Friday, July 31, 2009

Fermentation Friday - Homebrew Clones

For this months installment of Fermentation Friday, Rob over at PFIFF! asks:
"What beers have you attempted to duplicate in your own homes, or which ones have you always wanted to reproduce, but have been wary of attempting?"
This is the perfect topic for me this month, since just last Sunday I brewed a clone recipe of Allagash Tripel that I got from Brew Your Own magazine.  This is my first real "Clone" brew having used the recipe that was calibrated by Rob Todd for us 5 gallon weekend warriors!  So far, so good.  The beer had a massive fermentation in the first few days.  I had foam in the blow off tube as well as the blow off  bucket within 12 hours!!!  I also did a first for this brew, I made a yeast starter which I think contributed greatly to this vigorous and healthy start to primary fermentation.
I have really high hopes for this beer.  In the past I was never a huge fan of big Belgian beers but recently I have been drinking more and more of them and really developing a love for these expertly crafted brews.  The big alcohol and wonderful esters that come from these pushed me to try my hand at my own, and there is no better way to start than with a clone recipe that is proven!  Now, I definitely don't expect this beer to be as good as the real Allagash Tripel, but I think it will be very good and very drinkable.  And with homebrewing.....that's all you can ask for.
While the Allagash is the only beer I've "properly" cloned, I have tried to clone another beer.  That beer is Sixpoint's Sweet Action.  I didn't have any recipes from magazines, just a few glasses of this amazing beer and my imagination.  I did try to get the recipe from Shane, the owner/brewer but was only able to get the hop varieties that were used.  So, I did my best, from memory, to try and clone it.  While the beer did not come out like a clone of Sweet Action, it took on a life of it's own and became a great beer that I served at my friends wedding with great reviews.  I am definitely going to go back to the drawing board and take another stab at Sweet Action, but for now I'm going to focus on some new beers this summer.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

F.X. Matt Brewery Tour

Last week on the way home from my Triathlon in Geneva, NY my wife and I decided to take a quick detour through the F.X. Matt Brewery. It's kind of funny since Charlie Papazian just wrote about it this week, here. His post made me realize I needed to post this. The tour was great. You start out in a room that has a lot of antique's and old stuff from the Utica Club Days. P.T. Barnums desk is in this room and there is a grandfather clock which is worth over a million dollars......and it doesn't even work!!!

Next came the presidents room. This room/hallway was filled with portraits of all of F.X. Matt's former and current presidents. Basically it's the entire Matt family. Still, very cool. Next a room which basically had all their products on display. The tour guide talked about the Saranac Brands, their Saranac Soda and how they use barley and hops to brew there beer. Boring stuff for the homebrewer. The final room before we got to see the actual brewery was the prohibition room. It was a small room designed in the speakeasy fashion. He talked about how Utica Club survived prohibition and that they were the first brewery to sell beer after the 21st amendment was signed. They had beer on the trucks ready to ship 1 hour after the amendment was penned!'d they get that beer made in 1 hour????

Now to thew brewery. The first room housed the two large brew kettles. All 100% copper kettles which were a thing of beauty. The amount of equipment that was in this room was amazing. The picture below is only half the room. The other half to the right was the cereal cooker and the filter, which was about the size of a yellow school bus. Very cool!

After seeing the brewhouse, we took a quick trip through the grain storage tanks.....actually, just the top floor. It wasn't much because of the massive size, they were more than 2 stories high and so wide we could barely walk by them. Next we went to a room which had a view of the fermentation tanks. They would not allow us to go into the fermentation room because there are pipes and hoses all over the floor and they do not want to liability of someone tripping and hurting themselves. I biggie.

And finally, we finished in their pub! We were given 2 drink tickets each. I was the first to the bar, and I grabbed my favorite Saranac beer ( and probably one of my top 5 beers) Saranac Black Forest!! WOW, what an amazing beer. Great malty bite to it slight hop presence. My wife, since she was the best and offered to drive, had thier Root Beer. IT WAS AWESOME!!! It was so good, we bought a 6 pack. I also bought a 6 pack of the Black Forest and went through it the night I got home! SO GOOD!

As we Left, I snapped the above picture. It's the grain "dump" or whatever you call it. This is where the spent grain is put after brewing and local farmers come by with a truck, has the grain dumped in the back, and they take it away and use the grains for cattle feed. Very cool and easy way to dispose of spent grain!

If you're ever out near Utica, I highly recomend taking this tour. It's very easy to get too and it's a lot fo fun to see one of the oldest working breweries in the country!


