Tag Archives: winter warmer

On The Rail: Ex Novo

The rail at Ex Novo is a fine piece of wood. Seriously: it’s warm and inviting, cut and polished to be smooth but without taking away the contours of the tree. I like it a lot. Just feels like something to scooch my belly closer to.

Which is a good thing because this pub is almost too open. Understandable, given that it’s clearly a working brewery but I’m keeping my coat on because I can feel a chill licking at my thighs.

I’ve been meaning to write about this place for months, but the writing schedule got in the way of the life schedule. You know how it is; the demands of everyone else leveraged against the demands of what you want. I’m here now though and the wise among us insist that we live in the now.

I’ve got the winter warmer, Warm It Up, Kris! and it’s pretty nice. The spice element is restrained. I think this beer is definitely tilting towards a crowdpleaser in flavor, with soft brown sugar & dark fruit elements. At the end is a very, very light sprinkle of something smokier. The longer I wait between sips, the more I can let my tongue run around my mouth and pick it up. The mouthfeel is something I dig too; there’s some weight there, a density that I think might be settling those flavors on my tongue.

Nearby the bartender is telling a patron about farmhouse ales, then continuing to pontificate on the wonders of Belgian beers, and the coolness that is the Tin Bucket. (Need to put that on my list of ‘to go’ places). On the other side of me two people are talking about the annual bike rides of Portland. I’m resisting hunching over my keyboard, the cold continuing to stroke my legs. I feel like hunkering down and getting all writerly; shifty eyed and quick fingers as my brain shouts out words and tells the chill to fuck off at the same time.

As the warmer warms up, I’m becoming a little more suspicious of it. The smokey flavors have started to take over and the spice and malt are receding. Unfortunate; I really was hoping this beer had some legs. But the turnabout is making this beer harder to recommend. Hm. Perhaps I’ll change it up next time.

Winter Warmer

Savvy readers may have noticed that on Monday not only was I not out and about, I was not drinking sake, not beer. This is because the only beer left in the house that could be considered drinkable is the winter warmer, which I have been sitting on. But in the end, I have to admit that it just isn’t that good.

The nose is like banana bread and the molasses flavors are still overwhelming but that’s all. There is still a strong iron-like bite at the end. It’s a little bit like Jagermeister, only without the alcohol warmth contrasting the rest of it. This ale just is not coming around. Oh, I’m drinking it, sometimes, you know, when the darkness closes in and you’re desperate for human flesh but anything will do because it’s drinkable (barely) but I can definitely chalk this one up to a learning experience versus a successful beer. I feel that a quarter less (unsulfured!) molasses and this might’ve been pretty tasty. Recipe as follows.

Brew Date: 12.8.12

Steeping malts
3 lb 2 row
1 lb Maris otter
.5 C80
.5 Chocolate
.5 Black Patent
.5 Roasted Barley
steeped for 30+ minutes?

4 lb LME
1 lb Molasses @ 5

1 oz Centennial @ 60
.25 oz Centennial @ 15
.5 oz raspberry tea @ 5
2 sticks cinnamon @ 5
5 cloves @ 5

WLP014-Pacific Ale

More Patience

This is a pic of a winter warmer I made. It has issues.

Namely, I made this from a recipe that wanted me to put in a pound of molasses. That seems like quite a bit but I generally assume that, when reading a recipe, the person who put it down knows more than I know. Natural assumption to make, really.

I was asked later “Did you use unsulfured molasses?”

Um…no. I didn’t even know that was a thing.

The problems presented are twofold at this point: First, the nose is too sharp. I don’t want to say sulfur but something evil is there. It isn’t rotten eggs but it isn’t pleasing, either.

Worse, the finish has a distinct note of iron. A tang to it, like putting your tongue on cold metal. This is coupled with a brutally strong molasses taste: molasses without the sweet part.

All in all, this does not bode well. I don’t want to throw away five gallons of beer though: That costs money, damnit! So I’m letting it sit for another month. You might be able to see in the photo that there is carbonation on the side of the glass. It’s a little weird, because the bubbles don’t move; they cling to the side. I’m taking that as a good sign, though: carbonation is coming. Maybe some of these less desirable flavors will drop out and I’ll have a drinkable beer. Or maybe not but I’m going to give it a shot. It can’t get any worse, right?

