Tales of Homebrewing

Since I’ve taken such a long break from blogging, I feel like I need to update a few readers on the status of my homebrewing adventures.  While perhaps not my most popular posts of all time, they also get some of the most thought provoking responses.  Anyway, right now I have three different brews I’ve created since my last homebrew posting, and I’m working on a brand new one right now.

Hoppy Groundhog Dark Shadow – Black IPA

This past birthday I hit a minor lifetime achievement by reaching the age of 30.  I say minor because everybody does it.  While ithoppy groundhog labels feels like a kinda big deal to the person involved, it’s probably not nearly as big as we all make it out to be.  Anyway, I had decided to brew this beer right around Christmas, and it was ready right around my birthday (Groundhogs Day), so I figured name it after the holiday that shares my birthday.  Overall it’s probably my favorite beer I’ve brewed thus far.  I like one of the ones a little further down on the list here, but I think this one is still an all around better beer.  I actually entered it in a homebrew competition, but I’m an idiot and just put it in the IPA category and not specialty beers.  I was basically disqualified. It’s a bit heavier and more roasted than your typical black IPA, but I think that’s what I like about it.  The hops don’t blow you away, but I think they are present enough to still have it hold strong as a black IPA.

Heisenberg Honey Wheat

This beer was an attempt to take a different direction.  I had been hanging out in the realm of dark beers for a while, and I wanted to make something lighter and easier drinking for the summer.  I saw this recipe online, so I tweaked it a little to make my own.  The beer has about a pound of orange blossom honey added rather late (last five minutes) to the boil.  It helps to make the beer a bit sweeter, but I did run into a slight issue on this one while brewing.  My parents had gotten me a wort chiller for Christmas, so I wanted to make use of it.  Unfortunately, since I was still brewing on my stove, I lost the boil when I put the chiller in to sanitize.  Therefore, the honey wasn’t really added during a boil.  I tried to compensate for the mistake, but it may have effected the outcome.  Lately the hops have really kicked up on this one, so it’s kind of like a hoppy honey wheat.  Ultimately I had to pay tribute to one of my favorite Vigilantes. However, I’m not sure you can still think of him as a vigilante.  Is Walter more of a villain now?

Pretentious Hopster – Red IPA

About a year ago I tried to make an imperial IPA that was probably my biggest disappointment as a homebrewer.  The bottles never managed to carbonate, and I ended up with 48 bottles of syrup.  Ultimately, other than the black IPA, it’s been my only Pretentious Heisenbergattempts at making a hoppy beer.  I love IPAs and hops, so I felt like I needed to have another go at it.  I decided to make it a red ale for the fun of it as well.  While this beer wasn’t problem free, I solved my issue with the chiller by purchasing a propane burner for use in the backyard.  This of course helped keep temperature up, but I instead had to handle a boil over or two.  I guess I need to learn how to control temperature a little better with my new toy.  The only other issue I had was with clarity.  There is a fine line of soot at the bottom of each bottle, but with a careful pour, it isn’t too much of a big deal.  This is probably my most aromatic beer to date, and it has some great hop flavor.  It’s only been drinkable for a week, but the malts are beginning to kick up to help balance it out.  Pretentious Hopster was the name of my failed double IPA, and I couldn’t let a great name like that go to waste.

Peppercorn Blonde (yet unnamed)

The next brew I’m aiming to create is for my late summer month consumption.  Within the span of a week or so I enjoyed a number of beers that feature peppercorns as the special ingredient.  Ultimately, that was all the inspiration I needed to look at giving my next beer a little spice.  One of the beers I had was a saison (which I have already brewed) and the other was a rye beer (which I hear doesn’t work well when you are doing extract brewing); therefore, I decided to choose a bit of a different summery type of style for my peppercorn usage.  A nice Belgian Blonde seemed like the right way to go. The recipe is still being finalized, but I would love to hear any suggestions for how to make this beer great.  I’m also a little unsure of when to add the peppercorns.  I thought I would add 2 ounces in the last five minutes of brewing and then add an ounce or two to secondary fermentation.  Has anyone worked with peppercorn before?  Is that overdoing it?  Just have to ask.

