What’s Brewing? April/May 2024

Because this is an incredibly busy time of year in the non-beer part of my life, April slid past and now we’re a good chunk of the way into May. So, I’ve got a combined post this time around.

Beer Batch Updates

  • I have kegged my Belgian pale ale, and it won both the brew club competition as well as the Southern California Homebrew Festival bragging rights competition! My personal assessment was that it was a decent beer, but not fantastic. But, I guess I was wrong.
  • I brewed and kegged a version of my orange wheat ale, to go to the SoCal Homebrew Festival. It’s not my best iteration, but it will do. Because my Anvil Foundry was down for a month or so (see below), I went back to a standard mash with batch sparge. Something went sideways–mismeasure of grain mass, maybe?–and I only got 50% mash efficiency.
  • I brewed and kegged an American IPA, focusing on a more traditional piney/citrusy profile. I used Centennial, Cascade, and Amarillo hops to reach this goal.
  • I brewed the 2022 iteration of Alta California Lager on 24 April, and it is now in the final stages of fermentation before cold crashing.
  • I brewed a Scottish 70/- Heavy on 7 May, in order to have a flavorful but lower alcohol beer on-hand. I’m letting it ferment out at ambient temperature (around 66 to 68° in the garage), which is perhaps taking a small chance but I also think it’s a recipe that will benefit from a fruitier yeast character. I used US-05, so any fruitiness will probably be fairly restrained.
Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

What’s On Tap?

  • My Pre-Prohibition Lager is on tap, and wow is it delicious. It’s exactly the beer I wanted to bridge into the warm days of spring! I’m going to be sad when it’s finished.
  • My American IPA is on tap, and it’s a bit young yet but will come into its own as it settles out. The flavor is awesome (a classic late 1990s West Coast IPA), but the yeast haven’t dropped completely clear yet, so it’s a bit on the hazy side. It’s got a great flavor of citrus and resin and pine.
  • I am moving my orange wheat ale on-tap soon, to fill the vacancy left after my altbier keg kicked.

What’s Coming Up?

  • I’m thinking about another IPA, something to highlight the tropical-type hops that I’ve been getting in my HOPBOXes. The draft version I’ve got uses Azacca, HBC 586, and Idaho Gem…I’m not sure if I’ll stay in that space, but it seems like a start.
  • I’m also looking at a German pils, using 100% Barke Pilsner malt, and Saphir+Hallertauer Mittelfrueh for the hops.
  • It feels like another beer should happen before some big events this summer (fieldwork, travel, and a house move), but I haven’t figured it out yet. Maybe a dark or amber lager?

Other News

  • Back in March, I had some issues with my (otherwise beloved) Anvil Foundry. It turned out to be a bum power switch…after a bit of back-and-forth with their tech support and a new switch+wire, I am back in business! Even though I am past warranty, I really appreciate that they covered this replacement.
  • After about five months of fermentation, my beer vinegar (made from my weissbier) was ready to go. It had some amazing vinegar mother action (see image below). The flavor is exceptional, just like malt vinegar that you would put on fish and chips. I used it to spritz a pork shoulder during an extended smoke, and the flavors blended really nicely. I can’t wait to try another batch!

What’s Brewing? February 2022 Edition

I’ve continued to plug away at brewing projects over the past few weeks, and am enjoying the opportunity for a bit of creativity.

Beer Batch Updates

  • I kegged my altbier on Valentine’s Day, and it is now cold conditioning.
  • I transferred the Pliny the Elder clone into a serving keg; it went fairly well, although there was probably a gallon of beer sludge left in the bottom of the dry hop keg.
  • I brewed my HOPBOX pale ale on 29 January, and it is pretty much done with fermentation. I’m going to keg it in the next few days.
  • I brewed “The Simple Monk” on February 5, and the beer is pretty much finished with fermentation. I’ll probably keg it later this week. The beer was…well, dead simple–100% pilsner malt, 1 oz. Cascade whole hops, 1 package of Belgian ale dry yeast.
  • On 14 February, I brewed a new pre-Prohibition lager recipe.

What’s On Tap?

  • Eagle Face Oatmeal Stout is still on tap; I’m not going through it terribly quickly. It’s not a bad beer, just not in my “sweet spot” of flavor interest at the moment. It is popular with some friends, so I’ve been able to pass it along for them!
  • My Pliny clone is drinking super deliciously! It’s a nice beer, although definitely a few abv points above my usual preferences.
  • I just rotated my German pils into the keezer, after about 6 weeks of lagering. It is delicious, although it has a tiny bit of haze that just hasn’t dropped out yet. I wonder if it’s a result of the Viking pilsner malt?

What’s Coming Up?

  • I plan to do a Scottish 70/- heavy, for something new. It’s another low-abv style, and my recipe should clock in at 3.1%.
  • I have ingredients to do my Alta California lager, but I’m not sure when it will go into the rotation.

Other Notes

  • I got another HOPBOX recently, with six more varieties to play with. The “standard” varieties of Chinook, Amarillo, Citra, and Mosaic were in the box, along with some Azacca, Eclipse, Idaho Gem, and Triumph. I used the Triumph hops for my pre-Prohibition pilsner, for something a little different in there. I suspect an IPA or two is in my future!

2022’s Brew Year’s Resolutions

Once again, it’s time to look ahead to the new year of brewing. What would I like to achieve in 2022?

