Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Beer Names

So, at Labor of Love, I had some people ask about the brewery name and my beer names.  The brewery name, Steel Rain, comes from the artillery.  Artillery rounds are made of steel, and they rain down on the enemy.  Pretty straight forward.  The beer names can be more obscure, I admit.

The first beer I named was my double IPA, which I called Charge 8 Imperial IPA.  At the time, I was assigned as Platoon Leader/Fire Direction Officer for a M119A2 battery.  The M119A2 is a 105mm howitzer, and the max charge for the weapon system is normally called charge 7 (there are seven increments).  Charge 8 can be used, but rarely is, to boost the max range from ~11.5km to ~13.7km.

Here are some of the other beers and the stories behind the names:

Willy Pete Wheat – a German-style hefeweizen, named after the nickname for white phosphorous, which is used in artillery rounds for smoke screens now, but used to be an anti-personnel weapon.

Enzo’s English Ale – my only non-artillery named beer, this is an English Pale Ale named after our dog, Enzo, who is an English Springer Spaniel

D30 Russian Imperial Stout – a RIS named after a still in wide use Russian made 122mm howitzer.  Some friends on mine used them while training the Afghan army a few years ago, named in their honor.

Killer Junior IPA – Killer Junior is a direct fire (as opposed to normal indirect fire) technique where an HE round is fitted with a time fuze and the fuze is set to function over a target very close to the gun’s position.  Killer Junior referred to the technique when used by 105mm and 155mm howitzers.  Killer Senior was used with 203mm howitzers.  The name comes from the call sign of the battery that developed the technique during the Vietnam War.

Fiddler’s Green Farmhouse Ale – a Belgian-style saison, the name comes from the legendary Valhalla where artillerymen go when they die.  “Halfway down the trail to hell in a shady meadow green, Are the souls of all dead Redlegs camped near a good old-time canteen, And this eternal resting place is known as Fiddler's Green.”

Blockhouse Blonde Ale – every artilleryman knows the namesake of this beer, Blockhouse Signal Mountain, which sits on top of the most prominent point in the impact area at Fort Sill.

Canon de 12 – a Belgian Dark Strong Ale, also called a Belgian Quad.  This beer is named after a WWII Belgian medium field gun, the Canon de 12 cm L mle 1931

Redleg Red Lager – A Vienna-style lager with a red tint.  Redlegs are artillerymen.  In the Civil War, Union artillerymen wore red stripes down the sides of their blue uniform pants, and were called Redlegs.  The name endures today.

Thus ends today’s lesson on beer and artillery.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Gold Medal!!

So, I’d say Labor of Love was a smashing success for Steel Rain Brewing!  We took home gold in the Strong Belgian Ale category with our Fiddler’s Green Farmhouse Ale!  Both scorecards had great comments about the beer, especially about how dry it ended up.  I’ll be using that Wyeast 3711 on all my saisons from now on!  The only negative was one judge would have liked to have seen better head retention.

Killer Junior didn’t score nearly as well, though, with both judges commenting that it was watery and very astringent.  Since it was very good the first time around, I’ll go back and see what I might have done differently, and then try it again a third time and try to get it right!  It was really good the first time, and still pretty good, I thought, this time.  Obviously the judges disagreed.  It happens!

We’ve got Operation Bravo coming up next, at Shannon Brewing Company in Keller.  I’m entering Canon de 12, a Belgian Dark Strong Ale (sometimes called a Belgian quad).  It should be pretty much done fermenting by now, and the yeast should be working hard cleaning up after themselves!  I’ll probably try to keg it after we get home from vacation.  My plan is to naturally carbonate a handful of bottles, then the rest in the keg.  Belgians are almost always naturally carbonated, so I’m going to stick with that.  Not sure if I’m going to repitch yeast at kegging time or not yet.  That’s sitting in the pantry working away at around 78F.  There’s a new beer fermenting in the chest freezer now.

The blonde ale I’m doing for the baby show for my brother and his wife is all brewed and should also be ready for the keg when we get back from vacation.  I missed my OG by a bit, I was under again.  I’ve missed my target a few times in a row now; I’m not getting the efficiencies that I had been.  I might start trying a double-crush on the grains and see if that helps.  I really don’t care what the number is, as long as I can stay consistent, I can make up for lower efficiency with more grain.

Anyway, that’s it for now.  In case anyone reading wants to try their hand at making their own great saison, here’s the recipe I used for the gold medal winner!

11lbs Dingemanns Pilsner
Mash at 151F for 90 minutes
90 minute boil
1oz Cascade @ 60
1oz Cascade @ 15
1oz Cascade @ 5
1oz Cascade dry-hopped for last 5 days of fermentation

Wyeast 3711 starter

Pitched at 65F and kept it there for 3 days or so, then let it free rise to 76 and kept it there for another 10 days or so.  After that, it went into the house and sat in the pantry at ~78F ambient for another week before going into the keg.  Carbed cold in the keg (warm in bottles) to 2.8 volumes of CO2.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Long Wait

The day is almost upon us.  Labor of Love is 4 days away!  Four days until the rest of the world (or at least 1000+ people who attend a homebrew festival in Dallas) is introduced to the epic wonderfulness that is Steel Rain Brewing!  I cracked open one of the last two bottles of Killer Junior last night, and it’s fantastic.  I’ve sampled both it and Fiddler’s Green from the kegs, and they’re both really damn good and ready for Sunday.  I’m getting pretty excited about it.  Between the wait for this, and the wait for the start of college football on Saturday, this has already been the LONGEST. WEEK. EVER!

I’m also looking forward to meeting other DFW-area homebrewers, and sampling some of their wares.  Homebrewers are a very experimental lot, I so expect some wacky stuff to be out there.  If you’re out there to come support me and taste my beer, be sure to stop by and check out New Main Brewing as well.  He always has good stuff on tap, and has a great blog worth checking out.
I’ve been thinking about how I want to keep my beer cold out in the September heat.  The ideal way would be a jockey box.  Those are pretty pricy, though.  The low end ones are $250 to $300 for a double tap system.  Or, I can just pick up a big trashcan at Lowe’s and pack that sucker with ice around the two kegs, and serve from picnic taps, which I already have.  Yeah, I think I’ll go that route.  If it turns out that other people actually like my beer, then maybe I’ll think about a jockey box for future events.

So, if you’re bored and have nothing to do on Sunday evening (and remember, Monday is a holiday!), come on out to Labor of Love 4 at Deep Ellum Brewing Company in Dallas.  Tickets (they call them memberships in order to be legal with the Gestapo TABC) are $35 and can be purchased at http://www.lolhomebrew.com.  You need to pick your affiliated homebrew club.  I can be found under Steel Rain Brewing (duh).

Next up on the brewing schedule is a simple Blonde Ale for my brother and sister-in-law’s baby shower that we’re hosting at the end of October.  I took a popular recipe from the HomeBrewTalk forums that has a bunch of good reviews and went with it.

7lbs 2-row
¾ lb Carapils
½ lb Crystal 20L (recipe called for 10L, but Dallas Homebrew was out, at only ½ lb, shouldn’t change the recipe all that much)
½ lb Vienna

½ oz Centennial @ 60
½ oz Cascade @ 15
½ oz Cascade @ 5

Danstar Nottingham ale yeast

See everyone on Sunday!