Monday, December 19, 2011

Back From My Absence

It's been a long time since I've posted anything and I feel that I should really apologize for that.  Brewing took a little bit of a back seat for me over the past few months.  My wife and I moved into a new house in the country which brings a whole lot of brewing excitement with the multiple varieties of hops that I plan on growing as well as different herbs as well. (There may be a gruit coming up here over the summer and possibly a fruit beer in a year or two after my plants have established themselves.)

I've even started brewing five gallon all grain batches again now that I can set up my Igloo cooler and turkey fryer in my garage.  Last weekend I brewed a Weizen Bock with some of my friends whole Nugget hops, but I'll get back into that in a later post.  I was so excited about it, brewing all grain batches again that is, that I've been working on my own plans for a Brutus 10 system with the possibility for an expansion to twenty gallon batches later down the road.

I had hit somewhat of a roadblock a few months ago with my BJCP challenge and didn't know what the problem was.  (If you'll recall, I was getting somewhat of a metallic/cleanser type taste in my beers.) Well I realized that it was the iodophor that I was using for sanitation.  It hit me one night when I went out for a couple beers at Buffalo Wild Wings and the ones I drank also had that same faint taste and iodophor after all is a commercial sanitizer used in breweries and restaurants.  Oddly enough it is one of those things that some people can taste since my wife had no problems with them at all.

I feel much better about my processes now and am excited to get back on track.  I'll have a week off work coming up shortly, and I am hoping to get a couple more batches brewed.

On Deck: Light American Lager
Secondary: Weizen Bock
Total for 2011: 88 Gallons

Friday, September 23, 2011

Status Update

It's been a while, a long while.  I keep meaning to update the blog, but we have been busy.  Marygrace and I have recently been looking for a house.  The good news is, we found one.  The bad news is that I don't really want to start another batch of beer until we move.  (Although I will make an exception for a pumpkin stout for Halloween.)  The house is good, but my recent brewing attempt have been rather lackluster.  It seems that brewing works in waves for me since I don't really repeat any of my recipes and I always like to experiment.

I believe that one of my issues may be coming from my conical fermenter.  I bought it on eBay over a year ago and it has been working great, but recently every beer that I have brewed in it (Lite American Lager, German Pilsner, and Hop Harvest) have had a stale water flavor with slight metallic undertones. The last time I cleaned it, I noticed that some of the chrome coating on the thermometer was peeling and I think this may have something to do with it.  I'll have to replace it, but until then, I'm back to carboys and buckets.

The Gose that I brewed isn't as great as I would have hoped either.  Since I used aciduated malt, as suggested by Brew Your Own, the flavor produced is more similar to a wort spoilage, rather than a true bacterial infection of the beer.  It gives the beer a bit more of a sour milk/tea-like flavor than anything else.

The beer that I tried to make with wild yeast that I captured has scared me.  I smelled it a short while ago and it still reaks of DMS.  After tasting it, it was still present.  I will have to try this experiment once again after we move.

My mead is a shining star of what I have done recently, proving to myself that it was not my water source that was the cause of my stale water off flavor mentioned above.  My one complaint about it though is that I rushed it too much.  I should have done another one or two carboy transfers, but I didn't, and the bottles have a very small layer of yeast on the bottom.  Either way, it was my first go at it, and my lesson was learned.

I'm in a slump right now, and I'm glad that I got all of that off of my chest.  I'm hoping a couple easy extract brews and means can get me out of it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Gose is Loose!!!

I have been excited about this beer ever since I read an article about it in Brew Your Own magazine toward the end of last years hockey season.  Something intrigued me about it from the very start.  What couldn't be loved about a salty, sour, spicy beer, and whats more, it's name lent itself perfectly to somebody who's a Buffalo Sabres fan.  The Gose is Loose was born.

The Gose is a northern German beer brewed in Leipzig.  Just like most other beers, the location of the played a huge role in its development.  The natural salinity in the water of this part of Germany gives the beer its distinct dry, salty taste, and the beer was originally spontaneously fermented giving it the sour flavor.  Today these same qualities can be mimicked with sea salt and acidified malt.  As for the corriander in the beer, who knows where that came from.  I could go ahead and say that it was partially from being influenced by some Belgian beers, but I wouldn't know for sure.

This is going to be a long month before I am able to drink this beer, and even longer until hockey season starts...


And of course, I had to run out of airlocks and didn't realize it until it was too late:

Primary: The Gose is Loose, Harvest Ale, Wild Yeast Test Batch
Secondary: Wildflower Mead
Carbonating: Ginger Ale
Total for 2011: 78 Gallons

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy...

Just because I haven't posted in a while does not mean that things have been slow here at Lake Effect Brewing.  I have a couple more batches under my belt in the past couple of weeks, I have successfully captured and brewed a batch of beer with wild yeast, and I had a great hop harvest, all of which I plan on detailing in future blog posts.  For now, I just wanted to throw out a quick plug for a couple of things and tomorrow when I brew my very first sour beer (maybe my second, I still have not tasted my wild yeast ale) I plan on doing a full sized post.

The first thing I want to mention is the Basic Brewing Logbook.  I picked this up a couple of weeks ago and I could not be more pleased.  I love this book.  Even though I use Beer Tools Pro, this serves as an excellent hard copy for finalized recipes for the year.  With its agenda in the first few pages, you are able to keep track of all of the dates for your primary, secondary, lagering, and anything else you could possibly want, and with room for 50 batches, even I would have to try to fill it up.  For $13, you can't go wrong.

