Monday, May 6, 2013

New Blog!

Check out my new blog - The Absent Minded Brewer!  It will be a little bit more focused on homebrewing, beer, and other home made goodies!

Song of the Day: "Watch it Crash" by Toh Kay
Beer of the Day: Victory Helios

Friday, March 8, 2013


Obviously, I haven't updated this blog in a long time - mainly because I have had a lot of stuff going on lately.  Things probably won't be slowing down at all for another couple months.  Fear not, I will be making a return eventually, in one form or another.  I plan on taking advantage of this hiatus to give this blog a much needed reboot and re-branding.  Likely, I will be shifting the format of this blog a bit and the nature of the posts (still focusing on homebrewing and other fermentables, mainly), to allow me to make more frequent, shorter posts.  I may even consider shifting to a different hosting site, but I will see how I like the different formats and tools.  Until then, cheers!

Song of the Day: "Down" by 311
Beer of the Day: Victory Headwaters Pale Ale

Thursday, November 1, 2012

First Homemade Wine

I’ve been meaning to take a crack at making wine for awhile now, with the intentions to making about 2-3 batches a year.  Recently, Midwest Supplies did a Groupon* for a wine starter kit, which was a deal  too good to pass up.  The deal included the basic home wine making kit (including a 6 gallon Better Bottle secondary fermenter) , a choice of two different ingredient kits (Coastal Red or Coastal White), and a $25 voucher towards a future purchase, all for about $82, including shipping.  Needless to say, this was a crazy good deal.

I ended up going with the Coastal Red kit.  From the perspective of a homebrewer, making wine from a kit was pretty straight forward.  “Brew day” was much shorter since it essentially entails mixing up some water, the grape juice, and nutrients in a fermenter and pitching the yeast.  There are few more steps that you have to take along the way that you don’t have to do with brewing, like degassing and stabilizing, but other than that, it was pretty straight forward and the end result came out pretty tasty.  If you can follow a cooking recipe, you can make wine with kits like this.  I think I may do a Malbec as my next kit, but time will tell.  Here are a few pictures from my first wine:

Sample of the wine at bottling time.

Left: my Fresh Hop IPA in the secondary, Right: my first wine in the secondary.

The finished result of my first wine about 3 months after bottling.

*Note: Midwest has done a very similar deal on Groupon and on Living Social for a homebrewing kit.  For someone looking to get into the hobby, it’s a fantastic deal.  I imagine they will be running the deal for the wine starter kit again also.
Song of the Day: “Worlds Apart” by Times of Grace
Beer of the Day: Liefmans Goudenband

Friday, October 19, 2012

About That …

Yikes – it has been about three months since my last post.  About time I got back in the saddle.  Not much excuse for not posting – just kind of lost track of the blog for a bit and got busy with a variety of events.  Anyways, I have been keeping busy with a variety of fermentables (including my first cider and wine), so there actually is a decent amount of stuff that I want to update on.  To keep it a bit more manageable, I’m going to split it up into a few pieces (pretty much a post for each batch).  So without further mucking about ….

One of my better book purchases of the last couple years, is the book that Stone Brewing Company came out with about a year ago.  Besides giving a great history of one of my favorite breweries straight from the source, the book also has some awesome homebrew versions of a bunch of beers that they have released over their history, including a lot of rarities and one-time releases.  Among these recipes, was Lee’s Mild – a dark English mild that Stone released early in its history, that didn’t fit in with their portfolio and was never released again by the brewery.  Doesn’t change the fact that it’s a fantastic beer.  Finding myself wanting a flavorful English session beer, I decided to give this one a whirl. 

I love this beer for a variety of reasons.  One, it’s a damn tasty beer.  Two, its sessionable.  Three, it challenges peoples’ perceptions of craft beer.  Some people are convinced that all homebrews are these big, strong beers that will get you drunk after just one or two.  This beer (and the style, for that matter) is proof that even craft brewers and homebrewers enjoy being able to have a few pints without getting sloshed.  Clocking in at just 3.8% ABV, this beer has less alcohol than a Coors Light.  The other way it challenges people is that it disproves the myth that low alcohol correlates to low flavor.  Think again, buck-o; this bad boy has a surprising amount of depth and never fails to satisfy. 

I definitely recommend brewing this, or some sort of English Mild, for all your session drinking needs – whether you need a batch for a party, or just want a tasty beer to be able to drink a few of.  This is roughly the recipe from the book, although I have modified it a bit for ingredients on hand and rounding some of the weights.  This will certainly be finding its way into my regular rotation. 

A glass of Lee's Mild held up to a light. 