7pm Winter Is Here

I purchased the Two Beers The Hearth, a winter warmer because I recently made a winter warmer and as I was bottling it, I became dismayed. The molasses had taken over the beer, giving it a metallic finish; the harsh note that can end a drop of molasses had not faded at all. What did this mean for the beer? Could it improve?

As an aside, I really like Two Beers’s motto. Let’s move on.

I chose this style to give me a basis for comparison when I open my own beer up in a few weeks.  The Hearth’s molasses is still overwhelmingly noteworthy scent wise but the beer doesn’t finish too harshly. Carbonation helps mellow it out quite a bit.

I feel a little relieved. There’s still plenty of time for my beer to turn out drinkable, even if I don’t want more than a glass a night. Perfect way to stretch the next few beers out and maybe give the lager I’ll be taking a stab at soon plenty of time to sit there and do whatever lagers do.

Because it is finally cold in Portland, so it’s time to take my shot at lagers again.

The chill has steeped into the city: I can tell because the pub is a bit slower than usual. Why go out? Home is warm and you can wear comfy pants.

This winter warmer needs an accompaniment, though. The caramel at the end suggests tiny nibbles of something vanilla-y. Crunchy, maybe? Cake, for certain. I am not fond of German chocolate cake but I can see this being a good drink to wash some down with.

There is a school of thought that says this means the beer is flawed. Ales should be able to stand on their own.

I don’t subscribe to this. Some flavors are just ones that beg for a complement and who are we to deny complements?

However, I am drinking without complements. Dinner is long past and dessert nowhere in sight. Another ale? Yes. This beer has given me the message: my homebrew may still turn out well. I can move on to another.

7pm The Last Roar of Winter

Fuz has come to visit. For me, this is a default Good Thing. Sadly, the Great Divide Hibernation from ’10 (a winter warmer) is not quite treating me. There’s a hint of a dirty flavor at the end; subtle enough to be curious about it, present enough that I know I’m not dreaming the flavor. Still, it washes down the burrito from next door pretty well and the nose is a pretty lush, chocolaty thing so it’s hard to complain.

Winter WarmerI think I was drawn to the Cascade because of the rain and the wind today; wind is to cold like humidity is to heat and the gusts certainly feel like hostility from the breath of Mother Nature herself, coupled with rain blowing into my face.

But: Fuz is here. And the thing about old friends being around simply this: none of that other shit matters. I see it nearby as some fellows meet up at a table, hugging each other as each one arrives, bright eyed greetings from their mouths. They don’t care about all the dreary shit that may be going on, they are just happy to be in each others’ company.

I miss my friends. Not all of them are in Portland and my oldest ones are certainly farther away. It doesn’t take a birthday for me to acknowledge this. I have a good beer: man, I wish they were around to share it with. I read a good comic, or book, or essay; I want to share it with them and talk about it. I want to play games with them: not just because I love games (though I do) but because it is a way to keep connecting to people I love.

That said; I’m lucky and have met cool people in the city who are also friends and care for me. I don’t wish to disrespect the new or the old, because I’m part of both of those worlds and am grateful to exist there.

When I consider this, the fortune or rough seas I have navigated, the skies roaring at me, the beer not quite being so perfect; that just doesn’t matter as long as I have friends to visit with, everything is going to be alright, man. Even if it isn’t alright, it still seems to work out alright. Let’s have a pint, you and I and tell each other a story. Let’s be Good Times together.

Building a Winter Warmer #4

It’s nearly over. After weeks of waiting, what was started is now ready to be bottled.

adding sugar to beer

First, I boil two cups of water and 3/4 cup sugar for about five minutes. This is priming sugar and is added to the beer in order to wake up the yeast that have gone dormant, having eaten all the fermentable sugars. It’s recently come to my attention that a different ratio of water/sugar might be advisable for different beers, so I might have to look into that-most of the time corn sugar is suggested for bottling but I’ve been using regular white sugar and it’s been working out fine.