The second, and most important part of this post is a startup brewery in Austin, TX that needs your help.  My brother in law's boss, the owner of Austin Homebrew Supply, is in the process of starting up a microbrewery and they need some help purchasing some more equipment.  They have set up a Kick Starter page where you can pledge to donate money to their cause.  Don't worry though, you won't be just giving someone a handout, for your donation, you can get anything from a sticker to being able to help create a featured beer as well as helping to name it.  So, unbutton your change purses and help a worthy cause of fellow homebrewers to pursue their dream.

On Deck: The Gose is Loose
Primary: Wild Yeast Test Batch, Harvest Ale
Secondary: Wildflower Mead
Carbonating: Ginger Ale
Total for 2011: 76 Gallons

Monday, August 8, 2011

2-A German Pilsner Introduction

The history of the German Pilsner is sort of a bizarre one that has its roots in the Czech Pilsner, which has its roots in the German Helles. Go figure, the Germans were trying to copy the Czech that had been based off of their own creation.  The only real difference between these two styles is the use of regional ingredients.  Both are light, crisp, and malty beers, but the big variations come from the yeast, color from the pilsner grains, and hops used.

The recipe formulation is basic on this beer since it is traditionally a single grain beer, German Pilsner malt.  The hops that I used here are Tettnanger.  They are a bit more aromatic and less spicy than the Saaz used in the Czech Pilsner.  I also used a Munich lager yeast for this beer that provides a bit of a drier, more highly attenuated lager beer.

The baseline beers that I am going to be using for this comparison have to be readily available around me, and as much as I would love to use Augustiner Pils as one of them, it is not going to happen.  I plan on using Wasteiner and Jever Pils.  After all, once in Germany we had an older gentleman tell us that Jever Pils was the only beer that he would drink, and being from Munich, that had to say something.

Primary: Wildflower Mead
Secondary: German Pilsner
Carbonating: Lite American Lager, Ginger Ale 

Total for 2011: 70 Gallons

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Mead Day 2011

I know, I know, I'm working on my BJCP Challenge, but I couldn't pass up and excuse to try something different.  This one came in the form of Mead Day 2011 on August 6th.  I have only tried to make one mead in the past, but it didn't turn out that well since it was allowed to be exposed to a bit too much oxygen, and ended up well, oxidizing, also I was using store bought honey which does not have a track record for producing great mead.  Instead of just trying to wing it again, I decided I better go the safe route and I picked up The Compleat Meadmaker : Home Production of Honey Wine From Your First Batch to Award-winning Fruit and Herb Variations by Ken Schramm.  Although I didn't make it through the whole book by the time this mead day came around, I made it through most of the important basic parts.

I basically used the Medium Sweet Orange Blossom Mead on page 25, but I adjusted it for the honey that I bought on, 12 lbs of raw wild flower honey, and I decided to go for the no heat method since I did not want to lose any of the honey aromas.  eBeeHoney seems like an excellent source for my mead honeys, they have reasonable prices, have quite the variety of honeys and are relatively close, so shipping costs are not too unreasonable.

Here's the recipe that I used since when I taste and review this recipe, it may be at least six months from now.

1 Gallon of Wildflower Honey (12 lbs)
4 Gallons of Filtered Water
2 Tbsp Yeast Nutrient
1 Tbsp Yeast Energizer
2 Packets Lavalin K1-V1116 - INRA - Montpellier

Using the no heat method, I just mixed all of these things together in one of my fermentation buckets and hooked up my aquarium pump to it.  I'm going to let the pump keep going until Sunday afternoon since in many places I have read that it is advantageous to continually aerate the must for a couple days after pitching.  After primary and secondary have been completed, I plan on racking the mead onto toasted French oak chips for a week or so in order to infuse some of the vanillins and tannins from the wood and give the mead much more depth.

Although this was a fun departure from my strict brewing schedule I'm quite excited to get back to my BJCP challenge.  Next up, Vienna Lager...

Primary: German Pilsner, Wildflower Mead
Secondary: Lite American Lager, Ginger Ale 

Total for 2011: 65 Gallons

Thursday, July 28, 2011

An Underground Beer Culture Surviving in Wine Country Part 2

My next few attempts at finding delicious beer in France were nothing short of brilliant successes.  One of the days when we were walking around the city of Narbonne, we had stumbled upon an underground bar/brewery that was advertising lambics for only 2.50€.  But, of course, with our luck it was closed.  I do have the best wife in the world though, and she promised me that we could go back another night.

Well that night came and it was everything I could ever want in a bar.  L'Antre de l'Echoppe was literally an underground beer culture.  It was a tiny brewpub that was built into an old cobblestone cellar with a medieval theme and with plenty of both domestic and import beers on tap for reasonable prices.  This brewpub was so small in fact that they actually brew in the bar, and when it is open, they just push the equipment off to the side.

They only had two of their own beers on tap, but they were both spectacular. 

The first that we had was La Blonde Maison.  At 5% ABV, this was an extremely easy drinking beer.  It was cloudy, very light, and fruity with a slight sharpness at the end.  La Noire Maison was another 5% ABV beer.  Surprisingly, for having a dark, strong, and chocolaty aroma it was unexpectedly light.  It had a deep chocolate malt flavor with almost no linger.  I hope that some day I am fortunate enough to get back to Narbonne and to L'Antre de l'Echoppe again.

