Tuesday, September 9, 2008

White Water Rafting on the Kennebec River

I spent this past weekend with some friends up in The Forks, Maine doing some white water rafting with the Northern Outdoors company. I've never been rafting and I was very excited. My wife, not so much. She was petrified! But, she faced her fears, and got on the river and loved it. We rafted on the Kennebec river leaving from a Hydro electric dam about 20 miles north of where we stayed. Luckily for us, Saturday was a scheduled dam release, so the normal 3,400 CFS (cubic feet per second) was more than doubled to 8,700 CFS. That made for some pretty big rapids, two sections were class IV. It was a long day, but we all managed to stay in the boat without getting tossed by the rapids, thanks to our guide Nick Atwood. I recommend him if anyone goes up there. He knows the river well and will make the trip a lot of fun for you.

The best part of the weekend happened when we got to the lodge and I realized that not only was this an outdoor adventure company, but they were a brewpub too. They had 5 beers on tap this weekend, Kennebec Logger (a pilsner lager), Kennebec Summer Ale, Big Mamma Blueberry Ale (named after the big mamma rapids), Ripogenus Red (amber ale), Magic Hole IPA, and were out of their Class V Stout which according to all the guides is there best beer.

My personal favorite was the Ripogenus Red, but I really liked the blueberry. It was a lot darker than most commercial blueberry's I've seen, but it tasted every bit as good. Although we didn't eat dinner there, we had breakfast and lunch and both were fantastic. I am definitely going to plan another trip. They also raft on two other rivers up in Maine, The Dead River and the Penobscot river. The Dead river is supposed to have equally big rapids, but they last almost the entire 15 miles. It has the most continuous white water than any other Eastern river and some are even class V. The Pennobscot is a much bigger class river with bigger rapids, mostly class V, but they are short technical sections. Our guide is pushing us to come up and do the Pennobscot next as he said it's so much better.



Monday, September 1, 2008

Robust Vanilla Porter

I had high hopes for this beer. After making a test batch and missing the mark, I decided to move forward with a full 5.5 g batch. I used tastybrew for the recipe formulation and couldn't wait to get brewing. The brew day started off very well, and I noticed as I was steeping the grains there was a frothy foam in the kettle. I figured that was from the flaked barely, which helps with the head of the beer.

I went into the boil, and hopped as scheduled. After I cooled the wort and topped off to 5.5 g, I took a gravity reading and to my surprise, I overshot it by a mile! I couldn't (and still can't) figure out why I overshot it that much. After the session, I re-did the recipe in tastybrew and in my spreadsheet thinking I miscalculated, but it was exactly what it should be. My only thought is that the guy at my LHBS didn't hear me right and gave me more than asked for. I guess I'm going to have to start re-checking everything I buy, which sucks.

I bought two Madagascar vanilla beans which I'll boil to sanitize and add them to the secondary and most likely will add an additional packet of yeast. I'm still confident this beer will finish well, just not exactly like I planned. Sometimes, that's not a bad thing I guess. Recipe and stats are below.

Batch Size - 5.5 g
Boil volume - 4 g
Mash ph - 5.0
Target Gravity - 1.057
Actual OG - 1.082

8.5 lbs Dark Malt Liquid extract
.5 lbs British Crystal 135-165
.5 lbs Black Patent
.5 lbs Chocolate
.5 British Brown
.5 Flaked Barley

2 Madagascar Vanilla Beans (secondary)

.5 oz. Challenger (7.5% AA - 60 min)
.5 oz. Challenger (7.5% AA - 30 min)
.5 oz. Fuggle (5.1% AA - 15 min)
.5 oz. Fuggle (5.1% AA - 1 min)

Yeast: - Wyeast 1275 -Thames Valley

New Notes:
(9/2) - Fermentation started with a bang. I woke up this morning to see that overnight, it had blown through the blow off tube into the collecting bowl and already dissapated back down into the carboy. It's still bubbling very frequently (every 2-3 seconds) and hopefully will ferment all those extra sugars I apparently put in.

(9/9) - It's still bubbling away. The bubbles have slowed to about once every 20-30 seconds, but it still going. Once it slows considerably, I'll rack it to the secondary and add the vanilla beans.

(9/15) - I racked it to the secondary yesterday and took a gravity reading (1.020). It still has a little ways to go. I halved the vanilla beans and they are soaking in 1/2 cup of Basil Hayden's small batch bourbon. I'll add that to the secondary tonight.