Slow Times at Nosy’s Brewery

Not much going on the past couple of weeks.  I got the Kentucky Common bottled soon enough that it should be reasonably well conditioned by the Kentucky Derby party.  The Saison has finished primary fermentation – Wyeast 3724 is a brewer’s test of patience – and is ready to “cellar” for a couple weeks near freezing prior to packaging.  The Maerzen has finished its diacetyl rest and I’m bringing it down to lagering temperature.

It’s snowing again in Denver, for those of you who are interested in such things.  That’s not unusual – our average last snowfall is about April 28th.  I’ve had some fantastic brew days in the snow here.

The bakery is coming along nicely.  A couple weeks ago my grandson and I captured a local sourdough starter.  It makes good bread and is rather fast as sourdough starters go.  My San Francisco starter takes an hour or so longer to ferment and proof.  Yes, when I make a dough, I’m managing a fermentation, whether I’m using regular dried bread yeast or one of my sourdoughs.  This morning I finished my first batch of sourdough wheat hamburger buns.  When I can get to the grill, turkey burgers should be delicious on them with emmenthal or gruyere cheese and chipotle mayo.  As with brewing, there are several keys to good bread and many of them will sound familiar:  There’s time, temperature, “pitch rate” or use of a pre-ferment, starters, how much and what quality of water is used.  My family can eat more bread than I can drink beer so it’s a good way to keep busy between brew days.

The winery is also in a slow phase.  We have two in process right now, a red blend and a white blend.  Rather than following the box instructions, we processed the white blend “Mosel style.”  The box tells us to keep a reserve of grape juice and add that back once the wine is completely fermented.  Now think about that for a minute:  Would you ever keep a reserve of malt extract and add that back to a beer, unless maybe to condition it?  Grape juice does not taste like wine, it tastes like grape juice and the result of adding it back is something that tastes vaguely like grape jelly.  Remembering what my vintner friends in Germany do to produce an off-dry wine, we waited, tested and when the wine was as sweet as we wanted, we added sulfite and sorbate to stop the fermentation and stabilize the wine.  The result matches the great Mosel Reislings I remember fairly well, even though there’s no Reisling in the blend. I may be bottling wines tomorrow and the white blend may be one I’ll forego the occassional bottle of beer to drink.

Today we’re gathering up supplies for the Kentucky Derby party next weekend, 2016’s first beer disposal event.  Cheers!

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Brew Day, Maerzen

Okay, so I don’t have umlauts on my tablet keyboard.

There’s something about brewing in April for September consumption but back in the day when lagering was done in ice caves in the Alps, it was what the had to do.  But it is a beautiful sight:

image

I got about 86% conversion out of this batch using a 131 degree, 20 minute protein rest, a 152 degree 60 minute saccarification rest and a 15 minute 170 degree sparge.  The wort came out gorgeous, as you see above.  I got 6 gallons out of it and it’s perking away downstairs at 53 degrees.

All in all an uneventful brew day.  No major catastrophes, nothing went wrong.  Those are the good ones, when you get what you want from the grain and the process, about the only thing that made the day noteworthy was the 25 inches of new Denver snow in the background as I brewed.  But the wind was calm, something I treasure when brewing outside since the least puff of wind can blow my burner out.

My Saison is still chugging away, the brave little yeast cells slurping up the last of the sugars.  It’s down to 1.005 – Wyeast 3724 takes its time but is worth the wait.  It’s now fermenting at 86 degrees, the highest setting on my aquarium heater.  The yeast, known for their finicky nature, seem happy and that’s what matters.  My Kentucky Common is cold crashing.  I’ll put some gelatine in it Wednesday evening to clarify it up for bottling.  It has to be ready for Kentucky Derby day, May 7th.  Still plenty of time to condition.

Fermentation habit number 4 paid off:  I made pizza dough and homemade mozzarella cheese during the Snowpocalypse, pizza from it today.  Sorry, Papa Whozits, mine’s better, right down to the homemade sauce.

Updates

I just pulled a sample of my Kentucky Common.  It finished 2 points lower than I’d wanted – not bad considering I underpitched.  Fermentation control – keeping the temperature cool and within a tight range when the beer is starting to ferment, then letting it warm at the end, is a highly recommended practice.

My other adventures in fermentation are going well.  I’ve made about three batches of fully-fermented sourdough bread over the last two weeks and have been amazed at each.  Not since I lived in Germany have I had such good bread!  The practices used to make the bread are very easy and the results spectacular.

I have a local sourdough starter getting started.  Right now it smells very funky.  Unless it cleans itself up I’ll be feeding it to the sewage system rather than using it to feed doughs.  But I’m following the instructions:  The smell is exactly that of a sour mash.  Come to think of it, the fermentation is very similar.  I’ve mixed up unsanitized flour with water, let it stand open on the countertop to capture wild yeast and bacteria and have cultivated that through warmth.  Since I’m feeding every day as long as it doesn’t go too enteric on me, the “good” yeast and bacteria should crowd out the smelly stuff.  I’m hoping anyway.

My Pre-Prohibition pale ale is great, bitter but not too much so, black currant flavors from the Cluster hops.  Grodziskie also turned out very nice, clear and bubbly and smoky.  I’m happy with all my late winter beers so far.  It seems the Inkbird was a good investment.

Cheers!

Brew Day: Kentucky Common

Today’s brew was the poor man’s brew in northern Kentucky pre-Prohibition.  I’m finding I really like the styles before the Great Mistake – they were more flavorful, stronger, heartier brews than the fizzy yellow stuff that predominated due to economic conditions after Prohibition was repealed.  Here in Colorado, we’re still dealing with some of the fallout.  Our grocery stores can’t sell wine and can only sell 3.2 beer.  That’s 3.2 Alcohol by Weight, not the normal ABV which for 3.2 beer is about 4.5%  The law that forces groceries to sell weaker beer had an unintended consequence:  Local liquor stores, also limited by an obscure Colorado law to one license per person/business, could be talked into stocking local craft brews.  Little breweries didn’t have to pursuade a corporate buyer to stock the stuff, they only had to pursuade the independent liquor store owner down the street.  As a result, Colorado is in competition for craft beer capital of the US.

Of course, the grocery stores want to repeal the 3.2 law.  It won’t be the end of craft beer in Colorado if it passes but it will slow the growth of new smaller breweries.

The brew day was uneventful.  I hit my numbers, no catastrophes, an uneventful relaxing day.  The beer is being made for a Kentucky Derby party so it has to be done by May 7th.  It’s a close schedule but completely reasonable, even given a week to cold-condition and clarify.

I now have a new zymurgological endevour, baking.  Speciically, baking artisan sourdough breads.  It has a lot in common with brewing, four ingredients (flour, yeast, in this case, via a starter, water and salt), fermentation, temperature control, time….  I’ve learned some artisinal techniques that give me great bread with a good crumb, something I couldn’t get before.  I’ll share some of those adventures as well as they happen.  Tomorrow will be the second, the first was a European-style “bauernbrot”, almost the equal of the great breads of Germany.  And I’m changing the title above to reflect the new avocation.  It’s certainly yummy and believe it or not, some of the flavors are exactly the same.

Recipe for Nosy’s Kentucky Common: http://www.brewersfriend.com/homebrew/recipe/view/342571/ky-common-5-1