When we went up to Carcassonne after Narbonne, I was hell bent on finding some Biers de Carcassonne, but we had no such luck.  We did however find a couple of other beers in a small boutique shop.  At first I was a little skeptical about them, but chilled that night in our Barcelona I indulged and was more than satisfied.

Abbaye Fontfroide not only is a remarkably beautiful abbey outside of Narbonne, but the namesake has been used for an artisanal beer.  The nose is a very subtle spicy (peppery) aroma from the yeast, and there is an excellent head, so good, it made pouring difficult.  It was very heavy beer that was both sweet and spicy notes that shockingly did not linger long at all.  There was an excellent floral flavor as well, and after tasting some of the raw honeys in the area, I would not be surprised if that was where it was coming from.

We never went to the Abbaye de Valmange, but much like Fontfroide, they lent their name to a beer.  It was extremely aromatic with overpowering caramel notes.  The beer itself some subtle spicy notes along with the chocolate and caramel flavors. 

So in the end, I would have to say I am pretty impressed with the beers the south of France had to offer.  (Their wines weren't that bad either.)  I just wish I wouldn't have been so blind when I was traveling around Europe in the past not searching an scouring for the artisan beers.  I can only imagine how many delicious ones I have missed on my travels.

Primary: German Pilsner
Secondary: Lite American Lager, Ginger Ale
Carbonating: Honey Dunkelweisen
Total for 2011: 65 Gallons

Monday, July 25, 2011

An Underground Beer Culture Surviving in Wine Country Part 1

I was a bit skeptical at first and for good reason. Sure, in northern France you can find some great breweries, including the ones that are credited with reviving the Bière de Garde and the Bière de Mars styles, but in southern France, the heart of wine country, really?  At one point the master blender at the estate we were at (Château des Karantes) had remarked to us that the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France (where we were) produces more wine in one year than all of Australia combined.  And I was supposed to find good beer here?  I went in a skeptic, but I came away a believer.

My first experience was at a small cafe in Gruissan.  There were signs in the window tempting: 'Découvrez nos bières artisanales.'  It was a hot day and I was quite parched, so it was my duty as an inquisitive brewer to partake in a nice cool, frosty beverage

La Néou is an aromatic, 5% ABV white beer brewed with spices and water from the Pyrenee mountains range.  It was a light, sweet wheat beer, and it had light honey notes to it. (Honey is one of things that this region of the world prides itself on, so it makes sense that they would use it in their beer.)  There was the slightest diacetyl (butterscotch) flavor to the beer, but it wasn't off putting at all.  It actually worked very well with the beer.  These pleasant flavors lingered for a while and it was a perfect way to quench my thirst on the Mediterranean coast.

My next sampling wasn't a beer, but a cider, and being it is my goal to familiarize myself across the lines of the BJCP guidelines, I thought it would be another great learning experience.


I am not an expert in ciders by any means, so I do not know if it is actually one of the high quality ciders on the market, but I do have to say it was one of the best I've ever tasted.  It was Loïc Raison's Cirdre Breton Brut.  At 4.5% ABV it is relatively low alcohol compared to most that I have drank in the past, but it's flavors were unmatched.  Upon the first sip, you're hit with a light, dry crisp flavor that has just a touch of sweetness and a hint of honey.  The more and more I drank, the more the tannin flavors of the skin became present and gave the illusion that you were biting into an apple.  It was a wonderful thing to have happen.  Flavors like this are going to be hard to match when I start making ciders, and I can only hope to achieve results close to this.

This one completely ripped off Delirium Tremens (only a pig instead of an elephant), so how could it be bad?  The big pink pig was calling my name and I fell for it, hook, line, and sinker.  Had I been able to speak and read French a bit better, I may have steered clear (Rince Cochon translates to Pig Rinse...ugh...).


Although this beer is very crisp and refreshing like a lager, it is actually an ale that has a very soft nose, similar to a pilsner, and just slightly fruity, like an English ale.  The flavor and after taste were exactly the same, the slightest maltiness along with a hoppy/fruity after taste.  Though this beer wasn't necessarily what I was looking for, it did have a nice sweetness and crispness to it that has its own time and place, and a BBQ in the hills overlooking the Mediterranean Sea was just that (though I do not think that is what the brewers had in mind since it is from Belgium).

Look out for part two of this series later this week... 

Primary: German Pilsner, Ginger Ale
Secondary: Lite American Lager
Carbonating: Honey Dunkelweisen
Total for 2011: 65 Gallons

Friday, July 22, 2011

Portable Kegerator/Jockey Box Round 2

As I had left it in the last post, I had just finished assembling the top.  My original plan was to just use some 2"x4"s and build a basic structure underneath, but I was convinced by Marygrace to just go the fancier route (and easier) and buy four pre-made table legs with mounting brackets.  It really wasn't anything more difficult than screwing on a few brackets and then screwing in the table legs.

I was a bit worried about having enough room underneath to maneuver the kegs and have room for all of my attachments, but I ended up having about 5" which was plenty of room.

Here's a picture of it fully assembled.

Here it is after some staining and varnishing.

I got a fancy four valved manifold for the CO₂ line.  This way, if one of the kegs got kicked I could shut off the gas so it wouldn't drain the keg if someone pulled the tap.

