Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mash And Sparge With Plastic Buckets

One of the challenges and something I actually enjoy when I'm in Mexico is finding the needed equipment to brew beer. Part of the enjoyment of this process is looking for alternative ways to use the equipment that seems limiting but is in fact nearly as effective as the better equipment I normally use back in the states.

In this video which Susan says is "long and boring", but which I find facinating, I was determined to mash and sparge my grain using a few buckets that I got from the local super mercado. I don't fully explain the logic of the heated water during the video so I'll fill you in here. I didn't want to put the entire amount of sparge water into the hot liquor tank (top bucket on the chair) because I figured the temperature would drop too quickly for the fourty five minutes that I planned for the sparge. So, I heated half the amount needed and started the process while I kept the other half on the burner to pour in later. After I poured the second amount of hot water into the HLT I was able to start collecting the wort in the boil kettle.

If you've got limited band width like I do, you may want to check out some of the other posts below while the video buffers.

I hope this video has helped to make clear that when it comes right down to it, beer can be make with the most rudimentary means. If you've got ideas like this to share, leave a comment.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Miel De Agave Pale Ale Revisited

If you recall from the beer/food pairing event I did last year at the 'El Burrito Bistro', one of the beers was a pale ale that was brewed with an addition of miel de agave syrup that I called Agaveza Pale. You can read about that experience here.

That beer was made with a commercial agave syrup that had a subtle, almost undetectable flavor. I decided it was worth brewing again in an effort to have the distinctive flavor of agave shine thought, supporting the maltiness of the grain. I headed out one morning in search of a more flavorful product.

Well, I came across a small company at the local market and tasted their offerings. What a difference, the flavor is bold with the distinct character of the agave plant. This agave syrup producer is a small company call La Montanesa. They're agave is dark brown with the smell of toasted bread and brown sugar, which is a pleasant surprise because the raw juice of the agave has a foul flavor. Evidently, cooking it down some really helps. In this new recipe, I left the grain bill the same and added eight ounces of this better tasting agave syrup and tweeked the hops by adding some late additions of a Cascade and Centennial blend. I'll let you know how it comes out and I'm hoping it's good enough to serve again at this years beer/food pairing.

In the mean time, I've got plans to brew an all-grain batch of a double IPA and then a dry stout.
I may not use any local ingredients in these beers and just go for good examples of these classic styles. Once these are finished carbonating in the bottles I will sit down with Noren Caseres (the owner of El Burrito Bistro) to taste and plan a menu.

I'm really getting frustrated trying to collect enough bottles to reuse for all the beers I'm brewing. My original plan to bottle in the large 3.3 litre plastic carbonated water bottles didn't work out satisfactorily. What's happening is that an excessive amount of yeast sediment accumulates at the bottom of the bottle from the natural conditioning and when the cap is remove and the carbon dioxide is released, it begins to draw up this sediment and causes the beer to get murky. If all of the beer is dispensed quickly, it's not too bad, but the up and down motion of pouring into several glasses really agitates this sediment. “No me gusta murky.” One solution may be to dispense the entire content of the bottle into a pitcher and then fill the glasses from there. Any suggestions are welcome.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Modelo's 'Chope' Draft Beer

Groupo Modelo started a program to distribute draft beer a couple years ago but has just showed up in San Miguel recently. I went to a Tex-Mex restaurant nearby, it used to be called Don Quijote's in the San Antonio neighbor hood and because it's new, people still refer to it by that name. I went to see what Chope had to offer.

Only available at selected bars and restaurants and when I say selected I mean the bars and restaurants that can affort the $2000 usd. purchase price of the Chope draft system. There are two beers that are served through this system. One appears to be Negro Modelo and the other Modelo Especial. This restaurant had two 1/4 barrels on the floor behind the bar at room temperature and were being dispensed through what appears to be a high-tech jockey box. With stainless steel taps mounted on the all metal and glass machine perched on the bar top. Both taps have a flow adjustment. The beer lines run up from the kegs to the underside.