The Obama Beer Summit

There is a lot of conversation about this whole "beer summit" situation at the white house.  There are articles and posts on major news sites and blogs around the country (here, here, here, here, here and here)  Most of the beer world has a beef with the type of beer that was chosen (Bud Light for Obama, Red Stripe for Gates and Blue Moon for Crowley) while it seems that the news world is concerned with...well, I have no clue.  Partially about the beer that has been chosen and partially happy because they think this makes Obama look like he's a down to earth American!!  I think the choice of beer here was in poor taste (pun intended)!!!  The home of the President of the United States of America should serve American beer!
Regardless if you are a supporter of Obama or not, I think this is a great opportunity for the Craft Beer industry to gain some notoriety.  I also think that the choice of beers were sub-par.  The industry has been given free press and EVERYONE in the media is talking about beer now!  This could help spark a larger debate on the "sin" tax that is placed on beer, or the rising excise tax on brewers.  This is an opportunity the industry can't afford to miss.  It is definitely made harder by the fact that swill that the 3 men have chosen are not made by American Companies.  I could go on and on about this, but I won't.  Everyone else has said enough.  But I will leave you with my suggested substitutions for them:
Obama = Bud light (replace with Sam Adams Light)
Gates = Red Stripe (replace with Yuengling Traditional Lager)
Crowley = Blue Moon (replace with Allagash White)

Local MA brewer to expand distribution

I just got to reading this piece of news on BA about a local Massachusetts brewer Sherwood Forest. They will now be distributed by Stawski Distributing Co. based in Chicago and will now be available in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Colorado and Iowa.

Sherwood Forest is a small brewery located in Marlborough, MA. I've never been a huge fan of there beers. I would much rather have a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale over their Archers Pale ale, but then again I think I would have a SNPA over most beers! By the looks of their web site, they re-branded most of their beers and have spent some money upgrading the site. I'll have to grab some and see if their beers have improved as well!

This looks to be an exciting deal for them. Be on the lookout for there beers if you live in these markets!


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Yeast Starter

Tonight I made my yeast starter for the Allagash Tripel I'm brewing tomorow.  I usually don't make yeast starters and I tend to just trust the Wyeast smack packs and the cell counts they advertise.  But because of the high gravity of the Tripel, and this being my first Belgian beer, I thought I should do it right and make sure I had a proper fermentation with good cell counts, so I made a starter.  Hopefully it works out well.  We shall see.
So with this, I have a question for you all.  When I made the starter, I didn't smack the smack pack and just poured the yeast in the jug.  I decided to pull the smack pack out and see what it looks like.  It's basically a small package of wort.  You can see it in the picture just next to the starter.  On to the question.....would it be feasable to save this and over time as I mack starters, keep them until I have enough Wyeast wort to make a starter with that wort instead of buying DME and using that?  Also, if it would work, am I really cheap by trying to save $6?  Let me know your thoughts, but I think I'm on to something.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Allagash Tripel Clone recipe

Although I only got 7 of you to vote, it looks like the Allagash Tripel clone is the winner. I'll be brewing this on Sunday so I'll post a full report on Monday with stats and how the brew day went. For those of you who want the recipe, it is below. It is in the July-August 2008 issue of Brew Your Own Magazine along with recipes for Ommegang Witte Clone, Lost Abbey Devotion Ale Clone, Two Brothers Domaine DuPage Clone and Red Rock Brewing Pecome Blonde Clone. This is a great magazine that always has great recipes and articles about technique and ingredients. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for some home brewing magazines to read/subscribe to.

Allagash Tripel Clone:

12.8 lbs (5.8 kg) Pilsner malt
1.6 lbs (.73 kg) sucrose

2 oz (57 g) German Tettnang hops (4% AA, 60 minutes)
.4 oz (11 g) Hallertau Mittelfruh hops (whirlpool)

Wyeast 1762 (Belgian Abbey Ale II) or Wyeast 3787 (Trappist High Gravity) or White Labs WLP510 (Belgian Bastogne Ale)

Mash at 153 F (67 C). Boil for 90 minutes. Add sugar for final 15 minutes. Add whirlpool hops at end of boil. Ferment at high end of yeast strain's recommended range.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What to brew next?

For the past 4 months I've been training very hard in order to complete in my first half-ironman triathlon. For those not familiar with triathlons, the race consists of a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and a 13.1 mile run. The weekend is finally upon me, and on Sunday I will be swimming, biking and running my way to the finish line in under 5 hours and 30 minutes....I hope!! I'm really excited that the race is finally here. I get to see all that training that I did put to good use. The weather outlook looks great for race day, so I'm looking forward to a great day!!

Another reason I'm excited about the race being here is that all that time I spent training......can now be spent brewing!!! I haven't brewed since early May and I am in desperate need of a brew session. But, I'm having a small problem. I don't know what I should brew. Part of me is thinking I should brew the batch I brewed for the wedding, and try to incorporate some of the suggestions I had into the beer and attempt to perfect it. But the creative side of me wants to try something new. These past few months, I've been indulging in some Belgian beers. Mostly from Allagash and Ommegang, but I've made a list of some of the beers I'm going to try and track down from some of the trappist breweries in Belgium and try those. I've given up drinking for the past two weeks (which was not easy) so after Sunday, I'm going to get back on the wagon with an Allagash Curieux and either a Brooklyn Local 1 or Local 2. (The decision between Local 1 and Local 2 will be made by who wins the, or my friend Shaun who is also competing).

Which brings me to the reason for this post. I can't decide what to I'm leaving it up to you, my readers. I'll post a poll for this and you can vote over on the left side. Brew day is going to be Sunday, July 26th and it can't come soon enough!! If you have a suggestion that isn't in the poll, leave a comment and I'll consider it!!