The Golden Dragon

April 23, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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I just started a Northern Brewer recipe called The Golden Dragon. It’s a Belgian dark strong ale. With an original gravity of 1.083 (20.2 Brix), this will be the strongest beer I have ever made. Like the Winter Warmer, I did a yeast starter for this one. Here’s the description of where this recipe came from.

“Legend tells us that the recipe for this Belgian beer was given by a Norse king to the city of Minneapolis after Vikings buried the Kensington Rune Stone up north, but it was stolen by railroad magnate and St. Paul resident James J. Hill and ensconced in a turret of his Summit Avenue mansion. It remained hidden there, undisturbed for years, until NB’s Heyward Gualandi retrieved it after a grueling traverse climb along the South wall. Or maybe Heyward made it all up. Whatever you end up believing after sipping down a chalice of this formidable Belgian dark strong ale, there can be no doubt that it’s potent and delicious. A beguiling complex of dried fruit, toast, butter caramel, spice, and ethanol wafts out of the glass and fills your mouth, leading up to a long rich finish. … It looks innocuous, it tastes smooth, but it can breathe fire … ”

It’s probably BS, but it’s a good story. I plan to bottle this one in traditional Belgian style 750 ml bottles with corks and everything. This is going to be a special occasions beer. I accidentally added the 5 minute hops at the 15 minute mark, so it will taste a little hoppier than intended, but hopefully not too much more bitter.

So, if you ever drink any craft beer from a Belgian style 750 ml bottle, I’d love to take the bottle off your hands when you’re done. Whether they have corks or caps, I’ll take ’em.

In other news, I tried the Bavarian Hefeweizen I brewed 5 weeks ago. It’s a week early, but I couldn’t resist. It tastes good, but it’ll benefit from sitting another week or two. Yeasty and yummy!

In non-beer news, I made some origami, I went for my first motorcycle ride of the season, and it’s end-of-the-semester crunch time at work. Motorcycle classes start in 3 weeks, and I can’t wait for my Arizona trip.

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Bavarian Hefeweizen

March 20, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The next brew is Northern Brewer’s Bavarian Hefeweizen. This recipe was much simpler than the other extract kits that I’ve gotten from Norther Brewer. Wheat malt syrup, dry malt powder, and one bag of 60-minute hops. And the yeast, of course. I guess that’s the point of this beer; it’s all about the wheat and the yeast.

I brewed it yesterday with some friends. We ended up putting it in the carboy at 7:30PM, and it was already bubbling away this morning at 10AM. It smells distinctly different from other beers I’ve brewed at this stage. It smells lighter and cleaner somehow. Curious.

Here is a list of the beers that I’ve brewed so far.

St. Paul’s Porter, 08/2009. This one showed signs of an infection on bottling day, after the beer was in secondary fermentation for a few weeks. I did secondary fermentation in a plastic bucket instead of a glass carboy, since I didn’t have two carboys. There were a few strands of moldy looking stuff in the beer. Rather than toss it, I scooped out the strands with a sanitized slotted spoon, and bottled it, hoping for the best. It turned out ok, and I inspected every bottle of beer as I opened and poured it for signs of anything that shouldn’t be there, and found none. Every bottle was fine, and it tasted ok, but I couldn’t bring myself to offer it to anyone else. I eventually drank it all, but the experience as a whole was not completely satisfying.

Caribou Slobber Brown Ale, 03/2010. This time I cleaned and sanitized the plastic secondary fermenter scrupulously, and the beer came out a winner. Seriously good. Like, I’d pay money for this beer, good. Everyone who tasted it liked it. This success really fired me up for long term home brewing.

Belgian Dubbel, 07/2010. This time I took advantage of a sale NB was having on 5-gallon glass carboys. No more fermenting in plastic for me! This beer was another huge success. Belgian hard candies were added during the boil. It is a nice, complex beer that gets better with age. I have two bottles left in the basement that I’m saving for a special occasion, maybe for when my Dad visits next, hopefully this summer. Jenny doesn’t care for it, but I love it.

Caribou Slobber Brown Ale, 08/2010. I had lots of requests to make this one again, and it was just as good as the last time. I think I have to make this one a regular in the rotation.

Winter Warmer, 12/2010. This one had more fermentable sugars in the wort (unfermented beer), resulting in a higher alcohol content in the end. This recipe required a yeast starter for that reason; it lets the yeast multiply before brewing day so there’s enough of them to handle all those carbs. It turned out tasty, but the carbonation was weak. This was most likely due to the beer being stored at too cold a temperature, about 60 degrees F, right after bottling. After I realized this (I first tried it two weeks after bottling, and it was flat) I put the bottles in a temperature regulated container at 70 degrees F. One week later, it’s better, but still low carbonation. I’ll try it after another week or two and see how it turned out. I’m considering adding more sugar to the bottles and recapping them, but I’ll try being patient and waiting first. I hope the carbonation picks up, because I think it’s nice and tasty. One last note: I didn’t realize that one should swirl the yeast starter around a couple of times per day as it’s getting ready. I didn’t do this, but I’ll do it next time to see if it makes a difference.

The next beer is probably going to be Caribou Slobber again since it’s always (all two times) a winner.

I really like my hobby.

Winter Warmer

December 9, 2010 at 10:14 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I’ve been brewing my own beer for roughly a year. I have a lot of my own equipment, and I’m borrowing some from a friend while I acquire the rest. I just started my fifth batch tonight, a darkish ale with above average alcohol content called Winter Warmer.

I get my supplies from Northern Brewer, a company based in Minnesota. If you have your own recipes, they have all the supplies you could want, or at least all I can imagine. They also have recipe kits of their own. You just browse their recipes, pick one, and they send all the ingredients with instructions.

Don’t worry, I’m not kidding myself into thinking I’m becoming the next Jim Cook; it’s a fun hobby, and it’s really good beer that’s significantly less expensive than buying microbrews.

Anyway, this recipe calls for something I’ve never done before, a yeast starter. See, normally you boil the ingredients for a while, cool it down, add yeast, and let it sit. Boiling breaks down the complex starches into simple starches the yeast can eat and turn into alcohol and carbon dioxide. But this recipe gives the yeast lots more starch, resulting in the higher alcohol content.

Apparently, the normal amount of yeast for a typical 5 gallon batch doesn’t cut it for this recipe. They can’t handle all that starch and get stressed out or something. I don’t know the details, but I know that in general, if the yeast are happy (they have the right food, the right temperature, no other bacteria to compete with, etc.) the beer probably won’t suck. I also know that NB recommend a yeast starter, and they haven’t steered me wrong yet.

Long story short, I just gave my yeast an all you can eat buffet and put on some Barry White. So instead of about a dozen billion yeast cells, I’ll be adding a couple hundred billion on brewing day so they can handle the job. This batch should be ready in February or so. I’m anticipating it’ll be worth the wait. It has been for each batch so far.

I like my new hobby.

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