And here is is fully assembled.

Marygrace's mother had made me a skirt to go around the bottom of the kegerator, blue and white checkered.  Unfortunately, I didn't manage to get any photos of it while it was set up.  So next time I use it, I will post some pictures up here.  I also designed this kegerator to be able to fit into the back hatch of my car, so if I ever have to transport it, I'll have to post those photos too.

Primary: Lite American Lager, Ginger Ale
Carbonating: Honey Dunkelweisen
Total for 2011: 60 Gallons

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Spent Grain Pretzels

This year, Waldfest was on Sunday, July 17.  This year, we would do it in style.  What better way to kick off the day than to have and authentic Bavarian breakfast with weisswurst, a hefeweisen, and of course pretzels.  Not only pretzels, homemade pretzels using spent grain.

I decided to try something different this time with my grains, don't get me wrong, I like them in my breads, but they and the remaining husks can be a bit obtrusive when you are trying to eat a slice of bread.  In the past, I have tried to grind them using a food processor, but it is very difficult and more and more water has to be added since it turns into a paste and the grains are not properly ground.

As an alternative, I decided to dry out my grains by baking them in the oven at 250ºF for about an hour, occasionally turning them.  When they were dry, I put them in the food processor on high for about a minute and ended up with an excellent consistency, just about as course as sand, with no large husk pieces.  I was very happy with the results, as was my wife since I decided that from now on I would dry and grind my spent grains and put them in a Tupperware as dry storage, and they would no longer take up a shelf in the refrigerator.  The only problem is, the two cups that I saved (I needed one for the pretzel recipe), once dried and ground was only about 1/2 of a cup.  Looks like I would be making a half batch of pretzels.

Here is the recipe I used (the recipe is for a full batch, I just made a half batch).  The half batch made about 7 decent pretzels that are about 3/4" thick at the centers, so a full batch should make about 10-14 depending how big you make them.

1 pkg yeast
6 cups flour
1 cup dried and ground spent grain
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups warm water
5 tablespoons baking soda
Coarse salt for topping

Heat oven to 425 degrees F.

Combine all ingredients and knead.  Do not leave dough to rise.  Flour surface and then take a ball of dough, roll it out, and shape the pretzel.

Once all the pretzels are made, drop them in a pan of boiling water that has 5 teaspoons of baking soda.  Once they are done cooking, they will float to the top.  Remove them, put them on a greased cookie sheet, and sprinkle them with coarse salt while still wet.

Bake for for about 15 minutes, until they start to brown on top. Cool on a rack and enjoy.

When they are done baking, they should look like this:

For everyone that isn't going to be making these pretzels, I will give you a little something you can enjoy, even if you're not coming to Waldfest:

Primary: Lite American Lager, Ginger Ale
Carbonating: Honey Dunkelweisen
Total for 2011: 60 Gallons

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Recipe and Review (R&R): Chili Lime Pilsner

This chili lime pilsner isn't exactly what I would hope it to be, but I can't complain.  The base beer, an American Pilsner, is spot on.  The flavorings I used however, are not.  The lime flavor is a bit stronger and more earthy (most likely because I used zest rather than the juice) than I hoped for, and the chili peppers are a bit weak, but it is an excellent summertime beer.

Here is my 33 Beers entry:

And now for the recipe:

Chili Lime Pilsner - 2 Gallon

23 Specialty Beer (Classic American Pilsner)

Author: Aaron Piskorowski

Size: 2.0 gal
Efficiency: 70.0%
Attenuation: 81.0%

Original Gravity: 1.053 (1.044 - 1.060)

Terminal Gravity: 1.010 (1.010 - 1.015)

Color: 2.79 (3.0 - 6.0)

Alcohol: 5.65% (4.5% - 6.0%)

Bitterness: 49.1 (25.0 - 40.0)


1.0 lb 2-Row Brewers Malt
1.5 lb Corn Flaked (Maize)
1.5 lb Belgian Pils
0.25 lb Cara-Pils® Malt
0.5 oz Cascade (7.5%) - added during boil, boiled 60.0 min
1.0 tsp Irish Moss - added during boil, boiled 15.0 min
0.5 oz Cascade (7.5%) - added during boil, boiled 10.0 min
3 ea De Arbol Chili Peppers - added during boil, boiled 10.0 min
2.5 tbsp Lime zest - added during boil, boiled 10.0 min
1.0 ea WYeast 2124 Bohemian Lager

Results generated by BeerTools Pro 1.5.16

Primary: Lite American Lager, Ginger Ale
Carbonating: Honey Dunkelweisen
Total for 2011: 60 Gallons

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

1-A Lite American Lager Introduction

The number one best selling beer style in the United States seems like the proper way to start off my BJCP challenge.  Although it is generally considered, even by myself, generally a low quality beer, this will be a difficult beer to meet the style guidelines for.  It is a very light, smooth, and rather tasteless beer where any flaws will be extremely apparent.  There is nothing to hide behind like a strong malt body or overwhelming hop presence, everything (or nothing in the best case) will be on display.

The American lager was developed as a alternative to the heavier German style beers that had formed the bases of the American beverage scene.  They were made lighter and smother with the use of corn and rice without losing any alcohol percentage.  Fast foreword to the 1970's and Americans are clamoring for an even lighter beer with fewer calories.  In walks light American lager, first made readily available by Miller.  These light American lagers are low in alcohol and calories, typically ranging from 2.5% to 4.2% ABV and near 100 calories per beer.