Once the priming sugar (which I’m told is just a simple syrup) has cooled down I add it to the beer and wait. I want to give the syrup enough time to disapate in the beer and I don’t want to agitate the sediment at the bottom, so I usually wait as long as I can; in this case I think I left the beer alone for over an hour.

bottling toolsAfter that, I move to bottling. This photo shows the syphon, hydrometer and bottlecaps all used for this process. First I get a hydrometer reading so I can see how the beer has changed. The final gravity reading was 1.022, and through the use of handy beer calculators on the internet I know that my Alcohol by Volume (ABV) is about 5.97%.

bottlingAfter this it’s time to start bottling the beer, so I do just that. The syphon is a gravity one, so the bottles are all placed lower than the beer, and through the Magic of Science!, the beer goes into the bottles. I have to carefully regulate how fast the liquid goes into the bottles, because it comes out very quickly and if I don’t, I get more foam then beer.

As I bottle, I put bottlecaps on the filled beers. This is done to keep things from getting into the bottle before I cap them, but I’ve also been told that doing this allows the oxygen at the top of the bottle to be forced out by the tiny amounts of carbon dioxide being generated. Now I don’t know if this is true or not; the carbonation taking place may not even come close to generating enough pressure to push the oxygen out. Maybe it’s all about keeping foreign materials out while I fill other bottles.

What I can tell you is; this process is working for me. And, like a streak in baseball, you don’t fuck with your process so long as it’s working.

After all the bottles are filled, I then crimp the bottlecaps on with this device: bottle crimper Finally, I clean up. I don’t think anybody needs pictures of that.

So that’s it; I’m all done except for carbonating the beer, which ought to take about a week or so. Fortunately, I have a few beers to drink in the meantime so the Winter Warmer can sit and wait. I consider this a good thing, because while bottling I got very strong scents of cinnamon. While I do want the spices to be there, I’d prefer if they weren’t overpowering the drink itself. However, because I’ve had trouble detecting the additives in my beer so I pushed it. Maybe too far-but I won’t know for at least another week.

Building A Winter Warmer #3

After about a week, maybe ten days, the yeast has mellowed out enough that it’s time to put the beer into secondary. I made this beer after Justin asked if I’d been giving beers enough time in primary, so since then I’ve been paying more attention to see if the yeast has really settled or if I’m just rushing through things by rote.

The trick is, each beer is different and when I re-use a yeast, as I did with the warmer, the take off and slow down times shift, usually accelerating, then when I start with a fresh yeast. When I use a fresh yeast it usually takes twenty-four hours to really get going. With a yeast that’s already been used in a beer, the activity can start within two hours. I’m pretty sure this is because by re-using the yeast I’ve essentially made a starter for the beer and the yeast is primed and ready to go, instead of needing to acclimate and grow.

However, in this case I waited for nine days before putting the warmer into secondary and it sits nicely here: winter warmer in secondary

It’s not an exciting process or one that has a lot of interesting photo opportunities. Beer starts in carboy A, goes into carboy B and that’s about it.

Prior to that, of course, everything has to be sanitized; the syphon, the airlock and the empty carboy. Again, not a real exciting process, but this is as good a time as any to mention that I use iodophor to sanitize my equipment. I try to give things about a day to dry out; I know small amounts of the sanitizer won’t kill me but others have told me that in some of my brews a touch of the iodophor remains when I don’t let things dry for very long.

Nothing enhances the flavor like sanitizer, right? Right?

I’m kidding of course; I just want to make the best beer I can so letting equipment dry overnight seems like a good precaution.

Anyway, after it’s transfered, the equipment needs to be cleaned, especially the primary fermenting carboy. The mess that’s left at the bottom of a carboy looks much like this: wort sludge

You can imagine why cleaning is so important, yes?

I suppose it’s also worth mentioning that this photo-which isn’t that awesome to begin with-was taken after I’d dumped a good portion of the sludge out already. Usually this goes into compost or to feed the raspberry plants outside. The point is; there’s usually a couple inches worth of sludge at the bottom, minimum. It’s not lethal-yeast, hops and the grains leftover from the boil that made it in-but I wouldn’t eat it, you know?

