Monday, November 22, 2010

Lagunitas Hop Stoopid

Brother John from Tacoma suggested from his Facebook page that I give Lagunitas 'Hop Stooped' a try. He was halfway through a pint and raved about the great flavor. In search the next day, I found a bottle of it at 41st. Liquors in Capitola and thought I'd yak about it here.
This is a big beer, not just in the hop profile which I expected but also in the alcohol volume. It comes in strong with 8% abv. and boasts 102 IBU's. Hop Stoopid is a beautifully clear copper beverage with moderate carbonation. A good balance of caramel malts and fruitiness offset the huge and pungent hop flavors and an ending gravity of 1.020 leaves enough sugar in the mix to make for a round, full mouthfeel. But it's the hops that dominate the scene here and will definitely satisfy any serious hophead.

Hop Stoopid!

Some interesting information from the label reveals hidden secrets to brewing this beer at home. For instance, considering that the alcohol content is 8% and the original gravity is 1.085 you can calculate that the final gravity had to come in at 1.020 and that the attenuation was 76% . This leads me to speculate that the yeast used was probably not your typical California ale yeast like Whitelabs wlp001 or Safale us05 since these yeasts will attenuate in the 80%-85% range. This narrows the field slightly causing me to speculate that they may have used an English ale yeast like Whitelabs wlp002, this yeast would impart the fruit character in addition to the low attenuation which imparts the fullness in the mouthfeel, and possibly the incredible clarity.

Another component that deserves some attention is that fact that hop extract is used late in the process to achieve the over-the-top hop aroma/flavor. As a homebrewer, this could be duplicated by making a hop tea with a French press as discussed before on this blog.

I enjoyed this beer although I could not figure out what type of hops were used in the boil except to note the pungent/piney flavor. I would think that a decent amount of Columbus was used but this a wild guess on my part. If there are any experts out there (read Lagunitas brewers here) that could give us a clue on that aspect, I'm sure it would be hugely appreciated. Lastly, this beer did cause me to visit the edge of sobriety after consuming the 22oz. bottle by myself, not that there's anything wrong with that.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Beer Diary... In Brew Your Own Magazine

Just received my latest addition of Brew Your Own magazine and was happy to see the 'Last Call' article about the brew school I teach at Cabrillo College. For those that don't have a subscription to BYO you can order one through this blog by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page. In the mean time read the unedited version of the article here.

Students studying the basics of brewing

Homebrewer takes his passion to the classroom

Ten years ago I caught the homebrewing bug after attending an afternoon demonstration at the local homebrew supply store here in Santa Cruz, California. It was a beautiful spring day and grain was mashing in the tun when I arrived at Seven Bridges Cooperative. A small clutch of us gathered around a modest brew rig, asking simple questions and taking in the aroma of malt and hops. Remembering back on that day I don't think I understood much from the explanations we were given and attributed my fascination with the days events to be a combination of the artistry on display and what seemed like sublime alchemy. I immediately bought a beginners kit and the basic equipment to brew up an extract batch of beer. I haven't stopped since, expanding on my knowledge and abilities from one batch to the next. Most of what I've learned over the subsequent years has come from getting involved in my local homebrew club, the Zymurgeeks, reading brewing literature, participating in on-line forums and diligently practicing the craft.

A couple of years ago it occured to me what a benefit it was to have been introduced to this great hobby in such a hands-on way, and that others like myself could benefit from the structure of a classroom environment to learn to brew. I noticed a gap between schools for the professional brewer, like Siebel Institute and U.C. Davis, and the occasional local homebrew store demonstrations. It also seemed like it would be an asset to the community plus a chance for me to share my knowledge and passion for homebrewing.
Based on this premise I developed a curiculum for a comprehensive yet practical program, a five day course for teaching homebrewing that could be offered through community college extension classes. Once my idea was developed, I mailed out application letters with my proposal to half a dozen nearby schools.

Class photo

Cabrillo College in Soquel showed an interest after some initial reluctance over a concern that the subject would not draw the needed interest, but the class soon filled with eager students and I scheduled the first series. The course is scheduled for five Sundays in a row utilizing the week between classes for beer to ferment and the students to integrate the lessons and/or practice on their own at home. Each lesson builds upon the previous, taking the students from the basics of brewing with dry malt extract and steeping grains, continuing through the more advanced knowledge of partial mash brewing and finally brewing ten gallons of an all-grain batch. All participants get the chance to have hands on experience with the equipment and materials used in brewing, chilling, fermenting, bottling and kegging, along with the academics of the basic calculations used for testing efficiencies, attenuation, alcohol content and much more. In addition, consideration of the malt bill, hop utilization and yeast selection for developing their own recipes beyond the introductory kits available at the local homebrew store is studied. As a class, we also sample beer styles, homebrew and commercial examples, with an emphasis on sensory evaluation techniques. On the fifth and final day of class the students bring in food to pair with three of the four beers that they brewed in class, enjoying the satisfaction of sampling the results and to critically evaluate the 'fruits' of their labor.

