Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Recently I brought a bottle or two of homebrew to my friend Marty, he's a folksy guy from up north. He will unabashedly pick up a guitar and an impromptu hootenanny invariably ensues. I join in. I'm hip to it. Although in most social situations I attend the capacity to play an instruments decays exponentially with the amount of beer consumed.

Anywhoo, I brought him a Rouge Wheat, a Punkin' Porter this year and last, and he helped my finish off a keg of Kolsch recently. So you know, he's hip to it too. Recently, in Novemeber, he proposed I make a keg of beer for his girlfriend, Nicole's, birthday in October. Yes, it had just past, but Marty, being a considerate guy, didn't want to bother me with time constraints he just asked I make it whenever I was ready.

I knew immediately what Nicole would want. Last April she went gaga when we discussed St. Arnold Brewing Company having a Strong Scotch Ale homebrew contest. I didn't enter as I didn't have time and the brewery is in Houston anyway. So I set out to make Nicole a Scotch Ale which should be ready about the end of February, 7 months before - or 5 months after - her birthday.

Strong Scotch Ale
Style: Strong Scotch Ale
OG: 1.073
FG: 1.021
ABV: 6.81 %
IBU's: 23.52
Primary: 7 days @ 68°F
Secondary: 14 days @ 72°F
Aging: 21 days @ 74°F
Color: 20.8 SRM

Grains & Adjuncts
10.00 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) UK
0.50 lbs Biscuit Malt
1.00 lbs Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L
3.00 ozs Peat Smoked Malt
1.00 lbs Invert Sugar
1.00 lbs Caramunich Malt
0.25 lbs Roasted Barley

0.50 ozs Fuggles - 60 mins
1.00 ozs Goldings, East Kent - 60 mins
0.50 ozs Fuggles - 15 mins

1.0 pkg Safale 04 - Fermentis

The O.G. was 10 points off at 1.060, to be expected. I am suspecting inefficiency in my equipment and perhaps it is time to upgrade. The lower O.G. is ok though, as I use single infusion mashing and expect a lower F.G., as most of the sugars will be fermentable. It should still be a very decent 6.5%. They both came over to help me make it and we split a Wee Heavy to mark the occasion. The Scotch Ale, Wee Heavy, is from Belhaven, Scotland's oldest brewery and the only ale of this style that I was familiar with. She had fond memories of it from a brewery back hom in St. Louis, a micro- or smaller brewery.

In my research I found a traditional Scotch Ale is similar to it's southerly cousin, the English Ale. An English Ale would have more of a hops presence, like an Extra Special Bitter or a Pale Ale, but nowhere near the green monsters brewed here in the US. A Scotch Ale would be more malty and ferment at lower temperatures due to the climate. Another key ingredient that set a scotch ale into a genre all its own is Smoked Peat Malt or just Peated Malt.

Scotland is a very barren, rocky country. I visited there in the 10th grade, when I was 16, and we toured the Isle of Wight. It was very pretty country side and we saw a lot of it. It seemed we drove hours and hours in our tour bus to reach our destination, occasionally taking "pee-breaks." We would get out and walk around and pee on a stone wall usually finding a sheep skull or carcass in the process. Well after a few hours we realized these breaks were our destination. We went sight seeing on a flat green island with no trees. No trees means no fire and Scottish people had to roast there malt with whatever they could find. Often the used peat moss and its smoke imparted a particular flavor still favored to this day.

My friends Marty and Nicole quickly became greedy and wanted more beer. So they bought me more. No complaints here.

1554 Black Lager Clone

Style: Dark American Lager
OG: 1.058
FG: 1.013
ABV: 5.90 %
IBU's: 22.51
Primary: 7 days @ 50°F
Secondary: 14 days @ 48°F
Aging: 21 days @ 40°F
Color: 28.3 SRM

Grains & Adjuncts
6.00 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) US
4.00 lbs Munich Malt
8.00 ozs Cara-Pils/Dextrine
8.00 ozs Caramunich Malt
6.00 ozs Chocolate Malt
5.00 ozs Black (Patent) Malt

1.00 ozs Cluster - 60 mins

1.0 pkg American Lager - White Labs WLP840

1.00 oz Seeds of Paradise - 15 mins / Boil

Nicole and Marty knew about my clone recipes. Nicole even helped me brew a batch of the Fat Tire Clone from New Belgium Brewing, which we still struggle to get here in Louisiana. She wanted the 1554 Enlightened Ale they craft, which is a delicious light-bodied roasty beer with old world charm. Supposedly the recipe was culled from a monk's recipe dating back to, you guessed it, 1554. There is something misleading about this recipe, however. The Enlightened Ale is a Lager.

I've never made a lager, but these friends talked me into it. It will be a challenge especially since the cold pseudo winter weather is waning. A lager ferments at a much lower temperature and uses a particular yeast. It doesn't tolerate temperature variation, and is generally very unforgiving. I will need to use my extra space in my Kegorater and perhaps buy a temp regulator. In addition I will need to chill the wort more efficiently than I am now. This might take two trips through the counter flow chiller, but so be it.