Lee's Mild Clone

Recipe specifics:
Style: Mild
Batch size: 5.2 gal
Boil volume: 3.5 gal
OG: 1.041
FG: 1.010
Bitterness (IBU): 24.9
Color (SRM): 18.8
ABV: 4.0%

4.00 lb Maris Otter Malt, 46.6%
3.15 lb NB Marris Otter LME, 36.7%
0.62 lb Brown Malt (British), 7.3%
0.56 lb Crystal 135-165L (British), 6.5%
0.25 lb Pale Chocolate Malt, 2.9%

2.00 oz Sonnet (AA 4.0%, Pellet) 60 min, 23.9 IBU
1.00 oz Sonnet (AA 4.0%, Pellet) 2 min, 1.0 IBU

English Ale yeast, 1.0 unit(s), Yeast
Irish Moss, 1.0 unit(s), Fining 1 tsp at 15 min

Song of the Day: “Focus Shall Not Fail” by All That Remains
Beer of the Day: Iron Hill/Ithaca Dark Humor Aged in Sherry Barrels

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Competition Update

Well, Philly Beer Week has come and gone, which means that the flurry of brewing competitions that was my first half of the year, is winding down.  So far this year, I’ve entered five competitions – three of which, were AHA/BJCP category formats, while the other two were single-entry competitions.  Here’s a little wrap up of the competitions so far this year:
·         War of the Worts: This event that was hosted by Keystone Homebrew Supply was the biggest homebrewing competition (based on number of entries) on the East Coast ever, aside from the Sam Adams homebrewing competition.  This meant that there would a tougher, larger field of competitors compared to other competitions that I had entered, prior to this.  I ended up entering six beers into this competition and ended up getting some great feedback on all of my entries, but didn’t quite have enough to place in any of the categories.  I did, however, manage to pull some solid scores – two in the high thirties, one in the mid thirties, and the rest in the mid twenties to low thirties.  I have a feeling that two that scored in the upper thirties were close to placing, but just didn’t quite have enough to push them over the edge.
·         Battle of the Homebrew Shops: This was a pretty cool concept that they did for the first time this year.  Basically, each homebrewer would enter a beer with their local homebrew shop.  The winners from each shop would advance to the second round to brew a beer using coffee (but no stouts or porters!).  The only guideline for the first round was that it needed to be a session-strength beer (ABV needed to be 4.5% or lower), so it was pretty open stylistically.  I ended up entering Theresa’s Ale in the first round and didn’t make it into the finals.  It’s kind of a gamble with a competition like this, because the guidelines are so open.  I was hoping to make it to the second round, but oh well – definitely looking forward to this competition coming back next year.
·         NHC: This was the first year that I entered the National Homebrew Competition.  I ended up putting in three entries – Moment of Silence, the blend of Moment of Silence and Moment of Violence, and Theresa’s Ale.  I ended up getting two 29s and a 26 in the regional round.  It was a little bit of a gut check considering the two Streetlight beers had scored in the thirties in the War of the Worts.  However, it seemed like the scores were a bit tougher in NHC (based on a couple homebrewer friends of mine that had similar scores), and the beers that moved on to the finals needed to be in the 30s or higher.  So with that in mind, I was fairly pleased with my performance for my first year entering NHC.  Once again, no medals, but great feedback from the judges.
·         Triumph Homebrew Competition: After making it to the final round in last year’s competition, I decided to do a variation of my Angry Rhino Black IPA (the beer I entered last year) to enter into this year’s competition.  I ended up doing a saison version of the beer to mix it up a bit.  Although I didn’t get past the first round this year, it was definitely a blast to attend and was much more organized and structured this year.
·         Buzz Off: Hosted by the BUZZ Homebrew Club on the same day as the Triumph competition, I was not able to attend this year’s Buzz Off competition.  However, I put in seven entries – including my first mead.  I ended up getting second place for three of my beers in their respective entries – Belgian Rhino in Belgian Specialties, Moment of Silence in Other Smoked Beers, and the dry-hopped version of my Big Dog Barley Wine collaboration with my buddy Dan in American Barley Wines.  On top of that, I got some great feedback on all of my entries.  It was a great feeling to finally have a few entries hit home and place after having been in the middle of the pack or on the edge of placing for the last few competitions!  Congrats to my buddy Jeremy, who also took home three medals in the same competition! 

Buzz Off had some pretty cool medals this year.

The Summer has been very busy (as usual) since then, with non-brewing-related activities (which will be summed up in post shortly to follow this one, hopefully).  The next competition probably won’t roll around until early Fall.  Until next time, raise a pint, and enjoy life!

