Category Archives: homebrew

State of the Homebrew

Here’s an interesting take on homebrewing in America: namely, less people are doing it than before.

What I am reminded of is that anecdotes are not data, and that the fact that less people have to Google “homebrewing” as a term isn’t necessarily an indicator that the hobby is “dying”. I know that in the homebrew club I belong to, membership has been slowly on the rise-but again, that isn’t proof.

In a rare instance, the comments of the essay are worth reading: bringing up other reasonable concerns such as ‘we don’t have as much money as we used to’ (provably true), ‘you seem to need a LOT of specialized equipment now’ (false, but with qualifiers), or ‘homebrew shop websites are kinda trash’ (well…YMMV) as reasonable barriers to entry.

The one argument that I think holds water is that commercial breweries are prolific enough, both in volume and scope, that the needs of most of the audience is being served. Gluten free ales? You got it. Belgian browns made with chocolate and peanut butter? Someone’s doing it.

Part of the drive to homebrew does come from wanting to make the beer that the market doesn’t provide…but if the market is providing then what you have is a nice hobby. A hobby that maybe you don’t have to put as much time into as you did before.

For the time being though, I see new people getting into it and at least as far as my homebrew club is concerned, a drive to educate and help new people learn and connect. Connections with people are what keep anything lively and thriving: community matters.

Still, I have to wonder if homebrewing will become-if it isn’t already-the kind of thing that people who knit, or rebuild old cars do.

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Last Loss

Last amber of 2018I can tell something is wrong visually-the head on this beer has bubbles that are too big, and the head itself is too thick while somehow not being dense. That’s not the only issue though;  there isn’t any malt or hop nose that I can pick up. For a beer that has this much carbonation, more scent would be something I would expect.

What I can pick up on the nose is more of a sour yeast nose, akin to a lager.

The flavors aren’t what I would hope, either. It isn’t thin, so that’s an upside, but the malt qualities aren’t there. This ale is neither roasted nor sweet, and it’s not as if there are hops to give me something to look forward to, either.

Even if there were, everything is just wiped by the dominant effervesce and a note of sourness. It’s not overwhelming, the beer isn’t undrinkable but it definitely isn’t my best effort. The mouthfeel gets dry in the corners and roof of my mouth, and the flavors just don’t come through.

I’m not sure if the yeast got infected on storage-this is most likely-or if it’s just an inappropriate yeast to use for this style. Knowing that I know, odds are the error is likely on my end. So I’ll have to try to ensure I’m sanitizing everything correctly, going forward.

Brew date: 10/7/18

Steeping grains
5 lb Maiden Voyage pale malt
.75 biscuit, Caramunich, Admiral’s Hearth
.5 lb Dextrapils, C30

Fermentables: 5 lb LME

Hops
1 oz Chinook, .5 oz Nelson Chauvin @ 60
.5 oz Nelson Chauvin @ 5

Yeast: Imperial’s Flagship

OG: 1.072
FG: 1.015

Put into secondary on 10/26, bottled 10/28

ABV: 7.7%

Mary MacLeod (Devil’s Mother) ’18

My annual imperial milk stout has come to fruition! Here’s the results:

The nose has some of the milk qualities-and this beer has a fine, sustainable head on it that keeps providing some scent long after the pour.

Devil's Mother '18There isn’t much milk in the flavor though, so I definitely  needed to add a second pound of lactic sugars to this one.

There is, however, a decent viscosity to this beer; it’s dense but not oily, rich without being too heavy. It clears off the palate nicely, leaving a strong but not sharp flavor of coffee behind.

That’s a plus; the beer not being as sharp as last year’s. I credit my buddy Jeremy for recommending Karafa malt instead of Black Patent. It’s helped improve the beer by dialing down the bitter quality. Anything that helps a beer with this alcohol volume and these kind of robust flavors needs a little nudge in the drinkability column.

And this one definitely is drinkable. There’s a harsher element, a hard coffee flavor, that isn’t tempered by any sweetness and I believe it’s this flavor that lingers. It doesn’t spoil the beer in any way, though, it just makes that initial fluffy sweetness work out better.

Brew date: 9/9/18

Steeping malts
2 lb Chocolate
.5 lb Carafe 3
5 lb Maris Otter
2 lb Opal 44
1 lb Golden Promise
2 oz cocoa nibs

Fermentables: 7 lb LME

Other: 1 lb Lactose

Hops: 1 oz Nugget @ 60

Yeast: Imperial Barbarian 4th use (d’oh! I really try to only use yeast three times, in order to keep the flavor profile stable)

OG: 1.10

FG: 1.022

Bottled 10/22

ABV: 10.6%

Penultimate Amber

Penultimate AmberThis was the second to last amber ale I made in 2018; the year of ambers is almost over! So what we got?