Building a Winter Warmer #2

First, a link back to the original post for reference and so people can see the recipe if they so desire.

hops boilingFrom where I left off, it’s time to add the hops in. At the beginning of the boil, it’s one ounce of Centennial hops, then with twenty minutes left I added in another half ounce of Centennial. These are pretty bitter hops but I’m trying to keep their influence to a minimum. With only 20 minutes left to go, the half ounce should do more for the aromas of the beer than the flavors.

With only ten minutes left in the boil I added in the spices. I upped the spices for this batch because when I made the Later Winter Warmer, the spices weren’t too prominent. I’d like to be able to taste the flavors I’m putting in the beer, otherwise what’s the point?

Once sixty minutes have passed, I take the pot down to the basement to cool it down. This takes about ten to fifteen minutes with a wort chiller. Once that’s done, I start to pour the beer from the pot into a carboy through a strainer and funnel setup to filter out the hops and any leftover grain.

bug in hopsNice huh. This happens sometimes, but still. Wow. Not what I was expecting. I’m not worried about the bug; it was dead before it went into the boil and a full boil should be enough to kill anything, with alcohol getting everything after that. But still…

(If you can’t quite see the bug, it’s in near the center, just off to the left.)

Anyway, at this point I add water to the wort until I have about five gallons, dump the yeast in and let it sit. It doesn’t look like much at first, but later on it starts to pick up steam.
Active winter warmer

All that fluffy white looking stuff at the top is the yeast in action. At the bottom, that faint stripe of light brown is all the other elements of the wort settling out, including the dead yeast. Next week, I’ll talk about putting it into secondary with more kinda gross looking photos!

Building a winter warmer

Justin, a regular reader of APfD has asked a few questions about my brewing process and a couple questions have come up as well from others so I thought it might be fun to do a series of posts on the manufacture of a beer. There will be pictures and everything and it will give me a chance to do an occasional regular feature, maybe something like ‘I made this’, although maybe I should try to be more creative.

First, I’ll start off with the recipe:
winter warmer ingredientsSteeping grains:
1 lb C-120
3/4 lb Special Roast
Fermentable sugars added:
6 lb LME (liquid)
1 lb Dark Malt Extract (dry)
Hop used:
1 oz Centennial @ 60
.5 oz Centennial @ 20
1/2 tsp Allspice, Cinnamon, Nutmeg @ 10
Reused Wyeast 1084  yeast from Ginger Stout (4th use, final)
Original Gravity:
straining grainSo first I added the steeping grains and soaked them at about 150-155 degrees F for about thirty minutes. At that point I strained the grains out and tried to press out some of the liquid they’d absorbed. This was an experiment; with the stout I’d made I’d sparged the beer and so I’m trying to see what kind of impact this has on the flavors of my brew. I’ve been told that putting the beer in a cheesecloth mesh can be really useful for this sort of thing and I may start doing that soon. I don’t mind scooping out the grains but if wrapping them in cloth saves me time, gives me the same results and doesn’t mean I’m wasting cloth every time I make beer then I can see the advantages.

malted wortAfter that, I take the wort off the burner and add in the fermentable sugars. The beer cools about ten degrees during this process, so once the liquid malt is added and the dry malt has dissolved a bit, it’s back to the burner to bring the wort up to at least 170 degrees. Once that’s done, it’s time to add the hops and begin the final boil part of the brew.

And I’ll continue with the rest of the process next week!

Later Winter Warmer finished

Well, this beer has come out very well although there are some small flaws. Winter may technically be over, but the beer still remains. Besides, it hailed three times last Sunday. Winter isn’t over until I can see the sun for a least 2/3 of my day.  

The initial nose hints of bubblegum. I’m pretty sure that this is due to me adding the yeast while the wort was too warm. But there are other scents, including roasted malt so all is not lost. The flavors keep that toasty flavor as an undercurrent to the warm nutmeg and cinnamon spices. There’s even a ever so slight hint of ginger, which I really wasn’t sure would make it given how it got in the beer.  I am reminded of the flavors of warm mulled wine. It’s a little strange to find warm flavors in a cold drink. It’s almost as though I’m getting mixed signals. 

The mouthfeel is really light too; I’m not sure the flavor profile lets this beer be a session ale, but it feels light and very drinkable. 

Maybe this whole beer is a study in conflicts. But it’s a tasty study.