A special glass is used to served the beer with the logo 'Chope' etched on the side. The beer is served with an impressive head which is part of the selling feature in the Chope program. Including the claim that the beer has a fuller mouthfeel because it is pasturized less than the bottled beer. I'm not sure how this makes a difference or how one can quantify less or more pasturization but it is a slogan that I have come across in numerous web sites that promote it's merits. Surprisingly, the Modelo website doesn't mention Chope at all.

My experience? Seems like the same ol' Modelo coming out of a tap with a larger head and served in a glass that make me feel special all over. The taste is the same.
Still, I think I enjoyed my glass of beer poured from a tap more than drinking from the bottle. Cheers!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Brewing With Piloncillo

Brewing with the local ingredients has brought me to a main sugar source in Mexico called Piloncillo. Mainly produced in South America and often called 'Panela', this product is basically a solid piece of sugar (sucrose and fructose) made from evaporating sugarcane juice and then concentrated by boiling it down at high temperatures. It is sold in most of the markets here and comes in the shape of a cone or pilon "pile". Translated, piloncillo would be 'pile of sugar' as far as I can tell.

Piloncillo comes in a light brown and dark brown version. It tastes a lot like the brown sugar in the States but with a little molasses taste to it. It's main use here in Mexico is as a sweetener in beverages and desserts like atole and flan.

Sugar Cones

In my case, I decided to use two pounds of it for a 5.5 gallon batch of American brown ale. This ended up being five of the 'cones' and I went with the darker version for the fun of it. Piloncillo is pretty tough stuff and it took about 15 minutes for it to dissolve in my 180f. brewing water at which point I then added the dry malt extract and brought this to a boil.

The taste of this sugar really comes through in the finished beer with a mild molasses/brown sugar and spice flavor and alcohol. I think this would be a good winter seasonal beer, but not one I could enjoy quaffing like I do my pale ale or traditional brown ale.

The following is the recipe for Piloncillo Brown

O.G. 1.060
F.G. 1.010
ABV 6.5%
IBU 39
color Brown

5 lbs. DME (light)
2 lbs. piloncillo (dark)
Steep 4oz. Crystal #60
Steep 6oz. Chocolate grain
Steep 1.5oz. Carafa II

Boil for 60 minutes with:

.5 oz. Columbus for 60 min. for 27 ibu's
1.5 oz. Hallertau for 10 min. for 10 ibu's
1 oz. Hallertau for 5 min. for 2 ibu's

chill to 65f. and pitch us-05 dry ale yeast

It would be interesting to find out how many brewers have used this product in the past and what their results were.
To view all of the Beer Diary... recipes - Go Here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Weyermann German Malt In San Miguel

I know. Enough already right? But you wouldn't believe how long and difficult this process has been. Until I physically had the grain in my house, bought, paid for and delivered, I wasn't sure I would ever actually get it. But I finally did, thanks to a lot of perseverance and tenacity.
Now what? I've got a few beer recipes lined up that I will use this hard earned grain in and I plan to start right away. I'm thinking of a double India pale ale to begin with based on a Pliney the Elder clone recipe I have. The type of beer that I could drink in satisfaction of a job well done. This would be followed shortly with a "must have at all times" Dry Stout.

Weyermann German pale malt: Yes!

Anyway, I'm not going to bore you any more with the tedious details behind getting brewing ingredients here. I just have to say that it feels GOOD to have large bags of malted barley lying around and the potential ales that they represent. Cheers to you, and may St. Gambrinus provide you with the grains you need in your efforts!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Brewing Ingredients In Mexico

I have finally found all of the reliable material suppliers in Mexico needed to successfully brew beer at home. It has taken a couple of extended trips down here to accomplish this task and I would hate for anyone else to have to go through the ordeal, so I am providing the following information to all those that live in Mexico or plan to visit Mexico long enough to brew beer while you're here.

