May 2008

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tragedy in the brewing world

Late this afternoon, flames were seen coming out of the FX Matt Brewery. While the details of what caused the fire are still unclear, the fire departments are still working to get the fire under control. The Observer Dispatch is reporting on the fire and updating as details become clear. One this that is obvious, this is the loss of a historic brewery and a real tragedy in the brewing world.

The Matt family still own and run the historic FX Matt Brewery that is most famous for Saranac Beer. Matt's Brewery is also responsible for many contract brews, one of the most famous of which is Brooklyn Brewery.

I am TOTALLY bummed out about this, I lived in Utica for three years and thoroughly enjoyed visiting the brewery on Thursday nights. Saranac sponsors the Boilermaker, one of the top rated 15k races in the country, and ends the race at the brewery for an all day party. I can't say enough about how much the Matt family and this brewery mean to the city of Utica and Central New York as a whole.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Matt family and all of the workers, fire fighters and people of Utica.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Looking forward to more ribbons

Per the request of the Bearded Brewer, here is the ribbon from my previous State Fair Home Brew competition submission. I am looking forward to five more of these bad boys!


Monday, May 19, 2008

The gelatin test - tasting

To follow up on my previous post about the benefits and drawbacks of using gelatin in your brew. For a quick recap, gelatin is a finings, meaning that it is used to remove proteins and some of the "stuff" that is floating in your brew. There is no doubt that it works to clear beer, but now the question is does it impact the flavor of the beer?

For this, I brewed up 10 gallons of ESB and added gelatin to one of the two five gallon carboys during the secondary fermentation. To test the flavor, I have two bottles of this ESB, one with gelatin and one without that I am going to taste head to head. This is what I got:

With gelatin - Clear, off white head, great retention. Aroma is very hoppy with a nice malt stench. There is a smell of rye bread in the nose. The flavor is crisp and intense. There is a lot of bitterness. the flavor leaves quickly and all I am left with is a bitter aftertaste. This is not very sweet at all.

Without gelatin - Color and head are very similar to the other brew, the brew is more cloudy, but it's not that bad. The flavor is a lot more full in the initial experience but the flavor ends very abruptly. There is a lot of hops, it has almost a grassy flavor. There is a little bit more sweetness in this brew compared to the other.

Conclusion - There was not a lot of difference between the two. The color was a huge advantage to the gelatin as it makes the brew as clear as can be. If you like a commercial level of clarity in your brew and don't want to wait 6 months for it to clear out on it's own (it will given time and temp, get as clear as with gelatin), this is not a bad option.

It pretty good news. This is a cool way to make your brew look good and win over some non-believers in homebrew. There was a lot of traub at the bottom of the bottle that had the gelatin in it compared to the one that did not. It stuck to the bottom and didn't come out when I poured the beer.

Hope that helps anyone considering this method. Cheers!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

State Fair Brew Competition

So this year I am putting in my second entry into the NYS Fair brew competition. Last time I entered something in, it was my California Common that scored well, but the advice was that it was a little too "common". Looking back at the recipe, it really was.

Now I know what you are thinking; "I'm not in this for competitions, I in it to make beer". While this is how I feel as well, the feedback that you get it REALLY valuable. Your brews are blind tasted versus other examples of the same style in an effort to decide:

1) Closest to style guidelines
2) Off flavors from brewing process
3) How your beer works as a whole

While most of the folks tasting your beer are generally more "beer geeky" than your average drinker, their also generally homebrews themselves. The feedback you get is generally geared towards constructive criticism. in some cases if you have a bunk beer, they'll let you know. I took a brew judging class for a while and one of the most important things you learn there is to give as complete of a review of the beer as possible to allow the brewer to improve.

It's fun and constructive.

