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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Oops!

I kinda thought I had already done this. When I started planning my next post (which is coming shortly), I realized I had never mentioned St Patrick's Day.

Well, I won, again. We had what I thought was the biggest challenge, a lager. And, not just any lager. Our drawn beer this time was schwarzbier, a German black lager.

As I read the style guidelines, I thought that it looked very much like a porter, but with lager yeast. So, I thought I would simply use my favorite porter recipe, and change the yeast and hops.

===========================================================
Spaceballs: The Beer
--------------------
Brewer: Joe Labeck
Style: Schwarzbier
Batch: 2.00 galExtract

Characteristics
---------------
Recipe Gravity: 1.049 OG
Recipe Bitterness: 41 IBU
Recipe Color: 45° SRM
Estimated FG: 1.012
Alcohol by Volume: 4.8%
Alcohol by Weight: 3.8%

Ingredients
-----------
Amber malt extract            2.00 lb, Extract, Extract
American chocolate malt       0.50 lb, Grain, Steeped
Crystal 120L                  0.50 lb, Grain, Steeped
Molasses                      0.33 lb, Sugar, Extract

Tettnanger                    1.00 oz, Pellet, 0 minutes
Tettnanger                    1.00 oz, Pellet, 60 minutes

Lager yeast                   1.00 unit, Yeast,


========================================================




For me, the greatest difficulty was how to produce a lager without a temperature controlled cooler, or a cave.

A Mr. Beer keg, a roasting pan, water, a towel, and a small fan, and I was in business. Fermentation took about a month.

The final product was exactly what I had hoped for, a nice, clean lager, with just a hint of the roasted malts and molasses.

Winning was nice. But, as always, making and sharing the beer was the best.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

I'm Hungry! You?

I've mentioned before, I'm stuck at home alone while my wife is at work. Sometimes that means I need to get creative to satisfy hunger pangs, or a sweet tooth.

I came across a group of microwave snack recipes, and decided to try one; Cinnamon Bun Cake.

Whenever I try out a new recipe, I line up the ingredients, so I can be sure I have everything. Well, I didn't. I don't have buttermilk, so I decided to try regular milk. Uh, oh. No brown sugar, This may stop me fast.

But wait! I have molasses, and sugar. I know that's all brown sugar is, so if I can find the right formula, I'm good.
 And, there it is.

Everything else seems OK. Oops, applesauce. Hmm, doing my Pooh impression. (Think, think, think)

We do have apples. I wonder if I can just puree one. Well, I tried it, and the results looked right.

 OK, so everything is all lined up, and we are good to go.

In separate cups, I mixed the dry and the wet/damp ingredients, then combined them.

The recipe calls for microwaving everything for one minute, and that's exactly what I did.
Looks good.

I let it cool for a few minutes, then tried it. Delicious!

The texture wasn't quite right, but the taste was wonderful!

Next time I try this (And there WILL be a next time.) I think I'll microwave it a bit longer, maybe 5 seconds more. I know microwave ovens vary, so it's just a matter of dialing in the right time.

But the taste! This is absolutely a keeper.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Really?

I started brewing in 1989. That means I've been making beer for...um (2015-1989=26) 26 years. You would think that I had gone every path by now.

But no! I'm making a beer, by kit, that I never have tried before; a Bavarian Weissbier. And, I just developed a recipe for my first lambic-ish brew,

Anybody who has brewed for any length of time can appreciate this. There's always another hill, another turn, another door. Somebody is out there, trying different combinations and flavors.

I forget who said it, but I have to agree; We are in a new Golden Age of brewing.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Now What?

Now, I find myself on the horns of a dilemma. I had developed a couple of recipes that sounded like fun, tailored for my Mr Beer keg. Just yesterday, Mr Beer sent me a coupon for 10% off any recipe in their database.
So, I poked around a bit, and found a couple of recipes that sound really tasty. After I figured the discount, the price came out to almost exactly the same.
Now what do I do? Experiment, Or a tried and true recipe? I'M SO CONFUSED!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Back To Beer

There's one theme I constantly go back to; in this blog, in my other online sites, in my old podcast. If you start with wort, and use yeast, you're a homebrewer. I've seen and heard others try and draw the lines more restrictively.

