Friday, February 12, 2016

More Competitions

For those who are friends with me on Facebook, you might have seen my post about Martin House’s Riverside Shootout coming up in April.  Basically, they invite homebrewers out to their brewery to brew for a competition (there’s a $45 per team fee, each team can have up to 3 people).  It’s a staggered start to make sure they have enough power and pre-heated water for everyone.  They’ll provide as much 2-row malt as you need, any other base grains, and all specialty grains, will have to be provided by the homebrewer.  They also provide all the hops that you’ll need, and they have several varieties to choose from.  The homebrewers will take home the wort they get from the brew day, plus Martin House will give each brewer enough yeast to pitch.  They have two strains they’ll give out, their house strain, which is similar to WLP001, and their custom saison blend.  The hops that can be used are Columbus, Chinook, Cascade, Sorachi Ace, Falconer’s Flight, German Polaris, US Brewers Gold, Czech Saaz, French Strisselspalt, and US Northern Brewer.

They want people to push the envelope of creativity, and brew something they haven’t thought of before.  I’m more of a traditional brewer, so that’s a little strange for me.  I’ll push the boundaries of a style a bit, but I don’t get too crazy with fruits, spices, herbs, etc, in my beers, so coming up with something unique, while staying true to how I like to brew, will be a challenge.

As anyone who has read more than a couple of entries on here will already know, I’m a big fan of Belgian beers.  So, that’s my starting point here, using their saison yeast blend.  I’ve had their River House Saison a few times, and I’ve really enjoyed it, so I know I can work with that yeast.  I starting thinking about what I can do that’s going to be different.  Belgian IPAs are pretty common these days, but how about a hybrid of a hybrid, and do a Belgain Rye IPA?  The rye malt flavors should pair well with the spices created by the yeast, and some floral and citrusy hops will add nice aroma, flavor, and just enough bitterness.  That’s the plan anyway. 

Instead of going in totally blind, I think I’m going to do a test run of the recipe in a smaller, 1 gallon batch, first.  If it turns out good, then I’ll scale it up to 6 gallons for the competition brew.  If it turns out bad, well, I’m only out a gallon of beer, and I’ll think of a backup plan.  So, I started with a regular 6 gallon (5.75 gallons, actually, since I lose about .75 gallons to fermentation losses with the ported Big Mouth Bubblers) batch, then scaled it down to 1.25 gallons (I assume I’ll lose about .25 gallons to fermentation losses, but I’m not too worried about it).

Here’s the full 5.75 gallon recipe:

Grain Bill
5lbs 2-Row (Great Western)
5lbs Pilsner (Briess)
4lbs Rye Malt (Briess)
0.25lbs Carapils (Briess)

Mash @ 152 for 60 minutes

90 minutes boil

Hop Schedule
2oz Cascade and 0.5oz Falconer’s Flight @ 60 minutes
2oz Cascade @ 20 minutes
1oz Cascade and 0.5oz Falconer’s Flight @ 10 minutes
1oz Falconer’s Flight and 2oz Cascade @ 1 minute
2oz Cascade and 1oz Falconer’s Flight dry-hopped for last 10 days
For the test batch, I think I’ll use WLP568, which is White Labs’ Belgian saison blend.  Hopefully that will get me close enough to what they use.  I’ll use the same fermentation schedule for both:

5 days at 70°F, then let it rise up to 80°F over the next 6 days. Then bring down to around 72°F and dry hop for the last 10 days.  Then I’ll cold crash before bottling, and let them carb up for 3 weeks or so.  Hopefully, they turn out amazing, and I’ll use the big recipe for the competition.

Oh, here’s what it scales down to:

1.4lbs of 2-row and pilsner
1.1lbs of rye
0.8oz of carapils

The hops are a bit trickier since IBU calculations include boil volume, but here’s what I got to get the IBUs right around the same:

.5oz Cascade/.15oz Falconer’s Flight @ 60
.5oz Cascade @ 20
.25oz Cascade/.15oz Falconer’s Flight @ 10
.25oz Falconer’s Flight .5oz Cascade @ 1
.5oz Cascade/.25oz Falconer’s Flight dry-hopped

Hopefully that’s not too confusing.  Eventually, I’m sure I’ll break out of my homebrewing shell and play around with wacky ingredients, but I like what I like.  And remember, I did do a pumpkin spice saison that turned out pretty damn good a couple of falls ago!

As for what’s up between now and Riverside Shootout, I’ll probably still try to brew a batch of the Canon de 12 quad to get it aging.  There should be plenty of time between finishing the pilot batch of the Belgian Rye IPA (tentatively named Blindicide after a Belgian version of the bazooka) and the actual competition brew day at Martin House.  After that I’ll have to start thinking about what I want to do for Deep Ellum’s Labor of Love this year.  I might have to try to repeat my gold medal with the Fiddler’s Green Farmhouse Ale!

As for Bluebonnet Brew-Off, I won’t know the results until March 12th.  That’s a drill weekend for me, so unfortunately I won’t be able to make the awards ceremony.  Hopefully David will be able to make it and can text me if we win anything for Steel Main Dark Mild, or if either of us wins for individual entries.

Happy Friday everyone, enjoy the beautiful weekend!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Quick Update

After serving my two week sentence training at Fort Sill, I’m back and the Dark Mild was ready for sampling.  David tried his a couple of weeks back and also shared it with the guys at Atypical DFW Podcast (definitely a NSFW podcast, you’ve been warned!).  They all seemed to enjoy it quite a bit and that’s a good sign, since we entered his into Bluebonnet.  I kegged mine and got it on CO2 before I left, so it was ready when I got home.  I poured a pint last night, and it was delicious.  The malt really shines through, with just enough bitterness from the hops for a good balance.  At 3% on the dot, it’s also very sessionable.  We’re both hoping that it does very well at Bluebonnet.

As for The Chestnut Troop Best Bitter, I racked it onto the yeast cake from the mild and let it sit for the two weeks I was gone at around 73°F.  I kegged it last night, and the diacetyl is all gone, and it finished at 1.010.  I’m really glad that racking onto the yeast from the mild worked to get rid of the diacetyl, but I’m guessing that in the process, I introduced too much oxygen to the beer, as I have a strong green apple flavor.  That off flavor is generally caused by acetaldehyde, which can be caused by oxidation or infection.  I was very careful with my sanitation, so I’m confident it’s not an infection, but oxidation was a worry for sure.  I’m hoping that with a little time, it’ll clean itself up.  Even with the acetaldehyde, it’s way better than it was with the diacetyl, so I’ll take the tradeoff.

I moved the mild into the chest freezer and bumped it down to 45°F and put the now-kegged bitter into the kegerator and hooked up the CO2 so it can get carbonated.  Once I empty a keg, I’ll move the mild over and it will be already carbonated, so it'll be ready to drink immediately.

With 4 kegs now, I’m pretty set for the time being, so no brew days are planned as of now.  Once a keg blows, I’ll plan a day to brew another batch of Canon de 12 so I can have it aging and ready for Operation Bravo again this year in November.  After that, I’m not sure what the future holds for brewing.  I need to do another IPA soon, since it’s been a while since the last one.  I’m not sure if I’ll do another batch of Charge 8 or Killer Junior, or try something new.  I’d also like to try again with a lager, maybe a Maibock.

Above, I linked to a podcast that David from New Main Brewing has started participating in.  It’s a pretty good listen for craft beer fans.  Check them out!

Short one today, that’s all for now.