When I do my reviews of this style, I decided that I should go for the original, Miller Lite, which just happened to win gold at the Great American Beer Festival last year for American Style Lager or Light Lager.  My second beer that I will be using will have to be the local favorite around here, Labatt Blue Light, which has multiple ties to the area.  It is brewed right across the boarder in Ontario, its US headquarters is in Buffalo, and it is owned by North American Breweries, based in Rochester, NY.

I expect that my beer will taste a bit different than either of these beers, but of course, I haven't had 40+ years to "perfect" my recipe.  Hopefully it will taste a bit better, but that also has yet to be proven.  Either way, I am not going to be able to lager this in my 65ºF basement, I am going to need a Son of Fermentation chiller.  Eventually when I have a permanent residence I will most likely build a refrigerator chiller, but for now, this will have to do.  Check back soon to see my progress on that.

On Deck: Ginger Ale (7/14)
Primary: Lite American Lager
Carbonating: Honey Dunkelweisen
Total for 2011: 58 Gallons

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A New Challenge

I have decided to give myself a new challenge, and I have yet to decide how much I am going to hate myself for initiating it.  My guess is very much but at the same time, it will give me a lot more experience and help to expand my horizons in regards to beers that I haven't brewed yet.

Is the anticipation killing you?  I bet you can't wait to hear what it is.  I, Aaron Piskorowski of Lake Effect Brewing, plan on brewing my way through the BJCP 2008 Style Guide (even the meads and ciders just to try something outside my comfort zone), much in a cooking your way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, just with more drinking and less Meryl Streep and Amy Adams.

I want to lay down a few ground rules before I embark on this task.  First, this is going to be my main source of beer, so all of these batches will be five gallons.  If I want to do something a bit more out of the ordinary, I always have my two gallon batches or even an off five gallon batch (There may be a quite a few of those just because I already have ideas floating around in my head).

Second, in order to keep a variety, I will be brewing one from each category/subclass, then move onto the next (ie.  1A - American Light Lager, followed by 2A German Pils).  This is a necessity since when you get to Scottish Ales, brewing a 60/-, 70/-, then 80/-, I don't think I will get the full appreciation since they are pretty much the same beers just at different alcohol levels.

Third, I want to try to give a short history lesson (one to two paragraphs) about each beer as well as a couple random facts.  This will be more of a check for myself, making sure that I have done thorough research on the style of beer before I attempt to brew it.

Fourth, I want to do a couple reviews on the style of beers that I will be brewing.  This will work on a two fold level.  This way, I can immerse myself in the style of beer.  You can read all you want about a beer but until you actually taste it, you're really missing out and not fully appreciating it and the style.  I also want to do this as a way to compare the beer that I brewed once it is drinkable.  It will serve as a gauge as to how close I am with the style and might give me some insight into where I may need to improve the recipe.

I realize that this will take an extremely long time, years in fact, but it is something that I think will definitely be worth it and fun along the way.  My 1-A Lite American Lager was just brewed today.  Details will be coming soon.

Primary: Lite American Lager
Carbonating: Honey Dunkelweisen
Total for 2011: 53 Gallons

Monday, June 20, 2011

It's Vacation Time!

I thought I would give everyone a heads up that I will be taking a couple weeks off from blogging on the count of me getting married and going on a honeymoon and not just laziness.  I will have it be known though that this will not just be a vacation.  No, I will be doing some "research" on this trip as well since although we will be traveling in the Languedoc-Roussillon region which is well know for its vineyards (as a matter of fact we're staying at one) my beautiful wife to be said that we would be going to a microbrewery for my birthday present.  So without ant further ado, I am off and will be back in a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Recipe and Review (R&R): Marygrace's Belgian Blonde Ale

For all of the headaches that it has given me, regarding its carbonation issues, this Belgian Blonde Ale has to be one of my favorite beers that I have brewed.  There is the spice of the traditional Belgian Blonde, and it has a full body that lingers with you for a long time.  It falls outside of where the traditional guidelines say it should be, but what fun is brewing if you always follow the rules.

Below are some of my notes from 33 Bottles of Beer regarding this batch as well as the recipe.  If anyone has any questions or comments, let me know.

Marygrace's Blonde

18-A Belgian Blond Ale

Author: Aaron Piskorowski

Size: 5.0 gal
Efficiency: 76.0%
Attenuation: 90.5%

Original Gravity: 1.071 (1.062 - 1.075)

Terminal Gravity: 1.007 (1.008 - 1.018)

Color: 7.15 (4.0 - 7.0) 

Alcohol: 8.4% (6.0% - 7.5%)

Bitterness: 20.6 (15.0 - 30.0)


0.75 lb Honey Malt
5 lb Belgian Pils
3.0 lb Dry Extra Light Extract
1.0 lb Candi Sugar Clear
1.0 oz Hallertau (4.7%) - added during boil, boiled 60.0 min
1.0 tsp Irish Moss - added during boil, boiled 15.0 min
1.0 oz Spalt Spalter (2.0%) - added during boil, boiled 10.0 min
1.0 ea WYeast 3711 French Saison

Results generated by BeerTools Pro 1.5.16

Secondary: Honey Dunkelweisen, Wedding IPA
Total for 2011: 53 Gallons

Monday, June 13, 2011

Congratulations Rusty Zymurgy!