Really, it doesn't matter what method you use to get your wort. Did you develop your recipe, fine-tuning your grain bill until it had just the flavor profile you wanted? Did you think long and hard about the hopping schedule, so each addition brought something unique? Great! Did you heat up a can of mix? Good! I do both, depending on time, money, and mood. There's room for both ends, and anything in between.







So, The beer I have fermenting now, and the next, are both kits from Mr Beer. (I don't get anything. They aren't a sponsor.)

Is it the best I've ever had? Well, no. That's not the point. It's good drinkable beer that I made. That's the only claim I make, and really, the only claim I ever make.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Unexpected Expected news

I apologize for the delay.

I have several sites online, as you may know, and I wrestled for some time with exactly where to put this. The news was rather personal, but relates in many way to what we all grapple with daily.

Over the last 10-15 years, I've found myself in declining health. I've had increasing difficulty in standing without support, and walking without assistance. I've been seeing doctors, to try and pin down a cause, and I finally got some answers. They aren't good.

I have a form of ataxia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ataxia) without specific cause, and therefore no specific course of treatment. It also means I'm not getting better.

That takes some getting used to. The future doesn't look anything like it did a few months ago. I had hoped for a retirement full of exploration, adventure, and travel. Instead, I look at a future of isolation and immobility.

Now that I've decided where to put my thoughts, I hope to more faithfully document those thoughts. As we work through a treatment plan, I intend to let you all know how I'm doing, and whether or not the plan is showing any success.

One bright ray of hope is that there is a plan. It seems relatively certain that there will be a decline in my abilities, But we can do a great deal to ensure that the downward slope is as shallow and gentle as possible.

The on thing that I hate about this more than anything else is the isolation. So many friends, from so many years, that I'll probably never see again. That makes me sad. I hope to find, somehow, a way to become more mobile, and see some of those people who have touched me so deeply over the years.

Well, that's all for now. I promise to post more frequently.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

OK, My Turn

I've thought about this a bit. Nearly everyone else has weighed in on this, so I might as well, too.

Budweiser ran an ad during the Super Bowl, I'm sure you know. They've been criticized for the tone of the ad, I'm sure you know.

If you read my blog you know I'm a homebrewer. If you know me, you know I happen to like Bud. It's actually a very good beer. I've always said the problem is not that Bud is bad. It's all about choice. Their are times when what I really want is an American pilsener. Just not all the time.

However, I have to partially agree with the ad. There are some in the craft beer community who are entirely too pretentious. I love playing with fruits, spices, herbs, flavors. Your beer doesn't have to have these to be good.

There's plenty of room in my fridge to have both Budweiser and an artfully crafted microbrew.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Am I Bad?

I have a Mr Beer fermenter. It's a concession to my physical state. I can't lift a big fermenter any more, so I have to make smaller batches. It's worked well for me.

I also just ordered a Mr Beer American Ale refill for it. The kits  make really good, not spectacular, beer. I needed something quick. It was on sale. It was on a site where I get a cash rebate. It just seemed to make good sense.

Of course , me being me, I couldn't leave "well enough" alone. So, to the regular ale I added, 1 tsp coriander, 1 tbs orange zest, 1 tbs cinnamon, and 1/3 cup molasses. My intent was to boost the alcohol slightly, and make this a heartier tasting ale, for the cold winter.

Did I succeed? We'll find out in a couple of weeks. Am I bad for using a kit? I don't think so. I've said for years, if you make a wort and use yeast. you're a homebrewer. All the rest is choice.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

First Time For Everything

Well, I've done something I never thought I would do. I ordered a Mr. Beer refill. What can I say? I had the money, I got a rebate, and the beer is very good.

I ordered the American Ale. I'm sure it's a very good beer, but I can't just leave it alone. I have to do something. I was thinking of using it as a base for a holiday ale of sorts.

I would start with the can of hopped extract, and add a bit of brown sugar, molasses, cinnamon, and orange zest. I think it sounds yummy, and I have everything on hand, so it won't cost a penny.

