Friday, November 16, 2012

Recipes #226, #227, and #228 - Pink Nightmare, Grandma Dot's Bock, and Old Titan

It's time now for the last of my holiday beer recipes: Pink Nightmare cranberry wheat, Grandma Dot's Bock, and Old Titan spiced honey porter.

Grandma Dot's Bock

GDB was my very first holiday beer, and the 11th beer I'd ever brewed. I brewed it because I'd recently found out from my mom that her grandmother, Leora "Dot" Blaine, had homebrewed bock beer, presumably during Prohibition. Sadly, I don't have her recipe.

Bock beers are German lagers, and actually cover a range of beers, that generally tend to be stronger, heavier, and less hoppy than pilsners: helles, light-colored bock; dunkel, dark-colored bock; doppel,  double-bock (which is what GDB is); and weiss, bock with wheat.

Lagers can be a nuisance for the homebrewer, since they're supposed to, well, lager, meaning, age for several weeks around 55F, which is a difficult temperature to achieve. Refrigerators top out at around 45F. Enterprising brewers will install an electrical cut-off attached to a thermometer that turns off the power to the fridge if they go below 55, but that generally makes the refrigerator useless for anything else (and very few of us have the luxury of a dedicated lagering fridge, much less a proper German lagering cave). After several years of bottles that were overcarbonated, or outright exploded, because I tried to lager them in the fridge and they were under-fermented when they went into the bottle (and therefore overfermented in the bottle), I decided just to rely on San Francisco's naturally cool temperatures to do my lagering, and let the yeast deal with it. So far, the results have been pretty good.

5.5 lbs German Vienna
3 lbs German Munich
1 lb caramunich
0.5 lb carapils
0.5 lb wheat malt
0.5 lb English brown malt

2 oz. Perle @ 7.1% AA 60 min
1 oz. Hallertauer Hersbrucker @ 4.0% AA 20 min
1 oz. Hallertauer Hersbrucker @ 4.0% AA 5 min

Yeast: White Labs German Bock Yeast WLP 833

Allow 4 weeks in secondary.

Old Titan
Old Titan spiced honey porter was my second holiday beer and the twelfth batch overall. The malt bill changes very little over the years, but I'm still trying to find just that right mix of spices for the infusion. 

The name "Old Titan" comes from a story that I used to tell to amuse and confuse my Latin students, back when I taught high school Latin, as follows. (Most of it is true; see if you can determine where it veers off the rails...)

In Roman mythology, Saturn was the king of the Titans, powerful giants who werethe parents of the gods. The Saturnalia, which began on 17 December andlasted for a nine-day Roman week until the winter solstice on 25 December, wasthe forerunner of the modern Christmas. The Romans celebrated Saturnaliaby feasting, exchanging gifts, and decorating their homes with lights andevergreen boughs. And Saturn himself, depicted as an old man with a long whitebeard, dressed in robes and pilus (the peaked freedman’s cap), andcarrying a cornucopia filled with the gifts of the earth, is the sourceof our modern “Santa Claus” (whose name comes from Saturnuculus, meaning“Little Saturn” or “Uncle Saturn”).

9 lbs British 2-row
1 lb 80L British crystal
0.5 lb Special B
0.5 lb English brown
0.5 lb carafa

Other fermentables: 2 lbs honey during boil.
1 oz East Kent Goldings @ 5.6% AA 60 min
0.5 oz East Kent Goldings @ 5.6% AA 20 min
0.5 oz East Kent Goldings@ 5.6% AA 5 min

Yeast: White Labs Dry English Ale WLP 007

Infusion: To 4 oz house vodka, add 1 cinnamon stick, 6 cloves and 6 allspice berries (rushed), 1/4 tsp fresh nutmeg, 1/2 tsp fresh-grated ginger. Steep 1 week, then add to secondary.

Pink Nightmare

Fruit beers are always tricky, because the fruit will have some residual wild yeast in it, and you never know how that will behave. It's also hard to get rid of. If you try to freeze it, it will just go to sleep. Boil it, and the pectin in your fruit will set and you'll get jelly instead of beer. The second time that I made this (and the first year it was called "Pink Nightmare;" the original batch was "Solstice Celebration," the name that would ultimately go to my barleywine), it literally exploded out of the fermenter, spewing fist-sized globs of what looked like strawberry moose 4 feet up the walls of the "beer closet." Nowadays, I usually puree the cranberries, microwave them for about 5 minutes, pour partially chilled wort (~120F) over them, and then hope for the best (which usually means replacing the airlock with a blow-off tube and cleaning up a moderate-sized mess.

(The name comes from the movie A Christmas Story, when Ralphie's father, seeing him in the bunny jammies his aunt sent him, pronounced that he looked like "a pink nightmare.")

5 lbs Weyerman pils
4.5 lbs white wheat malt
0.75 lb oats
0.5 lb carapils
0.25 lb  honey (asidulated) malt
0.5 lb rice hulls

1 oz Styrian Goldings  @ 5.0% AA 60 min
0.5 oz Spaltz @ 3.2% AA 20 min
0.5 oz. Spaltz @ 3.2% AA 5 min

Yeast: Belgian Wit WLP 400

Fruit: 1.5 lbs fresh cranberries, blended 6 oz at a time with 1/3 cup of water each until pureed. Microwave 5 min. Add to 120F wort, let stand 10 min before topping fermenter with water and pitching yeast. Recommend using a blow-off tube.

Infusion: In 4 oz house vodka, soak 1/4 oz curcao orange peel, 1/2 tsp ground corriander, 8 cloves crushed, for 1 week, then add to secondary.

