webcam working soon!

Two things today. First, I finally bottled the sorghum that I took so many pictures of. I waited a full four weeks before bottling it, even though I wanted to bottle at three, but the gravity was not quite low enough yet at two. I got a chance to employ my swing-top pint bottles that originally held mediocre Trader Joe’s Italian beer. (These days, I mostly buy new beer for the experience and, really, the bottles.) But it’s sitting in the closet, and should actually be fully carbonated by now, but it’ll be green if I open one, so I’ll let it nap for a couple more weeks to fully bottle-condition. The advantage to bottling is that you allow the yeast to naturally carbonate your beer instead of spending $150 on a kegging setup. The trouble, however, is that you subject them to the fermentation process all over again, and so you must wait a couple weeks until they’ve cleaned up their chemical mess. Yeast are very polite little machines–they micturate alcohol and fart CO2, and then defecate by-products like acetaldehyde, which leaves a green apple-like taste. But if you give them time, once they eat up all the available sugars, they’ll start on the acetaldehydes. Yes, they’re very polite, eating their own waste.

The other is that since I was bottling the sorghum, I wasn’t about to waste the yeast cake. But I still don’t have pint jars or tongs, so I couldn’t just wash them and store them. But I had enough supplies to make an IPA, so that’s what I did the same day. When I first started drinking serious beer, I was the opposite of a fan of the hoppy types. I would go around saying I hated hops. And, truth be told, I’ll take a nice malty pint any day over these hop monsters that so many American craft breweries are kicking out. But hops make beer. So for my third of 12 in 2012, I went for a nice, low-end IPA. (By low-end, I mean 55 IBU, 6% ABV.) It was my first time brewing in the monster kettle I acquired–5 gallon capacity! So now I can brew 3-gallon batches without needing more than a quart or so of top-up water.

The brew went very well, and racking onto the well-established yeast cake meant that fermentation was done in 2 days flat. I gave it a week total to condition, and today’s gravity sample was right on the money. Oh, heaven! One of the major reasons I didn’t like “hoppy beers” is because for quite a while, American beers have been heavy on hops–but as much in the back end as anything else. A new technique is gaining ground to put the focus on the flavor and aromas of the various hops in play, called late-hopping or hop-bursting.And hop-bursting is what I tried with this beer. It worked beautifully! Bold Cascade hop flavor up front, only a hint of bitterness from the very small amount of Centennial added at the beginning of the boil. But I was planning to add aromatics a new way, rather than just addng hops at the end of the boil. Instead, I am building in an unmistakable spiciness from Chinook whole leaf hops by letting them soak in the beer after fermentation is complete–it’s a technique called dry-hopping. I could have just tossed them into the primary fermenter, but I have never done a secondary, and it gives me a window to brew another batch later this week in my 6-gallon again.

It’s a madness, this brewing thing. It eats at my mind. But it’s a trade, and something worth a good deal of money to the right people. So I guess it could be worse. ;-)

12 brews of 2012: Special Bitter, Sorghum Pale, American IPA

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