I attended a social gathering the Saturday before MLK day. It was the 14th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Chicken Fry Off. It's been going on for 14 years and is tolerably racist. I was telling my friend about the plans for this beer and he conscripted me to make a similar recipe for next year's Chicken Fry Off and call it Martin Luther King Black Lager.

Friday, January 8, 2010

2009; a Tasting in Remeberance

Ugh. What a Holiday! It's over now, but in that time I imbibed massive amounts of homebrew. All the preparations for my Holiday company paid off in full. The fretting over the Christmas Stout was for naught. Everything went off without a hitch. In addition to finishing off 20 of the 25 gallons made for the occasion, my guests, my wife, and I managed to visit the New Orleans Rum distillery, the Abita brewery, and attend a beer tasting of my own exploits.

Since I began brewing in the All-Grain method last summer, I have saved one 750mL bottle of every beer I made, except those I kegged. In total I had 8 bottles. On one of the last nights of my guests visit we sat down, all eight of us, and I unloaded the vault.

The first beer tasted was made in June. It was a Pale Ale, my first attempt at the yet unperfected Istrouma Pale Ale. This being my first foray into All-Grain methods it was fraught with mistake, inefficiency and frustrations. I mashed in my brew kettle on the burner in a futile attempt to control the heat. My false bottom did not operate in the manner I had suspected so I had to wedge it into place in the lauter tun. I believe now that I am missing a piece to it so I am forced to continue to use this method. The wort chiller my father-in-law and I crafted did not work as suspected and I had to abandon counter-flow methods and opt instead for immersion chilling, a dirty process indeed. The beer itself was drinkable, but lacked any flair and was quite generic. One could almost taste the amateur nature of the brew, or maybe only I could.

Of the next two beers I made that summer one went bad completely due to a chlorine-based sanitizer, and the other was kegged. So the next beer was dated August and it was the summer wheat ale to which I allude to in other posts, Rouge Wheat. I saved two bottles of those so I was fortunate enough to enjoy it twice. I made it often and once in the form of a 10gallon batch. Five gallons I bottled and saved and the other five I kegged and brought to a homebrew/swimming party. Other beers there were an IPA and a very tasty English Old Ale, but being a hot summer day the Rouge Wheat was a smash hit, the smash hit of the summer.

Between those and following later were two more incarnations of the Istrouma Pale Ale. The recipes were similar, but one was created in another 10gallon batch, which I again kegged 5 and bottled 5. The major difference were not what types of hops, but the order to which they were used. It was interesting to notice how Chinook, Centennial, and Cascade hops, all very similar strains save higher Alpha Acids %, used at different point could change the brew. With the first I used Cascade as bittering hops, Centennial as flavor, and Chinook as aroma. In the other I reversed the Order as Chinook has highest Alpha Acid, therefore more bitter, and Cascade the least for more Aroma. The second bottle was a 7.5% ABV monster and the closest I've come to what I desire in an IPA, but only 3 gallons were yielded so I strive to do better next time.

I had saved a bottle of the ill-fated Kolsch, which never met my expectations, from another 10gallon recipe. I believe the failure was due in part to the heat. A Kolsch, unlike an IPA, does not rely on its hops flavors, it is a Malty brew. The types of malt are important, but not as important as the way the yeast uses them. I have since come to find that in the old country summer beers, like a Kolsch, are brewed in the winter and aged in the cold until summer. At lower temperature yeast are more mellow and impart mellower tastes, better esters. Different types of yeast require different temperature, but a good temperature is 68-70 for a malty Kolsch. I couldn't leave my A/C in my house at 65 in a Louisiana summer without going bankrupt. As a result the beer fermented and aged at something more like 80. This produced a rather sour, flat taste. It was drinkable, but this year I am more likely to be brewing Kolsches and Blondes in Late February/Early Spring time.

The last two bottles of the evening you can read about in other posts here on the Herrmann Brew Company Blog. The Punkin' Porter and the Amber Clone. It seems that my Adventures in Homebrew have caught up to my e-jounaling about it. 2010 looks promising for brew in general. I've begun a new vault. The Holiday Hangover is the only resident there now. It is getting lonely and I have to refill it now that the craziness of the Holidays is over. I hope to open it Christmas 2010 as The Ghost of Christmas Past, it has the alcohol to last that long. New Orleans Lager & Ale Brewing Company and its distributor settled their differences (the distributors won), and now the Blonde is flowing again. Their new IPA, Hopitoulas, is amazing, but just starting to flow. Its name is a pun on their brewery's address, 3001 Tchoupitoulas Street. In addition two breweries are starting up in and around my hometown, Parish Brew Company and Bayou Teche Brewing. I wish them the best of luck. I cannot imagine it's easy with all the bull-crap you have to go through to get beer to people and try to make a living doing it. I know I'm discouraged to even dream of it. Good luck to us all.