Evaluating my first hard cider

A few weeks back, I wrote about my first attempt at a cider. The recipe was dead simple (in fact, I called it Dead Simple Hard Cider), and the whole thing had fermented out in around two weeks. It clocked in at 5.4% abv; not too much, but not too flimsy, either.

ciderThe cider has maintained a consistent haze throughout its serving lifespan, and has a very thin and not terribly persistent head (unsurprising for a cider). It’s somewhat copper/gold in color, and has a nice apple aroma (with maybe a hint of something like diacetyl?). On the flavor end of things, it’s pretty dry, but not puckeringly so. I like the crispness that this brings. The flavor is…well, apple. It’s fairly tart, like the sorts of apples you would expect for a cider. More Granny Smith than Golden Delicious.

I put this cider squarely in the win column. It hit all of the marks I was hoping for, and is surprisingly drinkable. I might try backsweetening a future batch, but not by a lot. I like my ciders tart and dry! A different yeast variety, perhaps something with a bit more character, is also in the cards. A 3 gallon batch was about perfect, too. Cider is a nice treat, but not something I really want 5 gallons of. As the keg nears its end, I’m still enjoying it! And that’s a good state to be in.

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Blast from the Past: Gingerbread Winter Warmer 2016

winter_warmerLast night I pulled out a bottle of my 2016 Gingerbread Winter Warmer, and poured a snifter. Although I had kegged that beer way back in the day, I emptied the keg into a few bottles for extended aging. I figure I’ll open one a year, until the bottles are gone.

More than a year after brewing, this is a fairly enjoyable winter beer. It’s got a decent banana note, a rich, malty flavor, and a thin ivory head that disperses a few minutes after pouring. I think there might have been a little secondary fermentation in the bottle, because it seems a bit more carbonated than I remember.

We’ll do this again in a year or two!

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Speaking at Nerd Nite Los Angeles, Thursday!

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I’ll be talking about “The Dinosaur in My Beer” for Nerd Nite Los Angeles this Thursday! The event is hosted at Busby’s East, 5364 Wilshire Ave., from 7 pm to 10 pm, with the action starting at 7:45 pm. Two other speakers are on the docket for that evening–should be a fun time! Each TED-style talk is slotted for around 20 minutes each. Tickets are $10 each, and they can be ordered here.

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Brew Year’s Resolutions 2018

20170903_151314It’s a new year! Having reflected on the past year of brewing as well as how I hit my resolutions for the previous year, I’m ready to set out some goals for 2018.

  • Pitch a new article for a homebrew publication.
    • This is a holdover from last year. I had one article published in Zymurgy during 2017; now, I just have to get a pitch together for something else during 2018.
  • Perfect my oatmeal stout recipe.
    • I entered my Eagle Face Oatmeal Stout in the first-round 2017 NHC, and scored an exceptionally pleasing 40. Unfortunately, comments for improvement were pretty vague (which was a bit disappointing, given the caliber of judging there). I’m going to modify the base malt a bit, perhaps, and see if I can’t kick up the score and make it into the second round.
  • Brew some more sour beer recipes.
    • I had great success during the past two years with a Berliner Weisse and am working towards a respectable raspberry Belgian sour. I’m hoping to hone the raspberry Belgian, and brew at least one other kettle soured beer. A gose or another Berliner Weisse will hopefully be in the mix.
  • Brew a perfect IPA.
    • I feel like my IPAs are good right now, but could be better. A lot of this might be in dry-hop handling; I usually keg-hop the things, but end up with a result that can be a bit harsh. The upside of this is that loss of hop flavor from oxidation is less of an issue. It’s time to find a happy medium. For 2018, I want to experiment with different ways of hopping and transferring IPAs, to finally hit peak IPA! I’ll probably start with a return to dry-hopping in the primary…I need to first see if drop-off in hop aroma is even that big of a deal anymore given my kegging and cold storage setup. I had preliminary attempts for my Thanksgiving IPA, but it didn’t stick around long enough to verify hop longevity!
  • Hit my calculated starting gravities more consistently.
    • I’ve found that I am often 0.02 or 0.03 off my starting gravity, usually a touch on the low side. This is almost entirely a boil-off rate issue, so I want to dial that in a bit better this year.

This should be plenty to keep me busy–I’ll check in at the end of the year to see how well I did!

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2017’s Brew Year’s Resolutions — How Did I Do?

Nearly a year ago, I drafted a set of Brew Year’s Resolutions for 2017. Let’s check in and see how I did!

  • Do more science communication with homebrew as a vehicle.
    • This goal was a solid win! I gave my “The Dinosaur in My Beer” lecture in various forms for five different venues, including Homebrew Con, and have more on the way. It has inspired me to do yet more with homebrew scicomm–something to look forward to in 2018!
  • Pitch another article for a homebrew publication.
    • I didn’t get this one. Move it forward to 2018!
  • 20170128_132534Explore lagers and pilsners in more depth.
  • Use water chemistry more effectively.
    • I’m feeling really good about this one! I’ve done a lot more building water from scratch where appropriate, and feel like my beers are improved as a result. I’ve definitely fixed the formerly “flabby” character of my blonde and wheat beers, which is a major win.
  • Dial in my brewing system parameters more tightly.
    • This one was a partial win. Thanks to modifications in my mash-in procedure, I’m hitting that temperature pretty consistently. I’m less happy with how closely I’m hitting starting gravities; I need to up the boil-off rates for my calculations. Once that’s done, I should be in good shape.
  • Enter at least three homebrew competitions.
    • I got two out of three on this one. I entered Romancing the Brew and the NHC, but never quite got around to doing a third competition. I think I’m okay with that. At this stage in brewing, I’ve earned enough medals to feel confident in my product, but the overall feedback is becoming progressively less valuable. My strategy moving forward will be to enter competitions opportunistically, aiming for at least two in 2018.

In the end, I racked up three total wins, two partial wins, and two misses in the 2017 Brew Year’s Resolutions. I’m pretty happy with this–now time to start drafting my 2018 resolutions!

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