First, a big thanks go out to Cliff Piequet at Back Street Brew Pubnow known as Hornitas Brewery who turned me on to MiCervesa. Both he and I have been searching for this source of bulk grain and ingredients going back a couple of years.

I placed a 'group buy' order with MiCervesa because they have a $250 usd. minimum. I was very happy with the service and they have a great inventory of grain. They also sell pellet hops by the pound and dry yeast by the case (38 pgks.) that can not be mixed. The pale malt is $43 for 25kilo bags. If you brew all-grain and you can make the minimum, this company is the way to go.

The other wholesale supplier is Complementos Alimenticios for malt extract. There is no minimum cost amount but the smallest quantity for DME (dry malt extract) is 25 kilo bag at $86 or $1.56 per pound. That's a good price if you're brewing extract or partial mash beers. They also have liquid malt extract. Again, the service is good but you must arrange delivery yourself. For this company and for MiCervesa I used a local courier FridayServices. Very friendly, quick service and they comunicate with you during the process which is unique and valuable here. The last wholesaler that I know of, but have no experience with, is Maltayderivados. They have bulk 6-row grain and are out of Mexico City. I think they are connected to the Modelo group. I believe that the minimum order is 50 kilos.

One thing to know about purchasing from these wholesalers is that they require you to deposit the purchase amount into their bank account and then fax or email the receipt as proof before shipping. They don't have any type of on-line payment system. Some patience is required when going to a Mexican bank to accomplish this task. Take a book to read while you wait in line.

The following are the homebrew retail outlets that are available on-line down here and have a reasonable amount of homebrew materials when it comes to ingredients and equipment. I have not tried to order from them yet so I can't comment on their service, but purchases can be made on-line and they will do the shipping with their prefered shipper. I have had some email communications with them and they are responsive and helpful. The downside to these retail outlets compared to the States is that the costs are substantially higher. So, if you can order bulk, do it. It's just another reason to brew more beer.

I hope that this information is helpful and can save you some time and effort. If you have any questions about this, ask it in the comment section below and I will respond likewise. Also, if you have more information on additional resources for brewing ingredients or equipment in Mexico, let us know. Cheers!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Andy Rooney - These Glasses Are For Beer

Nothing frustrates me more than to see the dirty residue of a fruit smoothie stuck to the inside of one of my favorite beer glasses.

My beer glasses are an integral part of the equation when it comes to enjoying my favorite beverage. The proper presentation in an unspoiled vessel augments the pure joy of the experience of drinking the product of my efforts and nothing detracts from that experience more than knowing that in the recent past the glass was used for something other than it's God given purpose. I don't think I'm alone in my thinking here. God help me if I am.

When I see my favorite mug filled with lumpy chocolate milk, my body seizes up with convulsive muscle spasms, as I stutter, struggling to form some sensible statement about sacralige and proprietary use with quivering lips. O.K. maybe I don't feel quite that bad, but still.

I guess when you're not obsessed with brewing and beer it just doesn't matter but for this fanatical homebrewer there is nothing more insulting than the cavalier disregard for the sacred vessel. Where does this insensitivity come from?

Evidently the pleading for respect continues to fall on deaf ears. Now, I'm not here to name any names (Susan) but I will say that if you're reading this and you're not a beer fanatic listen carefully... the beer glass is like a holy grail or in this case grail(s). They are not to be used willy nilly for any ol' concoction you can pour into them. They are reserved specifically for the many styles of beer, not shrimp cocktails or psyllium imbued juice blends. No milk based product of any sort, no tea, frapaccino, cucumber/lime/chia seed drinks. The next time you reach for a beer glass admiring the beauty and size to hold the perfect amount of orange julius you just whipped up in the Oster blender, don't do it.

On the other hand, and you may call me a hypocrite here, but any kitchen utensil can be used in the beer brewing process including but not limited to: large spoons, thermometers, colanders, measuring cups/spoons and plastic containers of any sort.

Out of a desire for mutual respect, I will refrain from using the kitchen pot holders.
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