Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Launch Of The 'Gringado' Blog

Just when I thought I had nothing left to say, I'm launching a new blog. As Susan and I head south for the winter, we thought it would be fun(?) to write about our Mexican experiences in a kind of 'he said'-'she said' format. We will be covering the activities we share together and writing individually about them from our own perspectives. Please click on the image to go directly to the Gringado website and then click on the follow button to join us as we explore the people, events and culture of Mexico and develop our own creative writing styles.

In the mean time I plan to continue posting here at Beer Diary...  as I search for decent beer and interesting beer stuff in Mexico. Muchas gracias!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Road Trip

I've been busy with family stuff recently, along with getting ready for another trip to Mexico. These events are taking up a lot of my beer and beer blogging related time. Once I get to San Miguel de Allende I will be checking out the local beer scene and reporting my findings here. We'll see you there.

Drawing by Susan Dorf

Friday, November 18, 2011

Brewing School Changes

There will be some changes to the brewing classes this coming spring. I've found that the five week course is too labor intensive and cumbersome for me to continue. The main problem is shuttling full fermentors of beer back and forth between the campus and the area that the fermentation takes place. This moving of heavy liquids can be a real pain and it doesn't contribute to a healthy and clean beer in the end. So, until I have a facility where the fermentors and for that matter the brewing equipment can stay put I will be modifying the classes.

Beginning this Spring I will be offering a one day entry level or beginner brewing class and also a one day advanced or all-grain brewing class for those with some brewing experience. These classes will incorporate the study materials that were used in the five week course but modified to address the concerns of these two areas of brewing.

Additionally, besides the already existing 'Beer tasting and appreciation' class I will be offering an advanced tasting class for those that have either taken the introductory class or are more familiar with beer styles. In this advanced tasting class we will spend more time focusing in on a particular style including pertinent qualifying attributes like region, history, brewing techniques, etc. Information that the novice would be bored with but the enthusiast would really enjoy.

On top of these changes, it looks as though I will be adding a new school to the mix, West Valley Community College (over the hill) would like to conduct this same curriculum. Of course I will continue to teach at Cabrillo College.  See you in the spring.

In the mean time, here is a video showing me brew up some beer to put in cold storage while I'm in Mexico this year. A window into brewing at Beer Diary...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Lager Yeast Starters

It's time once again for me to get ready to leave the country for a few months and in preparation for my absence I want to have forty gallons of lagers in kegs by December 1st. to begin aging. They will stay in cold storage during the cool California winter months. My plan is to return to enjoy a Schwarzbier, Dunkel, Bock and Doppelbock when I return for the spring season in April.

This meant that I needed to create some yeast starters that would get the beer fermented in a reasonable amount of time so I can keg and get them aging by December 1st. (departure date). I'm using White Labs WLP830 and WLP833 lager yeast for this years beers. Each vial is stepped up two times to achieve what I believe will be about 200 billion cells per pitch. This I will use for the Schwarzbier and the Dunkel.  Lower cell counts than what Mr. Malty probably recommends but I've had good success with this pitch rate in the past. Once those two beers are fermented I will pitch the yeast cake from each into the two bigger beers, the bock and the Doppelbock.

Brewing lager's in the strict sense of the word is difficult and requires refrigeration and temperature controls for the fermentation that I don't have at this time. Additionally, slowly lowering the beer temperature after fermentation a couple degrees every day until the beer is at the freezing point and later ramping the temperature back up before lowering it again is not something I even want to mess with. So, I will be going about this as I've done before and have every confidence that the results will be good.

First, there are two schools of thought about the beginning fermentation temperatures. One is to begin warm (70f.) for a short period of time allowing the yeast to develop a large colony, then lower the temperature down for the fermentation period. The other idea is to ferment at lager temperatures from the beginning until fermentation is complete and this is the method I will use. Because I can't cool the beer in the fermentor I have to get the wort down to lager temperatures to begin with by chilling with a plate chiller and with the support of my post immersion chiller that I've written about in the past. You can see it here, or watch a fuzzy video of it here. Since I am writing this after the fact, I can tell you that I got the wort down to 54f.

Secondly, I'm relying on the cool temps. in my storage unit to maintain that temperature for the duration of the ferment which I expect will be about ten days. Again, having looked at the fermentors today I can say that this temp. has only gained two points to 56f. In my book this is still an acceptable lager temperature. Judging by the thick krausen it looks as though the pitch was enough for this beer gravity.
Finally, I'll be using recipes from Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmers 'Brewing Classic Styles' book to brew these beers. Of course they will be modified to suit my needs and accommodate the ingredients I have on hand so I can use them up before departing. Don't tell Jamil.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Straffe Hendrik Tripel

Near the top of my list of favorite beer styles is the Belgian Tripel. I can't get enough of these beers and regularly have a homebrewed clone version of Chimay's Cinq Cents on tap at my house, (yeah, pretty pedestrian but they make a great tripel). So when I saw a unique brand on display at the Whole Foods beer cooler I snatched it up to do my typical comparison to the giant of Tripels, Chimay.

The Straffe Hendrik Brugean Tripel is less of a strict Belgian tripel but seems to be more of a cross between a Belgian Dubbel and tripel. De Halve Maan (the half moon) Brewery claims to be the only authentic(?) Belgian brewery in the city of Bruges for whatever that's worth. The brewery first mentioned in town records from 1546 has been owned by Maes-Vanneste family since 1856. For more information about this historical brewery go here.

What is authentic and for that matter more valuable is the flavor and quality of this beer. I like it a lot. For a tripel there is an inordinate amount of caramel malts that causes the flavors to lean Dubbel but the crisp spiciness and perfumy aroma and flavors are classic Tripel that include subtle alcohol vapors. This is a complex beer but the abundance of crystal malts confuses me as I approach it with my mind set to experience a Tripel. The color is darker, like light copper but not as dark as most Dubbels. Again, confusing but oh so delicious. A fuller mouthfeel with a long lasting head this beer is satisfying and rich but dries quickly and begs for another sip. This beer is 9% abv. with a price tag to match. At  about $10 per 25oz. bottle, it felt a little pricey. Finally, it's easy for me to praise this beer and I highly recommend it if you can find it in your area.
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