This year, I decided to enter in five beers for review. Listed below are the styles and the beers that I entered (listings are based on the BJCP Guidelines):

Samuel L. Jackson - 3A Vienna Lager
Ongenaet Wheat - 16A Witbier
Sierra Nevada Clone - 14B American IPA
Oktoberfest - 3B Oktoberfest
Kaffir Lime Imperial Lager - 1C American Premium Lager

One of the things you'll hear from people about why not to enter brew competitions is "I don't brew in style". I usually base my beers on the style as the high-low for what I am looking to do. The one brew listed that doesn't fall into that is the Kaffir Lime. That brew has NOTHING in common with an American Premium Lager, other than the fact that it's a lager. However, it's a chance to see what people think about it and to get some judges all ripped up!

Seriously though, it's a great chance to get some unbiased feedback. Some judges suck and don't give you useful feedback, but others will leave you their email and phone number so you can contact them and ask questions.


Friday, May 09, 2008

Little help

So I'm looking for a little help in identifying this thing and trying to figure out what to do with it. A good friend of mine was garage hitting the local garage sale circuit when he came across this. now from the looks of it, it's a wine distributor. It's from a bar in Hamilton and has 8 plastic taps on it. The spurs are all plastic, bit the hammers and other parts on the taps are metal.

As you can see, there is a refrigerator built into the bottom half.
The taps go from the spur into a dip tube that runs through a bung. The bungs share a CO2 in that connects to a gas quick release valve (pretty bad ass to see quick release valves that small).

Each of the units has a mini Co2 regulator that seems to have the pressure regulated by a little turn thing on the bottom. There is a label on the front of both units that says "Premier Cru".

The bottom unit is built around a mini refrigerator, but this is not a home made project, it looks like the freezer in the unit is built much differently than I have seen before. I didn't get a picture, but it's built on it's side.

The door to the fridge has a glass from (double pane) and is totally sealed with refrigerator trim. The door itself seals tight and the fridge still works.

To be honest with you, the whole thing looks like it would work fine. I think the bungs need to be changed, but otherwise it's money. I am just deciding if it's something I can use for beer, or if it's wine only. The other thing I am wondering is if you leave wine on tap that is run with C02, does it go bad?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Maibock means May Bock

Nick was out of town so I decided to do a solo batch of maibock using a Munich yeast I had been holding onto for a while. This was the same yeast I used on the Oktoberfest. It's a great yeast and I have the fridge space to do it so I figured 'why not?'.

Anyone not familiar with Maibock I recommend giving one a try. My favorite is the Smuttynose Maibock. It's such a unique flavor. It tastes like you are drinking unfermented wort that is carbonated. Sounds a little weird, but it was honestly the only way I could describe it.

With this beer, I was shooting for an OG of 1.069 to give me a 7%abv brew that would be a smooth drinker with a little kick. The plan is to break this out in the fall (yea I know, May-bock not October-bock) for our Oktoberfest party to go with the OF brew and some brots. Should be a good one.

Here is the recipe:

12lbs German Pilsner
2.25lbs Munich Malt (light)
1.25lbs Vienna Malt
1/2oz Target (60 min)
1oz Liberty (60 min)
Wyeast 2308 - Munich Lager

35min protein rest at 122f (added 4.25 gallons at 133f)
15min Decoction (2 gallons)
45min Rest at 145f
Mashout - 1 3/4 gal boiling - hold at 160f for 10min
Sparge - added 2.2gal of water to mashtun at 168f as wort ran off

The early runnings were 17.5brix (1.070) and the the pre-boil gravity at was at 14 brix (1.055). This was better than the projected 1.051, but in the end, it the gravity was less than the desired 1.069 by showing up at 1.067. Not too bad. It is still plenty in style and should have all the taste I want. The total brew day took about 4 1/2 hrs and was a pretty relaxing brew session. I forget how much more manageable everything is with 5 gallons.

I just checked it tonight and the brew is plugging away in the fridge. I love Munich yeast. Its like a good lineman, it shows up every Sunday and just works. No problems or questions.