I think I'll do it.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Stupid, Stupid, Stupid!

 
Sometimes, I'm really stupid. I mean, really, incredibly dense.

In my last post, I related the story of the delays I encountered in getting my supplies. I had ordered ingredients for 3 different beers, 2 ales and a lager. The original plan was to quickly get the ales done, so I would have beer while the lager slowly did its thing.

Because of the delay, I had to get the schwarzbier started right away. That left me with two sixpacks to last about 6 weeks. The math doesn't quite work out. What could I do? Maybe (cringe) buy some beer? Get a new fermenter?

My eyes fell on the bottle I used to use as my fermenter. I'm 61, and  physically disabled. I fall down a lot, and can no longer carry, or lift, 5 gallons of beer. That's why I use a Mr. Beer keg as my fermenter, now. Two gallons is an ideal size; easy to lift, enough to last awhile.

Suddenly, the heavens parted, a choir of angels started singing, and I realized something. Just because a bottle holds 5 gallons doesn't mean you have to brew that much.


Duh.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Finally!

I had intended to write this piece way back in early December. As family tradition dictates, we held our drawing on Thanksgiving to determine what style we would compete in on St Patrick's Day. The card came up (drum roll) Schwarzbier! The German black lager.

Our friend, judge, and Beer Snob, Will Siss, described it as an interesting choice, a beer that is  at the same time, dark in color, light in body.

This is my obligatory Will Siss plug. Please read him. http://beersnobwrites.com/

I had brewed one once, long ago. I had more hair, better balance, a house, a job. I felt it best to approach it as a new project, and not depend on memories of 20 years ago. In researching the style guidelines, I noticed that the fermentables looked very much like my favorite, a porter. An idea began to form.

What would happen, I wondered, if I simply took my porter recipe, and swapped out the yeast and hops? It sounded like fun, and an interesting experiment. I immediately put an order in with my brewshop, and that's where my problems started.

They were having trouble with their suppliers, and didn't have what I needed. I waited, waited, and waited a bit more. When it got close to a month, I called them. They were very apologetic, and tried hard to get something close to what I needed. In the end, the only change I had to make wasn't a big one. Instead of dark extract, I used amber. Still plenty dark enough.

Here's the final recipe -

====================================================
Spaceballs: The Beer
--------------------
Brewer: Joe Labeck
Style: Schwarzbier
Batch: 2.00 galExtract

Characteristics
---------------
Recipe Gravity: 1.049 OG
Recipe Bitterness: 41 IBU
Recipe Color: 45° SRM
Estimated FG: 1.012
Alcohol by Volume: 4.8%
Alcohol by Weight: 3.8%

Ingredients
-----------
Amber malt extract            2.00 lb, Extract, Extract
American chocolate malt       0.50 lb, Grain, Steeped
Crystal 120L                  0.50 lb, Grain, Steeped
Molasses                      0.33 lb, Sugar, Extract

Tettnanger                    1.00 oz, Pellet, 0 minutes
Tettnanger                    1.00 oz, Pellet, 60 minutes

Lager yeast                   1.00 unit, Yeast,
=====================================================


Anyone who knows me knows that one thing I love about brewing is naming my beer. Now, "Spaceballs" is not my favorite Mel Brooks movie. I do like how he takes aim at marketing. From Spaceballs: The Video to Spaceballs: The Placemat, you can see it everywhere. If you've ever seen the film, you know that as soon as I had a beer with  the word "schwarz" in it, the name was done.


Now, how to brew a lager? When I did it years ago, it was simple. Our unheated basement stayed around 50 degrees, perfect for a lager. A second floor apartment is a bit different. How do you bring the temperature down to lager level, without a massive cash outlay?


A roasting pan, a dishtowel, and a fan did the trick.




I checked the temperature after it had stabilized, and found it to be about 58 degrees. I think that should be fine.


Now, we wait. I know lager yeast works more slowly, so I won't even consider my next step until sometime in February.


I had brewed a porter some time ago, and I plan to hold a couple of bottles aside, for comparison.