I’m now going into my second year of homebrewing and it’s starting to get wild. Sometimes hobbies fade, but this one still seems to be picking up momentum. In the beginning I was brewing almost exclusively out of the essential Brewing Classic Styles recipe book, with a few clone recipes mixed in. I think this was a good start, because it helped me learn about malts, hops, and yeast; their varieties and peculiarities. I am by no means an expert on these things after 2 years, but I recently decided it’s time to grow up. Time to start making my own recipes. Orange-chocolate saison was one of the first.
It’s fall. Fall means apples and pumpkins. Right now I’m fermenting both. I wanted to do a quick cider redux, since the first was more musings about driving into the hills and less recipe. Remember that cider is fermented apple juice, or what some call hard cider. It is the quintessential American alcohol, brought to prominence when the water was unsafe to drink and the boiled juice was unknowingly sterilized.
Cider is a crisp, delicious drink; to me the intersection between Champagne and Beer. Perfect for fall and the rich meals that it brings. And if you want to start fermenting your own booze, cider is a great place to start.
For some reason this year I am very excited for the onset of fall. All I can think about is apples and pumpkins. A few weeks ago Suzi and I headed up to Julian with some friends of ours, in search of fresh apples. The mission: home brew cider. Continue reading Home Brewed Julian Apple Cider
The third beer in my Summer Belgian Series is a dubbel (pronounced double). I brewed this beer a few weeks ago and it has spawned no end of discussion among my friends, as to the nature of dubbel, trippel, and quadrupel (and singel?). In San Diego we have all become accustomed to the West Coast style of pale ales; Double and Triple IPAs. These are strong, highly hopped beers in the IPA tradition, having twice (or three times) the alcohol and hops of a normal IPA. From that we might be tempted draw a similar parallel in Belgian beers (or in point of fact, to assume the West Coast Pale Ales have copied the Belgian naming tradition); we’d be mostly right.
After several months of home brewing, I became obsessed with the idea of making cider. By that I mean fermented apple juice, sometimes called hard cider. My fascination was borne of the romanticism of apples and cider in American History. As apple pie is a traditional and quintessential American dessert, so is cider an historical American beverage.
Cider was the beverage of choice during colonial times, due to unsafe drinking water. Later Johnny Appleseed collected seeds from cider mills and started tree nurseries across the American Frontier (at the time, Ohio). In The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan points out that since these apples were started from seed (and thus not true to type) they would not be good for eating. The implication is that Johnny A. was running a cottage industry for cider production. Continue reading Experiment: Apple Cider Vinegar
At Lunatic Central we have been home brewing for 6 months. We started off making mostly darker American Ales. The dark malt, clean fermenting yeast, and high hop rates were able to mask (mostly) our lack of temperature control. But now we have temperature control, the world is our oyster. We decided to dedicate the summer over to brewing Belgian style ales. Ironic since Belgian ales are known for their yeasty character. In fact many of them favor higher fermentation temperatures; in some cases eliminating the need for temperature control altogether. Such is life.
The second most common I get about home brewing is: “How do you make beer?” What follows is a brief explanation of how beer is made. This is not a “how to”, but rather what physicists would call a cartoon picture; a sort of summary of what’s happening. The most important thing to understand about beer is fermentation; the conversion of sugars to alcohol and CO2. Fermentation is carried out by yeast. So the basic recipe is, make a sugar solution, add yeast, wait, and then you have beer. Of course the actual implementation is more complicated, but this is why apple juice bottles swell up if left in the fridge too long.
Jamil Zainasheff, guru of all things homebrew, is oft qutoed as saying, “Proper fermentation is what sets apart great beers from just OK beers.” The first part of proper fermentation is using the right amount of yeast. The second part is temperature control. Fermentation temperature plays a crucial role in the final flavor of beer. Too cold and the yeast might not go. Too warm and off flavors are produced. Depending on the style, ingredients, and yeast, proper fermentation temperature ranges from about 45 to 85 F. Given this range, and the need to keep the beer at temperature for anywhere from 2-12 weeks, the only logical choice is to build a fermentation chamber.
Today we spent the afternoon gardening and letting the chickens run around. We harvested 5 lbs of delicious apricots from a neighbor’s tree that is growing over the fence. We visited Costco and they had some awesome looking berries at a great price. When we got home I set up to do some beer maintenance stuff on the Bier de Garde we brewed two weeks ago. Since I was going to be standing around the kitchen for an hour, I figured why not do something with those berries. Today was a Saturday of B’s; Bier de Garde, blackberry sorbet, and blueberry pie.
Home brewing has exploded in San Diego. A trip to Home Brew Mart is enough to tell you that there are lots of brewers out there, and some of them are quite serious. In spite of that, there remains a great deal of mystery about brewing, especially at home. I am surprised that the most common question I get is: “How do you bottle your beer?”. Continue reading Bottling Beer