Song of the Day: “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones
Beer of the Day: Ommengang Seduction

Monday, June 4, 2012

Belgian Rhino Black IPA

Well, I’m a bit behind on a few posts, but I’m going to attempt to catch up in the next week or two.  A couple months ago I decided to bring back one of the biggest beers I’ve brewed (topped only by my recent Phantasm Imperial Stout), with a twist.  I brewed my Angry Rhino Black IPA last year for the first annual Triumph Homebrew Competition. 

I was very happy with the way it turned out, but wanted to turn up the hop profile a bit for the next version.  As an additional twist, I decided to try out Wyeast’s French Saison yeast strain instead of Wyeast American Ale II (1272), which I used for the original version.  I needed to take a little break from American and English Ale strains, and try something new.  So I found myself keeping essentially the same grain bill, amping up the hops (my hoppiest brew to date), and tossing in a yeast strain I haven’t used before.

The finished product came out great and exceeded my expectations.  The earthy saison yeast paired very nicely with the Chinook hops, with some citrus thrown in there from the Centennial.  One of my concerns with using a saison strain was that it might be too potent of a yeast flavor, in a beer that is meant to be primarily hop-driven.  However, the saison actually pushed the hops a bit and added a nice background complexity and smooth mouthfeel (despite the fact that the yeast dried out the beer very nicely).  This 10% ABV monster actually came out very smooth and was not as brutal as it may appear based on the hop bill.  It was definitely a worthwhile departure from the normal Black IPA flavor profile, although I will probably only mix this one in once in awhile.  The next Black IPA I brew will probably be a more standard reprisal of the original Angry Rhino Black IPA.

What better way to test out the new version of the recipe, than in competition?  To be honest, I timed this one to coincide with the Second Annual Triumph Brewing Competition, hosted by Triumph Brewing Company, which was held this past Saturday.  This year, the entries were split into four different categories and was held over three rounds, the first of which was a peer review.  Although the Belgian Rhino didn’t make it past the first round (in hind sight, I probably should have entered into Belgian category instead of Ales/IPAs), I did have a chance to taste a lot of interesting beers, including one made with jalapenos!  The competition was definitely a good time again this year, and was much more organized than last year.  Can’t wait until next year’s competition!

Although I didn’t make it past the first round in the Triumph Competition, I did fair a bit better with the Belgian Rhino in the Buzz Off Competition, hosted by BUZZ Homebrew Club on the same day as the Triumph Competition.  I ended up taking home second place in the Belgian Specialty category, which felt really good considering this was first time I had placed in a competition since last year’s Buzz Off competition, despite coming close on a couple other competitions (more on that in another post).  I also ended up taking second place in the Smoked Beer category for my Moment of Silence smoked porter, so it was a good night overall.  My cousin-in-law and brewing buddy, Jeremy, took home three medals for his beers in the same competition, so it was a good night for both of us!

Anyway, I had a lot of fun brewing the Belgian Rhino, and if you’re looking for a twist on a hefty black IPA, give this one a shot!  Cheers!

Belgian Rhino Black IPA
Batch size: 5.2 gal
Boil volume: 3.5 gal
OG: 1.106
FG: 1.027
Bitterness (IBU): 96.4
Color (SRM): 40.6
ABV: 10.4%

NB Gold LME    12.000lb    Extract    75.0%
Light DME    2.000lb    Extract    12.5%
Crystal 60L    1.000lb    Grain    6.2%
Carafa III malt    1.000lb    Grain    6.2%

Chinook 5.00oz 13.0% AA Pellet @ 90 min, 85.8 IBU
Centennial 2.00oz 10.0% AA Pellet @ 5 min, 4.9 IBU
Chinook 2.00oz 11.5% AA Pellet @ 5 min, 5.7 IBU
Centennial 2.00oz 10.0% AA Pellet @ Dry Hop (Split into two dry hops, a week for each)
Chinook 2.00oz 11.5% AA Pellet @ Dry Hop (Split into two dry hops, a week for each)

French Saison Yeast    1.0 unit(s), Yeast
Irish Moss    1.0 unit(s), Fining 1 tsp at 15 min

*Note: The saison strain actually attenuates a bit more than indicated above.  It seems to dry out a lot more than American Ale strains.

Song of the Day: “This Darkened Heart” by All That Remains
Beer of the Day: Stone Brewing Company’s Imperial Russian Stout

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Barley Wine Collaboration

I’ve been a bit a busy (and a little lazy when it comes to posting to this blog) lately and am a little behind on a couple brew day posts and other posts I’ve been meaning to get up for a bit now, so I’m hoping to get a few more updates up here in the next week or two to catch up. 