I have been teaching this class for three years now and it continues to be popular and well received, getting good follow up reviews from the students. This is partly due, I believe, because it gives them an opportunity to directly experience the brewing process, a chance to test the waters, so to speak without a commitment to the hobby or to the initial costs of equipment and materials. Many students continue with the hobby and become actively involved in the local brewing community.
I feel proud to be able to offer this class through an organization that recognizes the value of homebrewing.

Student testimonial-
"That was a great class. You did such a good job of making the process of brewing at home comprehensible without oversimplifying, and showing us we could all do it. The more brewers in the world, the better! Thanks for sharing all your knowledge and experience with us."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Midas Touch Clone

I convinced fellow homebrewer and Zymurgeek club member Mark to brew a clone version of the Dogfish Head Midas Touch with me this last weekend. This is an interesting beer in that it is based on the dried out spurge that was stuck to the inside of an ancient urn that was discovered in what is considered the 'fertile crescent' of Mesopotamia. After analysing scrapings (the spurge) from within the urn scientists were able to identify the ingredients and a recipe was developed that is suppose to mimic that of the original fermented beverage.

I sampled Dog Fish Head's recreation and thought the flavor was o.k. if not a little sweet with an emphasis on the grape character but what ultimately drew me to brewing this beer was the idea of recreating a brew that was drunk by peoples from thousands of years ago. I like that.

We decided to use Mark's brew system which was protected from the days rainstorm under a tarp by his garage and I settled in as assistant by pouring myself a pint.  

Adding saffron
 Here is the recipe from the byo article. I got this on-line from their website and doubled the recipe for our ten gallon batch. Here's the problem if you decide to brew this beer. The recipe does not provide the sugars needed to get you to the gravity of 1.078 I ended up changing the amount of grain used from double (12 lbs.) to 17lbs. and planned on an efficiency of 80% Thus providing a gravity of 1.045 in 11.5 gals.  We used 6lbs. of honey at 1.033 which gave us 1.017 and the grape concentrate which claims to be 68brix gave us another 1.023. Now you probably figured that we should have had a gravity of 1.085 but we didn't. We ended up with 1.074 instead and we don't know why. So, we added another can of grape concentrate and reach 1.080. My conclusion is that the sugar obtained from the grape concentrate is far less than stated.

On the flip side, the recipe which claims to come in at 1.078 is not high enough to get the abv. amount of 9% stated on the label of the beer. Even if you achieved an attenuation of 80% you will only get an abv. of 7.75% so if you make this beer, beware and adapt as needed to achieve the desired results.

When all was said and done, we got up to 1.080 which should get us a little over 8.6% abv. if we are able to attenuate down to 1.010 or 87%, I don't see that happening. Most likely we'll get 80% attenuation and end up with a final gravity of 1.016 and an abv. of 8%. If anyone knows where we went wrong, let me know but look at the recipe on line first and tell me what you think of their formulation. It may be a good recipe but it doesn't get you the numbers you're looking for.

Back at the brew session: A teaspoon of saffron was added at fifteen minutes left in the boil along with some yeast nutrients and the Irish moss. The saffron looked pretty minuscule in that much wort, just floating around looking like a waste of eight dollars. At the end of the boil we poured in the honey and began chilling the wort with an immersion chiller. Once chilled to 70f. we transferred to our respective carboys and added the muscat grape concentrate and added oxygen from cylinders for maximum aeration.

We then pitched a large quantity of WLP500 Trappist ale yeast that I salvaged from a previous batch of tripel I made several weeks earlier.After four weeks in the fridge, the yeast was still very viable.

The following morning the yeast was fermenting nicely. I'll tell you how it comes out. I plan to bottle and condition this beer for 4 or 6 weeks and I think this will make great gifts for Christmas and new years for the next several years to come.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Uncommon Brewers 'Siamese Twin'

I'm proud to say I live in a community that is home to not only an organic only homebrew store, but also to one of a select few breweries in the nation that can boast the use of "all organic" ingredients. Santa Cruz's own 'Uncommon Brewers' is not only brewing with organic ingredients but some strange ones to be sure. I sat down with a pint (a pound of beer?) of their flagship ale 'Siamese Twin' to get an insight into what is brewing at Uncommon.

This is a Belgian style dubbel but not your ordinary Belgian beer. It comes at you with a traditional alcohol percentage of 8.5% and all of the qualities that I've come to enjoy in this type of beer. Full-on malt character with caramel, dried fruit flavors including raisin and prune and all-spice notes provided by the yeast. That's where tradition ends and the unique flavors of nontraditional ingredients begin. Lemongrass, coriander and kaffir lime bring a tart acidity into play that reminds me of a Flemish brown reminiscent of Petrus oud bruin or Duchesse de Bourgogne with the lingering sweetness that interplays with the sour. This quality really shows up especially in the nose.

This is an interesting and delicious take on a classic style and if you can get a can of it in your area, jump on it. It may shock you at first because it doesn't fit into your style expectations but as you stay with it you'll be claiming it as a regular selection in your beer fridge.

In the mean time, I just happen to be passing by the brewery and was allowed to wander unattended through the facility as work was in progress canning a batch of this beer. It's unbelievable but every can found out there on the shelves of your local liquor store or supermarket has been packaged by hand. The following video will give you an idea of what it takes to can 600 gallons of beer by hand, one at a time.

Canning beer at Uncommon Brewers
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