Wednesday, June 27, 2012

BrewVic Saison Meet

Finally a return to blogging. I moved house again at the start of this month and this has led to the inevitable slowdown in brewing and blogging, but its good to be back. Last week the BrewVic saison meet was held at my place, and it went off well. We had good attendance and lots of beers to try. There were around ten of us who brewed saisons specifically for the event using a variety of recipes, techniques, and yeasts. We began with a quick talk on the history of the saison, which emerged from time immemorial on the farmhouses of Wallonia to nourish and refresh the harvest workers. We then tried a couple commercial examples like the classic saison DuPont and the excellent local saison Deckhand, from Lighthouse brewing. Finally, we moved to the homebrew tasting, taking notes and allowing the brewers to talk about the details of their beers, followed by a round table discussion. There was a great variety in the ingredients used in the beers, from rye, to orange, to pepper, to brettanomyces and one thing that impressed me was the overall quality of the beers in general. Another thing that stood out was the different characters of the yeasts used, there was a pretty even split between people using the DuPont yeast (Wyeast 3724/WLP565) and the Brasserie Thiriez yeast (Wyeast 3711). The DuPont yeast really kicked out that classic saison fruitiness, whereas the Thiriez had that intense satisfying dryness that the DuPont couldn't quite achieve. This was a great event and it was awesome to see so many Victoria brewers getting together, hopefully we will have more events like this one in the near future.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Brewday - Witbier

I had never really been into witbiers, but after a recent taste of a great homebrewed example and a couple bottles of Hoegaarden and Blanche de Chambly, I decided to brew one. For the grain bill I wanted to go local, using red winter wheat grown in Metchosin and combining it with organic oats and what was almost the last of my Belgian pilsner malt (If anyone knows where I can get more I will pay/trade handsomely) The yeast was something I spent a lot of time on, propagating the lees in a blend from bottles of Blanche de Chambly and Cheval Blanc. I added this into about 100 mls of well aerated wort and then the next day into another litre of wort. Looking back, I should have waited longer before stepping it up, and after several days there was still no airlock activity. Just when I thought the experiment was in vain the airlock began to bubble, and after it slowed I put it into the fridge to flocculate the yeast before pitching into 3 more litres of fresh wort. On brewday, I poured off the wort and tasted some of it to ensure a clean fermentation in the starter. I tasted potent vinegar... an acetobacter infection. God damn it. Moodily pondering a certain Robbie Burns poem concerning a mouse I drove to the brew shop and was lucky to find a wit yeast, fresh from the newest shipment. The brew day was back on.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Beard of Zeus - The Beard is Back

I hadn't expected to brew my old Russian imperial stout quite yet, but events conspired to rush things a little. Back in March I was getting ready to send some of my beers to the first round of the National Homebrew Competition. Winners in this Canadian qualifier would get to move on to the final round of the NHC, the biggest homebrewing competition in the world, held this year in Seattle. The stakes were high so the field was going to be strong. I didn't want to get my hopes up too much, but the thought of advancing to the finals and maybe having my beer judged alongside one brewed by Jamil Zainasheff or Gordon Strong was an inspiring thought, not to mention a scary one.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pitch Slap IPA

My return to IPA brewing has come after a long hiatus. For months Belgian beers were the only thing that mattered, but its good to have gotten back to my first love, the almighty hop. My mental shift away from hoppy beers coincided with my own IPAs taking a bit of a downward slide. These things seem to be connected; the beers that I am currently into always seem easier to brew well. As my mind shifted away from hops and toward the yeast and fermentation aspects of Belgian beer, so did my best beers seem to start emerging as saisons, belgian pales, and golden strongs, where once they had been IPA's.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Brewday - Belgian Pale Ale 2

Going into this brew I was a little unsure of how to improve on my previous effort. My first Belgian pale ale was a beer I really liked, but seemed to meet with a lukewarm reception from a number of people who tasted it. I had sent this beer into the Calgary homebrew competition and neither judge (neither of which were BJCP certified) liked it very much. This I could handle as competition is the best way to get unbiased, educated advice to improve your beers. Their comments however, left me scratching my head a bit. One of them said "phenolic spices quite bold in flavour... are too big in this beer". The other said, "a little spicier would enhance it". To muddy the waters further a couple weeks later this beer won third place at the competition in Lethbridge, leaving me a bit confused.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Batch # 50 - Faustian Bargain Golden Strong

