Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Get that batch a keg. Batches love kegs.

We have a few exciting (to us, anyway) developments to talk about today. Chief-most among them is our fridge is now working like normal again! That means we can pull out of our holding pattern and switch back to homebrew production mode. It also means I can start giving the few batches I've managed to brew in the mean time some much needed TLC.

Starting to get crowded up in here...

We were lucky enough to come home with the batch of beer brewed at Dr. Jeckyll's Beer Lab with Rabbit Hole head brewer, Matt Morriss last Halloween. This was a "toned-down" version of their stellar American IPA, Rude Jester, dry hopped with tons of great American west coast hops. Since we anticipated this IPA to be a little more tame than its parent namesake, we dubbed this batch "Sassy Jester."

Due to a little bit of distraction and some poorly timed kitchen appliance failures, the dry hop went on a little longer than it should have. Oddly, the resulting beer came out exceedingly bitter, almost astringent, though no other detectable flaws were present in the beer. Normally, dry-hopping does not affect the bitterness level of a beer - only the flavor and/or aroma. The malt character was great and once the bitterness blanched your tongue, you could tell the hop character was a nice blend of citrus and tropical fruit flavors.

I kegged this beer and set it in the fermentation chamber at about 65F to condition while we attempted to get the fridge situation taken care of, hoping some time would mellow the off-flavor. I brought a sample up to Dr. Jeckyll's to share with some other homebrewers and to brainstorm some ideas to fix the heavy bitterness. The best solution was to blend this beer with some sweeter brew in an effort to balance the malt-to-bitterness equation. Another homebrewer named Shane mentioned he had a honey-based recipe that finished a little sweet that he had sitting around, so he graciously traded me some of his homebrew for the finished product, should it prove drinkable.

When it comes to blending beer, it is important to get the dosage correct. You have to take care to compare different combinations next to each other so that you get a good idea of each sample's characteristics and differences as compared to its neighbors. It also helps to have a second palate on hand to taste the samples in case you are taste-blind to certain flavors. Amanda and I measured out even portions of the Sassy Jester in 3 pint glasses. We sampled Sassy Jester and Shane's beer alone before blending to develop a control in our minds. I then dosed in 1, 2, & 3 shots into the respective pint glasses for comparison.

From left to right, 1-shot, 2-shots, & 3-shots dosed into a half
pint of Sassy Jester

As expected, the 1-shot sample retained the most bitterness and the 3-shot sample was much more mellow, even masking some of the hop character. We landed somewhere between 1 and 2 shots per half pint, or roughly 1 part Shane's beer to 3 parts Sassy Jester. This allows the drinker to taste the overall West Coast IPA character, still be able to discern a nice hoppy aroma, and have a well-balanced flavor that doesn't shred your taste buds.

Aside from that experiment, I also kegged my half of my collaboration brew with Kyle Nelson of Steel Rain Beer. We called the batch Steel Main Mild to reflect both of our homebrewery names. The final gravity of my half clocked in at 1.015, leaving this beer just a touch under 3% ABV. Definitely light and sessionable, but it doesn't taste thin as one might expect. It has a nice malt presence, little to no hop character and finishes satisfyingly dry so as to invite a following sip. This particular style of beer requires very little carbonation, so I'll check it after a day and see where she sits. If all goes well, we will be entering this beer as a team to the Bluebonnet Brew-off homebrew competition.

The small batch mild that I brewed around Christmas time that ended up more of an English Brown is also ready and carbonated. I kegged that beer a few weeks ago and let it cold condition after tasting what is described as "green beer." This doesn't imply infection, St. Patrick's day food coloring hijinks, or a bad batch necessarily, just that the beer needs a little more time to mature and even out. After sitting a serving temperature for a week, this beer pours beautifully with a nice off-white head and a deep brown satisfying body. I will submit this as a solo entry into Bluebonnet and see what the judges think.

Now that we have beer flowing through our taps instead of sitting in homebrew limbo, we can plan some future batches and get an idea for what we want to submit for competitions down the road. We are definitely planning on re-brewing the 9*8*7 Russian Imperial Stout soon to allow appropriate aging time. I would also like to flesh out a red ale to enjoy by St. Patrick's Day.

Dr. Jeckyll's new homebrew demonstration kitchen!

Our next post will be pretty informative and hopefully exciting as well. As I mentioned last week, we were asked by Dr. Jeckyll's to help them design and build a 3-vessel, 2-tier brewing system that will be used for brewing demonstrations right in the homebrew store! We had a run-through brew session this weekend and learned a lot about our brand new system, and I will detail all of that next time.

Til then, cheers!

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