Just wanted to say congratulations to Jay over at Rusty Zymurgy for taking the gold in the Light Hybrid/Amber Hybrid category of the New York State Fair Homebrew Competition!

Portable Kegerator/Jockey Box

I always need a project, Marygrace will tell you that.  Typically its brewing a new beer, but since we're getting married and going on our honeymoon soon, I don't want to start a new brew since I wouldn't have time to tend to it.  So, my attention turned to the fact that we just happen to have four beers that we will be serving at our rehearsal dinner, and I just also happen to have a beer tower with four faucets sitting in the attic unused.  Interesting.

I didn't know exactly what I was doing to start.  I was just kind of winging it.  I found a spare Rubbermaid tote in the attic as well, 19" wide x 32" long, so it would fit all my kegs, ice and the CO2 tank.  I measured the kegs at 25" tall so that was enough for me to start with, I had my volume that I needed under the table.  Next, I sketched out a design for the table.  I wanted the overall height for pouring to be about chest height, so I decided to design it tiered.  I'll have some room on each side for cups and a sign displaying what's on tap.

I went to my local hardware store, purchased all of my wood, and I was ready to go.  I decided to go with pine because it was cheap, and I am using a dark cherry stain in hope that it will compliment the brass of the tower nicely.

More will be coming in a later update...

Primary: Honey Dunkelweisen
Secondary: Honey Toasted Oat Brown Ale, Wedding IPA
Total for 2011: 53 Gallons

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Brewing with an IR Thermometer

I got lucky, twice (the second time extremely, I thought all hope was lost).  The third time bit me hard, but I was able to salvage it with some quick thinking.  The Easter bunny gave me an Infrared Thermometer (Pyrometer) this year, and I couldn't wait to try it out for brewing.  I wish I would have been a bit smarter.

I jumped into it head first as I usually do with a new toy.  It was high tech, so in my mind it had to be accurate.  The Pilsner that I brewed with it came out perfectly, both original gravity and terminal gravity (this is where I was lucky).  The second beer I brewed with it was my first wedding hefeweisen (now the Hopfen Weiss).  At first, I had just thought the original gravity was extremely low because the flaked wheat I had used turned into a giant ball while brewing.  The fermentation went pretty well, so I ended up with a nice summer, hoppy, low alcohol content wheat beer that would be perfect for the BBQ.  I couldn't complain too much.

The third batch I did was perfect (or so I thought).  I used malted wheat instead of flaked wheat and I hit all of my temperatures right on with the temp gun.  There was only one problem: my original gravity was low, meaning my efficiency was way off just like the Hopfen Weiss.  There had to be something in common with these two batches, and my thoughts started to turn towards my IR Temp Gun.

Naturally, I turned to my engineering background and had to perform some experiments regarding my temperature gun.  Over the course of three brew sessions, I took temperature readings with both my normal thermometer and the gun: at my pre mash water temperature, mash in, mash out, and my sparge water, always aiming for the same target temperature.  Although I cannot say that after my initial discovery that I was shocked by these results, I was surprised that over the temperature span the deviation between the two devices changed.

Red is a normal dial thermometer, and blue is the IR thermometer.

These results confirmed my suspicions, my temperature was consistently off.  When I thought I was reading 158ºF, my temperature was probably up near 185ºF, far above the range of starch conversion.  In a way I am tempted to continue with these tests to build up a better average temperature differential between the two devices so I can use just the IR gun, but all I would need is that one stray time for it to catch me and screw up another of my batches.  No, for now I will continue using my reliable dial thermometers.

Primary: Honey Dunkelweisen
Secondary: Hefeweisen 2 (Honeyweisen), Honey Toasted Oat Brown Ale, Wedding IPA
Total for 2011: 53 Gallons

Monday, June 6, 2011

Stein Brew June 4th, 2011

Over the weekend, Marygrace and I took a trip down to Ellicottville.  Although the thunderstorms were pretty incredible on the way down there, they were not all that pleasant when standing out in them trying to brew beer.  (Thank God they sopped since as I later found out, I would have been killed if they had lasted much longer.)  All in all though, it was a great experience,  got to sample quite a few homebrews and Ellicottville beers that we don't typically get near us, and I got to learn quite a bit from some veteran homebrewers.

The stein brew the way that it is done in Ellicottville is pretty straight foreword.  Mash and sparge a beer as you typically would on a brew day, then when it is time to boil, then comes the fun.  We arrived shortly after noon and the days events were just getting under way.  Since it was raining, the homebrewers had to be a bit innovative in order to keep the fire going:

When the rocks get hot enough (they start to fracture apart since they were using don't want to use anything like shale or slate since they will explode rather than fracture) and the sparge has completed, the hot stones are loaded into metal baskets attached to planks by a chain.  The board is then spun around a few times to wrap the chain and raise the basket, then its off to the brew kettle!