Beer review - Super deluxe and super fresh

October holds a special place in the brewing calendar, and not (just) because of Oktoberfest. October is also the time when brewers release their "fresh hop" or "wet hop" beers, something that's become increasingly popular the last few years.

Normally, hop flowers are dried to preserve them, and in the process lose some of their more volatile aromatic essences. Typically, brewers would capture as much of these as they could by dry-hopping their beer, which is basically adding hops to the fermented beer, to flavor it while it ages (as opposed to adding them to the boiling wort before the beer has been fermented, which is how hops are used for bittering).

Wet-hopping beer is the same as dry-hopping, but using freshly-picked hops that have even more of their volatile aromatics intact than dried hops do. The beer can pick up all sorts of interesting flavors this way, but of course you're limited in doing it to when hops can be picked fresh, typically September in the Northern Hemisphere.

Chasin' Freshies, Deschutes Brewing

All of this is by way of introducing our next review, Chasin' Freshies from Deschutes Brewery in Bend, OR. Deschutes has been the powerhouse of brewing in Oregon, starting up in 1988, and is currently the 5th-largest craft brewery, and 11th-largest brewery overall, in the US, probably most known for their Black Butte porter and Mirror Pond pale ale.

Fresh-hop ales are typically brewed as West Coast pale ales or IPAs, since these styles showcase the hops, and Chasin' Freshies is no exception. It's fairly light-bodied and colored, however, using pilsner malt and oats, which prevent it from overpowering the delicate floral notes of the wet hops, in this case Cascades, which have a citrusy-to-piney character. It's a nicely balanced beer, light and refreshing, with just a hint of alcohol strength, and not too much bitterness to turn off those who don't like bitter beer.

Chasin' Freshies: 7.4% ABV, 60 IBUs of yum!

Fruet, The Bruery

A few years ago, when I was down in the OC visiting family, I naturally thought to see if there was any good local craft beer available. I had my doubts, SoCal being the land of chains, strip-malls, and homogenized culture. But a Google search uncovered The Bruery, a craft brewery in Placentia, a small suburban town in inland OC known for, well, not much of anything really, but it happened to be on my way to visit my dad, so I decided I'd stop by. Turned out that it was in the back of an industrial park just off the 57 freeway, with a storefront virtually indistinguishable from the nearby storage unit, air conditioning repair, and autobody places.

Going inside, however, I was in for a shock. Their space was filled floor to ceiling with racks of barrels. Yes, almost everything they brew is barrel aged, mostly Belgian styles, and plenty of sours. They had a small bar with about 20 of their beers on tap, with a couple of empty barrels to serve as tables with a few stools. Their beers ranged from awesome to amazing.

The Fruet was their fourth anniversary beer, an English style Old Ale fermented with their house strain of Belgian yeast and aged in bourbon barrels. It's BIG, robust, dark, fruity, caramelly, toffeeey, oakey, bourboneyyyyy. Given that it's a limited release, good luck finding it, but Bruery beers are pretty widely distributed across the US, and I can't recommend them enough.

Fruet: 14.5% ABV, 45 IBUs.

Seduction, Brewery Ommegang 

Last summer, while we were visiting Dr. P's family, in central New York, we made a very special pilgrimage, to Cooperstown. Not, of course for that museum about that game with the sticks and the gloves and the leather ball. Instead, we visited one of the wonders of the craft brewing world, Brewery Ommegang.

Ommegang was purpose built in 1997 to make Belgian ales, beginning with their flagship abbey ale, and indeed they've probably done more than any other American craft brewery to popularize Belgian beers of all styles, including their Hennepin, the first American-brewed saison. 

Dr. P. spotted Ommegang's Seduction on a trip to City Beer Store (who'll be getting their own review soon, I promise!). It's a dark Belgian ale brewed with Callebaut chocolate, and with a touch of Liefmans kriek, sour beer aged on tart cherries and berries. Seduction is like drinking the world's most decadent candy, dark, silky, smooth, chewy. Much like coffee, chocolate is a difficult ingredient to work with in beer, due to its high oil and fat content (I haven't even attempted it). But this is just masterful. It's a Valentine in a beer bottle.

Seduction: 6.8% ABV, IBUs very low, want some candy little girl?

Meadowlark IPA, Pretty Things

Eric the cicerone at The Jug Shop (who'll be getting his own review soon, I promise!) first turned me on to the beers from the Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project in Cambridge, MA, at a tasting that featured not one, not two, but eight of their beers, as well as five from Jester King in Austin, TX. Needless to say, these are great events, but given the state I'm in when I stagger home afterwards... let's just say it's not conducive to writing a cogent review.

Pretty Things are a husband-and wife team gypsy brewers, he a dreamer and she a scientist (sound familiar?), who met at a beer festival, moved to Yorkshire (where she's from) then moved back to New England (where he's from). Their flagship Jack D'Or is a saison, and their beers tend to be a mix of Belgian, English, and, what might be best termed eclectic (such as the Lovely St. Winefride Brown Lager).

Meadowlark IPA, then, is an anomaly for them, an American style IPA. It's a good beer, gold-amber in color, well-balanced in hoppiness, with a little more to the bitter side than the floral. It's a very tasty beer, and I have to say that of the nine Pretty Things beers I've tried, I found four (Once Upon a Time X Ale, Lovely St. Winefride, Our Finest Regards barleywine, and Babayaga Sylvan Stout) were all exceptionally good, so I recommend them if you can find them. 

Meadowlark IPA: 7.0% ABV, 85 IBUs.