Thursday, November 21, 2013

Visiting a homebrewer with a sweet hookup

My friend Dave offered to introduce me to his good buddy Jason who is a wicked good home brewer. Jason's been brewing for years and turned his garage into a sweet little nano brewery. Equipped with a two tiered brewing system that is temperature controlled by his smart phone and oh yeah, in the back is a fridge with 4 taps. Yes, please... Where do I sign up for this... (including the extra space)?

Another awesome tidbit, is that most of Jason's contraptions, he built himself after researching structures and equipment online.

Jason does all grain brewing. I have yet to venture to this, but I'm planning in a few weeks to make the jump. I've broken down all grain into these simple steps. Most of my beers I have done some seeping of grains to extract wort, but I've been using extracts too, that are basically condensed wort to expedite the process. All grain is the process that all professional breweries use. In home-brewing it adds about 3-4 hours to the process, which means your brew day could be 7-9 hours. This is probably why the occasional home brewers uses extract, because you could brew a beer in about 4 hours.  


MASH: The Mash is all your beer's grains. You want to extract the sugars from the grains by adding water and heating them. (Ratio: 1lb of grain 1L of water) Maintain temperature at 148-158 degrees.

SPARGE: Sparging is the process of rinsing the off the grains and just extracting the liquid that now has the sugar from the grains. You'll want to collect around 6.5 gallons in the end. The most efficient way to sparge is called continuous sparging. As you are extracting the liquid you're also adding 170 degree water to the top of the grain bed at the same rate.

WORT: Wort is what you're left with after sparging.You should have about 6.5 gallons of the sweet liquid.

BOIL: Begin to boil your wort (usually for an hour) add hops, spices to make your beer unique.

On this brew day Jason was brewing a pumpkin beer and we also helped him with a cider, chopping up the apples for the mash. He told me how easy it was to turn a cider or an apple juice hard. This made me want to experiment with ciders and different flavor combinations since the process was so quick in comparison to brewing time. I will write about my ciders soon. 

When I took the train out to his place I was reading Zymugry and it happened to be the fall issue on pumpkin beers. Jason had approached his pumpkin beer similarly to the recipe outlined in the magazine. He was brewing an all grain beer and adding the pumpkin puree to the mash with rice hulls to help increase the drainage of the grain bed and prevent everything getting stuck together. Sometimes Jason also reuses his malts from the mash to make bread, he set aside some of the grains from the pumpkin beer for this purpose.

One of Jason's friends, Andrew, also came by to help out on brew day too. He brought one of the original bottles of La Folie, to share with us. The three of them had been to New Belgium years ago when they were first starting to make sours and happened to pick up a few bottles while they were there. Sours, like wine, and some other other barrel ages beers, age better with time. Wow, needless to say it was a super tasty brew day!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Hot Squash

Hot Squash, is my other pumpkin beer, a savory pumpkin ale. This is my second beer that I brewed with my own unique recipe. Christian, at BrewCamp, helped recommend which malts would go best with this type of ale.

My homemade sweet-potato curry mash. I love sweet-potatoes and one of my favorite ways to cook and eat them is mashed. I usually bake sliced sweet-potatoes with a bit of coconut oil and crushed fresh pepper. When they are soft and edges are crisp I puree them in my Cuisinart with sweet and hot curries, yum! I wanted to take these flavors and translate them into a pumpkin beer. A savory pumpkin beer that isn't too sweet and has some spicy kick.
I'm a big fan of spices and I think fresh is the best. One of my favorite spice shops is The Spice House in Old Town. They have a great selection and helpful staff. The majority of my dried spices are from this store. However, I've just discovered another great spice shop that opened earlier this year in my neighborhood, it's called Savory Spice Shop. I'm sure I'll be venturing there soon to spice up some of my winter stouts.  

Lessons Learned:
After brewing with chunky fruits and oily nuts, this beer was a breeze and made my kitchen smell like a warm and toasty Indian restaurant, yum! I would definitely make this beer again.
  • Extract: Golden Light
  • Malts: Caramel and Rye
  • Hops: New Zealand Pacific Jade & UK First Gold
  • Yeast: Belle Saison Yeast
  • (2) 15 oz cans of organic sweet-potato puree
  • (1) 29oz can of puree pure pumpkin (do not use pumpkin pie mix)
  • Various spices to enhance the pumpkin pie flavor with a kick
    (fresh ginger, cinnamon sticks, cloves, nutmeg, sweet and hot curries)

Final Brew notes: Spicy pumpkin curry give this beer some heat and flavor, it would pair amazing with some Indian food like naan and palak paneer.

Hot Squash  |  Sweet-potato pumpkin curry ale  | ABV 6%

Monday, November 18, 2013

Cheers to Hossa, who takes home a Silver!

I entered my first home brew competition this past weekend at Red Star Bar, in the Lincoln Park Whole Foods, and Oh So Hossa took home Silver! (that's fancy for second place)

The competition was open to Belgian inspired home-brewed beers, in partnership with Vanberg & DeWulf who was celebrating it's Anniversary Coast to Coast Toast! I entered 3 beers of mine, all under the same BJCP category (16E. Belgian Specialty Ale).

All of the judges were certified BJCP judges, including one brewer/owner from Chicago's very own Ale Syndicate; The founder of Ommegang Brewery, Don Feinberg, who is also the owner of Vanberg & DeWulf beer import company; along with a few other accomplished award winning home-brewers, including Cesar Marron, who recently just won the 2013 Sam Adams Long Shot Competition.

I was able to talk to the judges after and collect their judging notes on my beers to gain insight and feedback from brewing professionals. It was very educational, considering I got into home brewing to create really innovative flavors. I learned when it comes to competitions and categorizing beers, it is very systematic and beers have to have specific characteristics to be able to define it's beer style and gauge it's quality, taste, appearance, aroma, and overall mouth-feel against other beers within it's category. This is how you establish if a beer is good and true to it's beer style.

It was a very fun night with friends and the brewing community from all over Chicago. I celebrated, with a tasty Lambickx flight including Oude Beersel Bzart Lambiek, but Kriek was my favorite. Cheers!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Free Bombers!? Yes, Please!

Thanks to Pipeworks, who donated 2 cases of unused labeled bombers to me! On a recent visit to their brewery, located on Western and North Ave., they said they had stacks of unusable bottles, because they were labeled prior to filling and then ended up not needing. I mentioned I was a home brewer and they offered to spare a few boxes. Thanks guys!

If you haven't tried any beers from Pipeworks, you should checkout BeerMenus right now and find some. They brew some really interesting flavor combinations. Some of my favorites is their Chipotle Smoked Porter, Chai Dog, Raspberry Truffle Abduction, and Pastrami on Rye just to name a few.