  • Session Beers
    • I’ve always had session-strength beers as a regular part of my brewing rotation, and have had some really great successes. I’ve done well with IPAs and stouts, and would now like to branch out a bit. I recently made a session strength dark mild, which I just put on tap and am really enjoying. A Scottish 70-/Heavy is on the schedule, and I might even aim for a patersbier soon.
  • German Pils
  • Pre-Prohibition Lager
    • I recently had the 1903 Lager from Craftsman Brewing Company (Pasadena), and this beer was amazing as a pre-Prohibition style lager that clocks in at 5.2% abv. The malt character was fantastic, against some really nice hop qualities. It’s hard to find much information on this beer, so I’m going to need to look around a bit in the world of pre-Prohibition lagers to figure out a comparable recipe. In any case, this is a beer style I want to make!
  • IPAs
    • I’ve made some good IPAs, and even some great ones, but I’ve not yet settled on a “house” recipe. I need to change that. I have found that “traditional” West Coast IPAs with a heft measure of Centennial and Cascade are most to my taste, so I want to revisit previous successes and see if I can’t replicate those. I might even return to a session rye IPA, to hit the session beer goal again.

Follow-Up: 2021’s Brew Year’s Resolutions

I made a few brewing goals for 2021, and with the turning of the calendar page, it’s time to assess the damage (or progress).

  • Kveik.
    • I set a goal to brew more with kveik, and did get two batches in with this family of yeast cultures, both IPAs. They turned out OK, but not great. I’ll probably play around more with kveik in the future, but I feel that the trend has perhaps run its course for my brewing tastes and needs.
    • Final Score: 5/10
  • Pilsner.
    • I set out to perfect a German pils, and came close. I’ve figured out my general grain bill and bitterness regimes, and now it’s just a matter of continued iteration. The Pilsnerpeton batch is perhaps the best from 2020/2021, and Farke’s Best Pils also came out pretty great. I just need a little more practice, and I’ll get there.
    • Final Score: 7/10
  • Big Beers in Small Batches.
    • I’m feeling really great about this one. I ended up with three small-batch beers higher than 7% abv, including the excellent Winter Dream Ale. Although I could have brewed more of these, I am actually pretty satisfied with where I landed on this goal. Each of the beers turned out fairly well, and it was about the perfect quantity for what I had energy to drink (or share).
    • Final Score: 8/10
  • Belgian Beers.
    • I didn’t do great on this one, probably because I got distracted by other brewing projects. Alongside the aforementioned Winter Dream Ale, I fermented three other beers with Belgian yeast. Two of these were old favorites (Raspberry Belgian and Pannotia White IPA), and another was a big quad for a homebrew club barrel project. So…I really have work to do here next year. Maybe a patersbier for Lent?
    • Final Score: 4/10

Overall Assessment of 2021: 6/10 for brewing goals — not great, but not awful. I still had fun, though!

2021’s Homebrew Highlights

This was a big year for my brewing, even if I had busy stretches with minimal time. As I enter the last few minutes of 2021, here are my thoughts looking back…

  • Favorite Batch
    • This was a tough one to pick! I had a decent number of beers I really liked, and so I chose the following two as my favorite batches:
      • Ill-Tempered Gnome. I don’t make American brown ales very often, but this one was just awesome. The hop character is particularly memorable, and I definitely want to make it again sometime.
      • Alstadt Altbier. I feel like I perfected my altbier game on this latest version of the recipe. Again, a very memorable beer!
  • Least Favorite Batch
  • Experimental Recipe with Most Potential
    • Winter Dream Ale. High-alcohol beers are not the sort of thing I do all the time, but this particular recipe was really enjoyable in the Christmas to New Year’s stretch. It had a nice mix of flavor and body, making an interesting beer without addition of spices or strange adjuncts.
  • Most Fun New Style/Recipe to Try
    • I had fun putting together an amber kellerbier, in Dimorphos Kellerbier. I really freestyled it in the recipe, and achieved a tasty result.
  • Upcoming Beer With Most Potential
    • I have another Pliny the Elder clone fermenting right now, and I’m crossing my fingers that it turns out well!
  • Best Technique Added to Repertoire
    • I’ve been using a Hochkurz mash semi-regularly, and like the results in terms of extract yield as well as fermentability and flavor.
  • Best Ingredient Added to Repertoire
    • The HOPBOX was a lot of fun to play with, and gave me a nice IPA as a result. I’ll be enjoying the next iterations as they arrive this year.
  • Favorite Book(s)
    • For Christmas, I received a copy of Dark Lagers: History, Mystery, Brewing Techniques, Recipes (by Thomas Kraus-Weyermann and Horst Dornbusch)…it has been a fun one to browse! The historical information is interesting, the recipes seem solid, and the food recipes are also something I’ll look forward to trying.
  • Other Milestones
    • I had some fun with other fermentables this year, including creation of miso paste as well as injera bread. I’ve continued with sauerkraut and homemade mustard, all of which are fantastic accompaniments for beer and sausage.
  • Overall Stats
    • I brewed 31 batches of beer this past year, totalling around 150 gallons of beer produced.
    • No particular beer style dominated 2021, although I had three batches of German pils and two batches of American IPA as the most frequently brewed styles. Expanding into IPAs as a general category, I brewed seven recipes in the IPA world (including American, English, white, and double IPAs).