For my fiftieth batch of all-grain beer I wanted to do something special, so I decided to go after a style that I hadn't tried before, the Belgian golden strong, or strong pale ale. This style has a pretty wide set of parameters and there is a lot of overlap with the Belgian tripel, but in the tradition of its most famed example Duvel, it tends to be drier, lighter in colour, and lighter in body than most tripels. It is also often more fruity, where the tripel tends to be a bit spicier.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Brewday - The Platypus India Brown

My lack of blogging of late seems to have coincided with most of the other beer blogs in Victoria slowing down or grinding to a halt. Fortunately, there is a new blogger on the block as local homebrewer Russ has started chronicling his brewing exploits. Its good to see someone else on the Island blogging about homebrewing, as as far as I know, I've been the only one up until now. Hopefully this will help infuse new energy into Island beer blogging. On to the beer.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Brewday - The White Whale Oatmeal Stout

He piled upon the whale's white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart's shell upon it 
- From Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Saison du Sam: First Crack at 10 Gallons

Recently, I ordered and made a few items of equipment with the goal of being able to make 10 gallon batches. First was my new mash tun that I made from a standup cooler that had a much larger capacity than my old plastic bucket rig. Then came the pot, a 60 quart behemoth fitted with a ball valve, sight glass, and thermometer, probably my first item of truly skookum, brand new brew gear. After a trial-run involving boiling water, it became clear that using this on the stove top was not a good idea for a variety of reasons, including the danger, the lack of power, and the potential loss of my damage deposit. To remedy this I ordered a new propane burner to complete my 10 gal setup.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Ale of Olympus Belgian Tripel

I may have finally gone too far. Several months ago when I suggested the idea to a few people of making a Belgian beer with saffron threads and chantrelle mushrooms, they were sceptical to say the least. But this idea wouldn't go away, and neither would the belief that it could be amazing, so after testing the waters with my first tripel The Unbeliever, I decided to go for broke.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Brewday - West Coast Belgian Pale Ale

My last Belgian pale ale was a traditional, to-style, by-the-numbers kind of beer. I was definitely happy with the finished beer that was clean and easy drinking with a restrained Belgian character and a sweet maltiness that was enhanced by the yeast and the low hopping rate. With that beer behind me I wanted to try and experiment with the style a little, brewing something similar to the beer I made with Ron Bradley at Moon Under Water.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Brewday - Return of the Harvester

It's been some time since I've gone back to an old recipe. I've been experimenting with new styles and techniques a fair bit lately so it's been awhile since I tried to reproduce an old beer. But as I'm preparing to brew a few different saisons soon, including a high gravity version, and my first 10 gallon batch of my saison du Sam, I would need an ample amount of yeast. One way to do this would be to make a starter, but a much more interesting way would be to brew a lower alcohol drinking saison and collect the yeast for the subsequent batches. And thus the way was paved for the return of the Harvester.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Stumbling Kiwi India Red Ale

I'm not sure exactly what to say about this beer. I wanted to make an IPA that featured some of the New Zealand hops my girlfriend brought back from a recent trip to the southern hemisphere. I also wanted it to be different from my other IPAs, something unlike most beers brewed in these parts. I figured a beer that said something about New Zealand would be the goal, a place with a great emerging beer scene. To me New Zealand is a land of stark contrast, of bold landscapes, tumbling seas and laid back inhabitants. It combines stunning beauty with a calm and relaxed pace of life to be envied, even here on our own little island paradise.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Unbeliever Belgian Tripel

This is it. The big one. This is the beer I've been working up to for a while. I had a couple beers brewed on my new system, one of them a Belgian, my fermentation chamber was up and running, and now I felt ready to take on this beer that had been on my mind for ages. A lot of thought has gone into this, my notes on my goals for this beer are about three times longer than usual. A golden coloured beer around 9% but drinkable with a reasonably light body. Well attenuated without too much residual sweetness. High carbonation from bottle fermentation, with a dense white head. Clean flavour, not too bitter, low banana flavour, no fusels. We will see how close I get.