There’s a good nose; rising bread scent, yeast and malt and I like it.

The flavor doesn’t quite hold up though, which is a little disappointing. It isn’t bad, but I was hoping for a little more malt character in there than I’m getting. There’s a roasted note, that doesn’t suck but it’s wiped out pretty had by some serious carbonation. The mouthfeel on my tongue is all sparkly, and that means the beer isn’t as smooth or drinkable.

It’s not a disaster by any means! I don’t hate this. I just was expecting a little better.

Brew date: 10/13/18

Steeping grains
1 lb C60
1 lb Special Roast
1 lb C20

Fermentables: 7lb LME

Hops: 1 oz Golding, .5 oz Nelson Sauvin @60

Yeast: Imperial Darkness (2nd use)

OG: 1.065

FG: 1.015

Bottle: 11/4

ABV: 6.7%

The Porter Dream

Marijuana porterThis beer has a nose of chocolate and marijuana. The chocolate is closer to coco powder-dry, sidling up to bitterness but not quite there. A little sweetness, even but that seems to be cut off by the marijuana.

The flavors follow this pattern, too. There is, I think, a little more sweetness in the taste than in the nose, which is nice. Again, though, the marijuana cuts through the beer on the finish. However, the marijuana isn’t the finish on this beer, which is great.

There’s a dry cocoa quality that re-introduces itself and keeps everything in check.

I should’ve been doing things this way long ago; contrasts instead of competition. Every good chef knows that, and lord knows I’ve been taught enough times.

On the upside, though: now I have a path forward!

 

Brew date: 9/16/19

Steeping grains
.5 lb Chocolate
.5 lb black barley
.25 lb black patent
2 oz cocca nibs
1 cup toasted oats

Fermentables: 7 lb Light malt extract

Water additions: 1/2 tsp Gypsum

Hops
1 oz Nugget
3 oz Pale Blue Dream (marijuana strain)

Yeast: Imperial Darkness

OG: 1.06

FG: 1.018

Bottled 10/6

ABV: 5.7%

Another Rough Amber

Less Awesome Amber aleNose is faintly boozy on this one. A little malt there but not much.

The flavor is sweet and then finishes with the same bite as the last amber. I am holding the yeast responsible for this-two times in a row isn’t coincidence, especially when I’ve brought the malt sugars down.

It’s not undrinkable, though. It’s just not what I wanted and it doesn’t encourage more sips: it’s a One And Done (with this).

Brew Date: 8.12.18

Steeping grains
5 lb toasted pale
.75 lb Caramunich, Encore, Munich, Opal 44

Fermentables: 4 lb Light Malt Extract

Hops:  .72 oz US Fuggle, Loral @60

Yeast: Imperial Barbarian (3rd use)

OG: 1.075

FG: 1.01

Into secondary: 8/29
Bottle: 9/3

ABV: 8.8%

Finally: I’m going to be out of town for two weeks.

But not to worry! A friend has agreed to step in and provide content for me while I am gone. Yay, content!

So thanks to him, and I’ll be stepping back into the  saddle in 14 days!

Amber Liquor

So, this is a bummer.

On the upside, I have discovered how to make malt liquor. On the downside…I have discovered how to make malt liquor.

In my defense I was trying to make an imperial amber, because everything else had been going so well! Why not shake it up? What I should have done is doubled down on what I was doing, until it was perfect.

imperial amber ale
The nose is sweet, not quite sickly so, but definitely without much dimension.

The beer is also sweet, which is to be expected. The  complexity comes on the finish, which is interesting. There’s the alcohol warmth, yes, but there is also a spicy note, which at least means I’m not drinking something entirely bland and syrupy.

It’s weird though, and it doesn’t hold together at all. I don’t hate it but I also don’t want more of it. Safe to say, this one did not work out like I hoped.

Brew Date: 7/8/18

Steeping grains
5 lb Lamonta pale
1 lb Opal 44, 2 row
.75 lb Munich, Vanora

Fermentables: 7 lb ExLME

Hops
.75 oz US Fuggle, .5 oz Medusa @60

Yeast: Imperial Barbarian (2nd use)

OG: 1.09

FG: 1.009

Bottled 8/5

ABV: 11%