The stones (some of them literally red hot) are lowered into the boiling wort and sit there for about 10 to 15 minutes (until all of the heat has been released to the wort).  They are then removed and the process is repeated about 15 times in total.  Although these stones help along with the boil (they still use their primary heat source in the process) one of the great attributes that they are supposed to impart on the beer is carmelization of the wort.  Apart from these few differences, the process is just like any other: add hops and whatever other flavorings.  In this case, they used spruce, cascade hops, and if I recall correctly, Mt. Hood.  Here are some shots of the 35 lbs of spruce that were used during the boil:

As I mentioned earlier, one of the great things that we got to do at the brewery was to taste quite a few of the different beers that not only the Ellicottville Brewery has to offer, but some of the homebrewers as well.  From Ellicottville, we got to try 16, Mow Master, Black Hops, two different Oktoberfests, and a Cherry Chocolate Stout.  All of them were so unique and different, but one of my favorites was definitely the Cherry Chocolate Stout, and when we go back in two months to try the stein brew, I will have to get a growler if it is still available for another adventure in beer ice cream.  From the homebrewers, there was an English Mild and a Belgian Christmas Saison that was the Buffalo Brew Fest BIS from 1996, and although the English Mild was a solid beer, all I have to say about the Belgian is wow, and I never though a beer could age that well.  It was smooth with hints of raisin with spices and was almost reminiscent of a sherry.  It was a deep rich dark color with only minimal carbonation.  I will be bringing some of my own homebrew for the next stein brew in October.  We well see how it holds up.

My list of three take-aways from this outing:
  1. Do not let American Homebrewers Association membership expire.
  2. Bring homebrew for the fall stein brew.
  3. Remember to bring a stein to drink out of next time (it is a stein brew after all)

Primary: Honey Dunkelweisen
Secondary: Hefeweisen 2 (Honeyweisen), Honey Toasted Oat Brown Ale, Wedding IPA
Total for 2011: 53 Gallons

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lake Effect T-Shirts Available

Try to contain yourselves.  I know its hard considering that you can now own your very own Lake Effect Brewing Company t-shirt.  The design that Nate had created for the bottles and the website was too good to not be displayed to everyone even if they weren't drinking my beer or visiting the blog.  I had to shove it in their face.

Nate and I started printing shirts over eight years ago with some breaks in between as well as some improvement in our process.  I am selling these for $10.00 each.  If you're interested, just let me know.  Right now, I only have a couple of larges and extra larges, but if there is enough interest I will be printing more.  Right now, they are light blue with white printing, but if I end up printing more, I will be able to print any color shirt requested, you would just need to let me know.

On Deck: Honey Dunkelweisen (5/29), Wedding IPA (5/30)
Primary: Hefeweisen 2, Honey Toasted Oat Brown Ale
Secondary: Hefeweisen (dry hopped with Sorachi Ace), Traditional Pilsner
Total for 2011: 46 Gallons

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Wedding Brews Galore!

Last week, I had posted that I had foregone the Maerzen in order to provide enough time to brew some batches for my wedding.  (They actually aren't for the wedding, just the rehearsal dinner the day would be way too much pressure to brew for the actual reception.)  We got engaged in Europe, Prague to be exact, and they were some of the most memorable weeks of our lives.  I had all the intention in the world of trying to translate that into the homebrew that we would serve for our rehearsal dinner, although intentions aren't always cooperative.

The plan was to try to take guests on a tour through Europe first, the Czech Republic with a traditional Czech Pilsner, then onto Munich, Germany with a traditional Bavarian Hefeweisen, and finally landing in England with a British India Pale Ale. 

The first, the Czech Pilsner, went off without a hitch.  I hit an excellent 70% efficiency with my BIB partial mash and my attenuation was spot on at 71%.  My original and terminal gravity we exactly as calculated at 1.052 and 1.015.  I couldn't have been happier with my results.  The base was Ultralight Extract, Belgian Pilsner Malt, with Carapils (Dextrine) Malt and 20ºL in order to give it a bit more body and a touch of color respectively.  So far, I've hopped with 4 oz of Czech Saaz.  I say so far because in the next day or two, I plan on doing a dry hop with another ounce before kegging it shortly after.

The second is where I started to hit some speed bumps...twice.  The first time I brewed it I was caught off guard.  I used flaked wheat for my wheat portion of the grain bill.  Malted wheat for some reason didn't even cross my mind.  I ended up with a dough ball the size of my mash tun.  The half pound of rice hulls I threw in there didn't do a damn thing.  What I ended up boiling was about a gallon and a half of wort.  The original gravity came out a bit lower than expected and the attenuation wasn't near what I had hoped for.  I ended up with a 3.6% beer that I decided I would try again with wheat malt and try to save this one as a summer drinking beer by dry hopping it with an ounce of Sorachi Ace hops.  If all turns out right, it should be nice and light, slightly sweet and have a pleasant hop flavor that will hopefully go nice with the clove/banana flavor of the weisen yeast.

My second attempt of this beer wasn't too much more successful, and it didn't hit me until the end of this brew day which, unfortunately, was too late to save this beer (at least in the traditional form that I wanted it).  The common thread between the two, and I should have been a bit smarter than using it untested, is that I was using an IR thermometer in order to measure all my mashing and sparge water temperatures.  My efficiency was a dismal 52% when I typically hit between 65% and 70% and my attenuation was extremely low, on the order of 58%.  This pointed to one thing, a high mashing temperature since at higher mash temperatures, sugars are still extracted from the grains, however they are less fermentable sugars and result in a sweeter beer.  Over the next few that I brew, I will be using my original thermometer and taking temperatures with that and the IR gun and comparing the two along the brewing process.  Once I've compiled my data I will be posting it here and the way it is looking right now, I will be suggesting not to brew with IR temperature guns.

