Monday, June 8, 2015

Before everything and after

Whoa, it's been a while. Sorry for the wait, ladies and germs. A lack of blogging has not meant a lack of brewing, that's for certain. In fact, some of my best stuff has been happening, and I have been showing a certain streak of evil in keeping it from you all.

Also: if you want to follow beers that I'm brewing or drinking, there's a little linky-link over here on the right to follow me and my homebrews on Untappd. If you don't have Untappd, you should sign up! Not only can you track what you drink (and remember how well you liked it), but you can see what your so-called friends are drinking, so you can shame them later for draining a whole sixer of PBR by themselves (if they mustered the courage to check in, of course).

So, without further ado, da beers.

Blitzen Christmas Ale

The last I left you, this beer was strugglating through primary fermentation. It wasn't even named yet! Well, I should tell you that I overshot my ABV calculations (thanks again, BrewTarget) and brewed a smashing Christmas ale, which was consumed with startling immediacy by my family members and friends. My parents, in particular, appreciated a tipsy liter between the two of them. Here's the whole story:

About two weeks after brew day, I moved the beer to a secondary, a shiny new glass carboy. Waiting in the secondary... was a half bag of frozen cranberries and a few oranges. It smelled exactly how you would expect a fantastic blend of alcohol and Christmas fruit to smell.

After a while, the beer clarified quite well, and began wafting magnificent scents. I bottled mostly into regular 12oz bottles. But for immediate family, I bottled into some big 1L swingtops that we got from IKEA. I justified this by saying that beer is meant to be shared, so opening a liter of beer means that you intend to share it! The only drawback is that the bottles are clear, and susceptible to UV radiation. For my parents and brother, this turned out to not be an issue, since they drank the beer almost immediately. Merry Christmas to all, indeed.

Cave Troll Black Walnut Oatmeal Stout

Next on the list, and tentatively mentioned on my list on the right, was a beer that I brewed for my parents. They have black walnut trees in their yard, and they undertake the pre-industrial effort of obtaining the nuts from these trees every year. Of the fruit of this labor, they asked if I could make a beer. I was both eager and hesitant-- knowing that a great beer would be truly great, but a failure would spoil so much work that I get depressed trying to calculate its monetary figure in even minimum wage.

I provided some darker beers (Founders Porter, Arcadia Nut Brown Ale, and New Holland's The Poet) for my parents to try, and see which they liked best. They decided on The Poet, and I can't say that I blame them. An awesome beer for sure, and of course, pushed the expectations a little higher.

Then, the spanner in the works. I brewed it without issue, of course. But about a week after I moved it to secondary to clarify, my wife underwent an emergency surgery and was out of the game for over a month-- she's better now, but it scared the hell out of us. This was about the same time we rescued a very energetic puppy, as well. Needless to say, Cave Troll had plenty of time to mature in the secondary.

I bottled the whole lot, almost getting to 50 bottles, with my wife... before I dropped two bottles down the basement stairs while moving them. You know, there comes a point when you start losing track of all the bad omens, because adding them all up in the column seems to be pointless.

My brother's review, halfway through his second, was as follows, "This is probably the best beer I've ever had."

Though I was disappointed in it feeling a little thin and too light for a stout, I have to say that it's the best one I've made. If you're ever traveling to my parents' house, leave a comment to tell me how you liked it. Zum Wohl!

Captain Shorty's Sharp Wit

Finally, we come to the brew that's currently sitting in a fermenter in my basement. You may, if you bother to read any previous entries from last summer, recognize the name from some brainstorming I did toward the end of the summer. This is based on an extract recipe that I found on HomeBrewTalk which was basically a witbier with blood oranges, like a Blue Moon hopped up on Jolly Ranchers.

Some of you may recognize that blood oranges tend to have a terribly short season toward the beginning of the year-- about the time I was trying to keep up with a toddler and two dogs while Cave Troll was in the secondary-- likewise, they were unavailable when it came time to brew. I substituted Cara Cara oranges (which are still pretty red and sweet) and grapefruit (for some tang!).

This was also (drum roll) my very first all-grain brew! I think my efficiency turned out to be total crap (~62% according to BrewTarget) due to my underestimation of my boil-off rate and lack of mash temp control, but it'll be beer none the less. Even moreso that I couldn't find a proper Belgian yeast strain at the local homebrew supply shop... so I substituted Danstar Munich. It's a wheat yeast, sure. For hefeweizens. So, it might be a witbier that tastes like a hefeweizen. Who cares, it'll be beer. And of course, I will keep you posted from now on!

I hope to post the recipes for Cave Troll and Captain Shorty in due time. And I will push myself to keep blogging. With pictures, even! Prost!

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