A few weeks ago, I had an opportunity to brew my first collaboration for the year (this was also the long-overdue first brew that I did with my buddy Dan).  In order for both brewers to gain value from a successful collaboration, it should accentuate the similarities between the brewers, but also force both brewers out of their box a little and teach them something new.  That is something I look for when I pursue doing collaborations.  In the case of Dan and I, we both tend to lean towards American styles, with experimentation mixed in.  In collaborating with Dan, I expected to not just get an exceptionally made traditional beer, but also to try new ingredients and experiment a bit. 

For our first brew together, we landed on barley wine as a style to brew.  This style would serve well as a base to use a variety of treatments on (i.e. different yeasts, dry hopping, oak-aging, etc.).  The idea was to take one base 10 gallon batch and split it into four different variants (5 gallons for each of us, which we each split again into 2.5 gallon batches).  Our goal was to brew a fairly dry (for the style) barely wine that would finish out around 10% ABV. 

When March 18th rolled around (note to self – in the future, don’t schedule brew days on the day after St. Patty’s Day), I found myself driving down to Delaware, coffee in hand, to start up the brew day at Dan’s place.  After cleaning the equipment, heating the strike water, and grinding the base malt, we were ready to mash.  The 75 minute mash, sparge, and 90 minute boil all went smoothly.  We then kicked off the flame and added some Calypso to steep for a few minutes before chilling, and splitting the wort between our carboys.  Another successful brew was in the books.  Really, the only hitch in the brew day was that we missed our OG by a bit because we over-estimated the amount of boil off slightly.  No big deal; that just means more beer in the end.  :-)

We both ended up going with a starter of California Ale (White Labs 001) for the yeast and let the primary ride out.  The secondary fermentation is really were we took one beer and ended up with four different variants (half of mine was hit with an ounce each of Bravo and Calypso, and the other half got 2oz of American Oak chips soaked in 150ml of Cruzan Single Barrel rum for two weeks).  I am very excited to see how our four different variants will come out in a few months.  We are planning on doing a side-by-side tasting down the line to see how they compare.  It will be a lot of fun to see how the four variants compare to each other in a side-by-side format.  This beer should be perfect for the Fall and Winter (although, I will definitely be sampling a few bottles before then, because I’m impatient).  After tasting my variants when I bottled the beer a couple weeks ago, I was very excited to see how these beers develop with some age.  They dropped down to a pretty dry level for barley wine (FG of about 1.016 for one variant, and 1.017 for the other), which is exactly what we were aiming for.  The oak/rum aged variant is probably my favorite of the two so far, striking a great balance between bitterness, malt, oak, and a touch of rum aroma and flavor.  I can’t wait to sample them after they have conditioned in the bottle for a bit!

Samples of each of my half-batches of barley wine at the time of bottling.

I definitely learned a lot with this brew and got to experience some new hops and malts that I had not used before.  It was also nice to brew on someone else’s system and get some ideas for what kind of setup I want to build for myself when I have the room to upgrade to a true full-boil all-grain setup.  All in all, the brew was a great experience and I will be updating this blog after we do our tasting of the four variants.  We are already planning on doing another brew together.  The next one will probably be a little further out there – probably something along the lines of Theobroma.  A big thanks to Dan for hosting the brew day!

Big Dog Barley Wine

Batch size: 10.0 gal
Boil volume: 11.0 gal
OG: 1.099
FG: 1.025
Bitterness (IBU): 87.6
Color (SRM): 20.1
ABV: 9.7%

Maris Otter Malt    22.000lb    Grain    65.7%
NB Gold LME    6.000lb    Extract    17.9%
Crystal 135-165L (British)    2.000lb    Grain    6.0%
Cane Sugar    1.500lb    Sugar    4.5%
Biscuit    1.000lb    Grain    3.0%
Light DME    1.000lb    Extract    3.0%

Magnum 2.00oz 12.0% AA Pellet @ 60 min, 29.0 IBU
Bravo 2.00oz 15.0% AA Pellet @ 60 min, 36.3 IBU
Magnum 2.00oz 12.0% AA Pellet @ 30 min, 22.3 IBU
Calypso 3.00oz 12.0% AA Pellet @ 0 min, 0.0 IBU

Irish Moss    1.0 unit(s), Fining 1 tsp at 15 min
California Ale yeast    1.0 unit(s), Yeast

Recipe Notes: This recipe was split into 2 five gallon batches (5 gallons for each of us).  I split my half into two batches at the time of secondary.  One half got an ounce each of Bravo and Calypso hops for a week, and the other half got 2 ounces of American Oak chips soaked in 150ml Cruzan Single Barrel rum for two weeks.

Song of the Day: “Under and Over It” by Five Finger Death Punch
Beer of the Day: Troegs Nugget Nectar