Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Baby Brew... Carter's Brew

It's been a while since I've posted anything here for an obvious reason ;). Me and my wife have been blessed with a son.  It's not that I haven't brewed in a year but more that I haven't had the time to write up any documentation on any of the beers I've brewed.  I wanted to go back and make sure I did document one of special importance though.  Long before my wife was even pregnant, the idea of this beer was in the back of my mind. After I found out Carter was on the way I started executing the plan for this massive brew.  This beer is an ice barley wine style beer.  This beer is brewed much like an Eisbock.  Basically the idea is to brew 10 gals of barley wine (9-10%) then freeze the resulting beer and collect the first 5 gallons that thaw off.  The result is a beer that is double in intensity of flavor and alcohol (18-20%).

So that is what I did.  I re-brewed my big-foot barley wine clone recipe but brewed 10 gals at once (first time to brew 10 gals at once).  I had to use two mash-tuns to hold the grain.  Brice and I had to pull double duty on boil over watch. In fact, I boiled a total volume of 14 gallons in my 15 gallon kettle.  As I recall I actually had to remove a gallon, wait till a gallon had boiled off, and then add it back in to stop the boil-overs. I split the batch into two 6 gallon carboys for fermentation.  After fermentation I filled ten one gallon jugs and threw them into the deep freeze.  I only had room to freeze 5 gals at a time.  
I inverted the jugs and collected what didn't completely freeze and let the rest thaw until I had collected a half gallon from each jug.  I poured the roughly 2.5 gallons collected into a keg then did the next 5 gallon batch the same way. 
I ended up with around 5 gallons of freeze distilled (yes this is legal) beer that I then aged for about a month on medium toasted oak.  Afterwards I carbonated and bottled.  I wax sealed the caps on the bottles in order to help the beer age better.  I will be aging this beer for 21 years and give this beer to my son on his 21st birthday :).  Since I have enough bottles, I plan on cracking one a year on his birthday to test the progress on aging. 

In fact, I cracked the first real taste of this the day we brought him home, which leads me to the story of his birth and NICU stay.  My wife gives a better account than I could possibly ever write.  Her well written recap is here: The Story I Never Thought I'd Write.  All in all it was a rough first month but I believe it is behind us now.  Carter is doing much better.  Even though he is behind a little on weight gain, at least he is gaining weight (25th percentile).  His VSD (hole in his heart) is small (possibly closing) and the cardiologist is not concerned.  He is still aspirating a small portion of his feeds (even thickened), but ENT did not find anything abnormal.  We believe part of his issue may be low upper body muscle tone.  Physical therapy may be in his near future or at least a consult. Brewing is a trade I plan on passing down to my son one day.  When he is of age and shows an interest in the hobby hopefully we will brew together.  If not, at least he will have the skills to craft beer for trade when the economy collapses :).

Friday, January 18, 2013

Barley Wine

I've been lining up ideas for my next "big" beer.  I've already tried my hand at something closer to Dogfish's 120 and even though I wouldn't call that a complete failure, it did end up finishing way too sweet.  So I thought I'd initially brew a classic barley wine and maybe use that recipe as a spring board for my next project.  I'm also looking to increase my brew house capacity to 10 gallon batch sizes and with that comes the added need to purchase grains in bulk and mill my own malt.  For my increase to 10 gal I've put together an extra 10 gal mash tun so as to mash double the amount of malt at the same time.  Even though this batch of barley wine was a 5 gal batch I feel that I should have split the malt and mashed in two separate mash-tuns to see if that might have helped my efficiency in this batch.  I used a clone recipe for Sierra Nevada's Big Foot barley wine as the base recipe.  I shot for a typical efficiency of 65% but with 22.5 lbs of malt I ended up around 58%.  I had to modify the recipe a little and added the 2 lbs of DME (all I had on hand) and 1 lb of dextrose to get to the OG I wanted.  I justified the addition of dextrose as a possible method to dry the finish out a little (which made me feel a little better about adding it).  
Enjoying a Barley Wine to start the brew day off
Overall, I've been noticing a decrease in efficiency (usually around 65%) and with most variables staying fairly consistent, I have been pointing the finger at the crush I get from the home-brew shop, but until recently I hadn't had an opportunity to test that theory.  The thought is why would the the home-brew shop give you a good crush? If you get bad efficiency, that just means you have to buy more grain from them and they don't typically charge any extra for milling the grains. 
New Barley Crusher
I recently brewed an IPA with a buddy where we used milled grain from a local brewery in Fayetteville.  Even though we got a stuck mash, the efficiency we got was around 78-80% on my equipment.  So now I know that my efficiency problems are due to the crush the home brew shop is giving me.  

New Quick Disconnects (saves lots of time)
I think I may have picked up a new brew-day tradition...  While I was talking to an assistant brewer at a brewery in Fayetteville, she taught me about a brew-day drink called a "hot-scotchie".  It's where you take a shot of scotch mixed with a little bit of the first runnings from the mash.  The next day, I had a brew-day with my buddy and we tried this so called hot-scotchie... Loved it!  For this brew-day however I didn't have any scotch.  So I made it with some crown (kinda losses something without the scotch though).
Hot-Toddy With the First Runnings
This recipe requires a 2 hour boil. A long boil like that will help caramelize the wort and impart a deeper red color to the beer.  Funny story with this boil though...  Both of my propane tanks were empty on brew day and the only place in town that fills them was closed.  So I was forced to go the exchange route.  Note:  When you exchange (even though you pay the same price as a full fill) you get a tank back that is only 75% filled. So about one hour into the boil the tank ran out and I had to stop the boil and go make another propane run.  Mental note:  I need to make a shield for the burner so as to not waste so much gas.
120 Min Boil
Ended up with OG of 1.108 which will probably turn out to be around 10% ABV.  I will be dry hopping in secondary with about 1.75 oz of hops (keeping on hops for 5 days).