I’m slowly working my way away from extract brewing and into all-grain, but I have quite a few expenses coming my way, so I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep it moving just yet.  I’ll get there eventually.  For now I’m just having a good time.

peppercorns

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Anchorage Brewing Co – Whiteout Wit Bier

There is a certain train of thought when it comes to winter beer.  You need to brew something big, bold, and dark.  Hunting around at whiteout witthe beginning of the winter and Christmas season has led me to finding quite a few different stouts, old ales, porters, and scotch ales.  They are big, malty, and really bold.  I love to drink these styles of beer.  Winter styles are my favorite styles with the exception of IPAs.   I became quite intrigued when I saw this bottle of Winter Wit while I was at my parents during Thanksgiving.  There’s a store out by my parents I know has good beers where I found this bottle.  Anchorage isn’t a brewery I’ve seen on the shelves around DC, but I’ve managed to find a bottle of theirs at one of my favorite local bars.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the last beer I had from them, but I was really interested to see what it was like when they created something that was both light and made for the winter months.

While being a lighter beer for winter, the whole composition of the beer was extremely interesting to me.  First, it’s a wit that has been brewed with lemon peel, black peppercorn, and coriander.  Second, they decided to use Sorachi Ace hops to provide an even more lemony citrus feel.  Next it was triple fermented.  It was fermented in the tank with a Belgian yeast, second it fermented in french oak chardonnay barrels with brettanomyces, and finally in the bottle with a third yeast for carbonation.  It’s not the first beer I’ve heard of being triple fermented, but I haven’t exactly heard of it being fermented in such unique ways.  The brettanomyces almost turned me off to this beer, but I decided to suck it up.  I thought it would provide an interesting enough blog, so I couldn’t pass it up.

Like I said earlier, I’ve had one other Anchorage brewing beer before.  It was their beer The Tide and its Takers, and it had a ton of brett in it.  I’ve had more than my fair share of brettanomyces.  It is just about never my favorite ingredient in beer, but I am always willing to give it a try.  I always think, maybe this will be the beer to convince me it’s an okay ingredient.  For some reason, Anchorage loves to use brett.  Looking at their website, they throw it in every single beer they have.  Anchorage specifies they specialize in barrel fermentation with brettanomyces and souring cultures. They enjoy blurring the lines between new and old styles of beer and brewing procedures. I suppose sour beers and brett is considered the new thing in brewing, I’m just not really sure if I’m on board with either just yet.

This one pours a pale yellow golden color with a nice fluffy white head that develops on the pour.  While the head is somewhat substantial for the first pour, it dissipates rather quickly as well.  Interestingly, the subsequent pours didn’t seem to really have the same quantity of head the first one did.  Regardless, there is some extremely light lacing on the sides of the glass, and you get no sticky residue at all.  The beer has some light haziness from start to finish, and you can certainly see quite a bit of carbonation in the glass as well.

whiteout wit glassThe smells are all rather light and certainly less than wintery.  The brett aroma is quite large and basically dominates the majority of the nose.  The other really big aroma is some very strong lemon.  There is some light clove smell from the belgian yeast style, and you get some very light sweet malts as well.  There seems to be a light spiciness to the aroma; however, I’m quite hopeful to find more of it in the flavor.  There don’t seem to be a lot of hops, but I think that may be the lemony aroma of the sorachi ace hops.

The light sweet malts kick off the brew and mix with some very bold lemon flavor.  The lemony flavor mixes nicely with some bold coriander as well.  The entire first half of the brew seems to be dominated by the malts and sweet lemony flavor.  The yeast comes in; however, it isn’t as bold as a lot of other Belgian brews.  I’m sure the triple fermentation managed to take some of the bold nature of the Belgian yeast out of it.  There is some very nice peppercorn that comes in for the more winter feel.  The brett begins to pick up; however, it isn’t as bold as most brett flavor I’m used to in these style beers.  This is certainly a good thing since brett is not my favorite component.  There is certainly some oak flavor near the finish where I also believe I can taste the influence of the chardonnay as well. The big lemon comes back towards the end for a nice dry finish as well.

The mouthfeel is rather light and easy drinking.  That’s even with the influence of the oak barrels and peppercorn.  There is some slight syrup that kicks up near the end; however, it still manages to finish with a light dry feel.  The oak and peppercorn seem to give it the most wintery feel, otherwise I think I would be calling it more of a summer beer.  My favorite part is the light handling of the brett.  I am very finicky when it comes to brett, so the light hand is right up my alley.

I’m still a bigger fan of heavy beers in the winter, but it is nice to have options.  I would certainly recommend picking up a bottle of this if you can find it.  Keep it around till you’re tired of drinking stouts, and you’ll be more than happy you had it.  It’s more than an okay alternative to heavy winter beers.

Teacher Grade: B+

whiteout wit label