Homebrew Journal

Holiday Homebrew Session

0 Comments By Blake November 17, 2009

Holiday Homebrew Session

There are about a dozen or so friends and family expecting homebrew for the holidays. With only six weeks left until Christmas, I had little choice but to brew Sunday. I have been homebrewing for about 4 years now. I’m an extract brewer and proud of it. I understand the tendency for experienced brewers to “graduate” to all grain, but I really don’t have the space for the extra gear and grains. I flipped through my recipe list and a few homebrew books before deciding to re-create a Smoked Porter I made a few years back, a recipe borrowed from my brewing partner Lauren.

These are my tasting notes from the first batch in 2007:

“Kegged while at home during work hours. Happily consumed Hydrometer test jar of uncarbonated beer. This is generally a very good sign. The only thing I would change is the smoke. The beer could use another pound of smoked malts… (as the recipe called for anyway. I cut back because I was unable to get wood smoked malts and didn’t want the peat smoked variety to overpower the beer)”

Of course, I didn’t read that before the trip to BX Beer Depot, so I came back with the 2 lbs of smoked malts listed in my Beer Smith entry. Oh well, my procrastination is going to force me to make other substitutions as well, so I might as well go for it.

Last weekend was teach a friend to homebrew day at the BX Beer Depot, so they were short inventory of a few items. I couldn’t find Wyeast American Ale (#1056) or American Ale II(#1272), so I chose Northwest Ale (#1332). I was an ounce short of East Kent Goldings Hops, so I had to substitute. Instead of going to the substitution table, and because it’s a Christmas beer I swapped out the bittering hops for an ounce of Pearle that I had been saving for a different porter recipe. I went ahead and tossed in an extra half ounce of Willamette in the flavor hop stage. The color and the smoked grains are all that this beer has in common with the original.

The recipe calls for a 90 minute boil, but since it was 80 degrees out without a cloud in sight, I didn’t really mind. I had to hustle to prevent a few boil overs, but for the most part the boil went off without a hitch.

The cardinal rule of homebrewing is you have to drink homebrew while brewing, so I tried to polish off a keg I am less than proud of. I made a pale ale for my dad’s 60th birthday. It’s not one of my best. It’s been under C02 for three months and has cleared nicely, but I don’t like the hop profile, and the finish is ever so slightly sour. I’m not sure where the recipe came from, but I know that I didn’t keep it.

Anyway, 90 minutes later I put the Chillzilla to work. If you’ve never used a counterflow chiller, you really have to make the investment. I cooled 5 gallons of wort from 212 degrees to 78 degrees in less than 10 minutes. It basically saves me an hour per brew session over the ice bath method. I used a thief to fill the hydrometer jar. Original gravity is 1.072, about .004 above my target OG which is a sign of a winning batch. I pitched the Northwest Ale yeast at 76 degrees, charged it with oxygen for about 90 seconds and capped the carboy.

I had a few sips of the hydrometer before cleaning up. I’m a little worried about jacking up the bittering hops. The hops are pretty bold right now and I don’t know if they work with the smoke profile.

Hard to know anything definitive at this point, so we will have to let the yeast do their job and wait to see how it comes out. Stay tuned.

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