Hopefully all is not lost on that second hefeweisen though.  I added a pound and a half of honey after primary fermentation subsided in order to try and boost the alcohol content and at the same time convert this to a honey weise that if all turns out well should be a very drinkable beer.

Almost from the onset, after reading Pale Ale by Terry Foster in order to get some inspiration, I decided to go with the American version of the India Pale Ale.  It seemed like a better beer to serve at a summer BBQ with the citrus notes of the hops and the crispness that one would expect from an American IPA.  The design of this beer is still in the works at this time, but its base will be 2-Row and golden malt extract, and I plan on using plenty of North American hops and a California yeast.

On Deck: Honey Dunkelweisen (5/29), Wedding IPA (5/30)
Primary: Hefeweisen 2, Honey Toasted Oat Brown Ale
Secondary: Hefeweisen (dry hopped with Sorachi Ace), Traditional Pilsner
Total for 2011: 46 Gallons 

Friday, May 20, 2011

New Labels and Brewing Competitions

Before I get onto the post, I figured I would post about a nice offer that is available today.  Moolala is offering a year long subscription for Beer Connoisseur for only $8.  The normal subscription price is $21 for the four issues, so this is a pretty good deal especially since I've been wanting to get myself a subscription for a while now.  The one issue that I had picked up was excellent.  There were reviews of over 20 different beers, an article about Garrett Oliver from Brooklyn Brewery, and my favorite part, an article about some of the breweries in the Czech Republic.  There are also some great looking recipes and pairing suggestions, although I have not had a chance to try any of them yet.  All in all it is a good deal and highly recommended for only $8.

Now onto the real post.  Nate has been at it again and has drawn up a couple more labels for my beers.  They are both for the Cinco de Mayo series of beers that were recently brewed, the Chocolate Chipotle Rauchbier and the Chili Lime Pilsner.

Here's the exciting part of this blog post.  There are two homebrew competitions coming up that will have entries from Lake Effect.  The first I was caught completely off guard by since I didn't know it would be this early.  It is the New York State Fair Homebrew Competition hosted by the Salt City Brew Club.  I plan on entering my Elder Ale, Belgian Blonde (might be entered as a Biere de Garde), and Irish Red Ale.  I am also going to be entering Jay and my Dunkelweisen (hopefully it will do a little better this time) and for Jay, I will be entering his Kitchen Sink California Pale Ale.  Niagara Tradition is a drop off point for this competition and entries are due by May 30th (actually May 28th since the 30th is a holiday and the 29th is a Sunday).  Entries are $6 each and judging takes place on June 10th-11th.

The next competition coming up is the Pearl Street Brew Master's Challenge - Honey Brown Lager/Ale.  It may be the fact that I have been eating Honey Nut Cheerios for breakfast recently but I think what this competition needs is a Honey Toasted Oat Brown Ale.  I plan on using Maris Otter as the base malt with English Amber, Crystal, German Carafa, and Honey Malt making appearances.  I wanted to try something that I haven't done before, and that would be using toasted oats.  I believe that this with the late addition honey will give the beer a nice smooth finish and help provide a nice full body.  I plan on using Tettnanger and Northern Brewer hops and an American Ale yeast.  I will be brewing this on 5/21 and the submission date is 6/30.

On Deck: Honey Toasted Oat Brown Ale (5/21)
Primary: Hefeweisen 2
Secondary: Hefeweisen (dry hopped with Sorachi Ace), Traditional Pilsner
Total for 2011: 44 Gallons 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Long Time no Post

Just to clear everything up, the lack of posting is not due to the lack of activity.  Here is just a highlight of the few things that have been going on:
  • Maerzen has been scrapped to make room for wedding rehearsal dinner beers.
  • That's right, I said wedding rehearsal beers.  These include a traditional pilsner, hefeweisen, and IPA.  More to follow.
  • Brewing competitions are coming up.  Stay tuned for more to follow.
  • Ellicottville Brewing Company is having a Stein Brew on June 4th.  Covered in this post.
  • Equipment review.  Details to follow after final testing.
  • New labels have been drawn up.  To be posted shortly.
As I mentioned above, on Saturday June 4th, Ellicottville Brewing Company will be holding their 17th annual stein brew.  They will be brewing a spruce ale using hand picked spruce tips from a local homebrewer's property.  Tickets to this event are $25 or $20 for AHA members (guess I shouldn't have let my AHA membership expire) and includes a BBQ meal and 4 pints of beer.  Exact details about this event can be found on EBC's website.

For everyone that doesn't know, stein brewing is a process where stones (in the case of this one granite) are heated up over a fire for a few hours until they are red hot.  Then, they are added to the kettle in order to heat the water (this method can be used in order to heat the mash as well as the final boil).  The process was originally developed before the use of metal brew kettles when brewing was done in wooden vats which obviously could not be heated over a flame.  I don't know the exact method that will be used for this process but I will be posting about the event.

On Deck: Honey Toasted Oat Amber Ale (5/21)
Primary: Hefeweisen 2
Secondary: Hefeweisen (dry hopped with Sorachi Ace), Traditional Pilsner
Total for 2011: 44 Gallons 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Traditional Maerzen

I have been slacking over the last few weeks.  There have been quite a few things going on recently during my brewing weekends so, I kept having to delay my plans.  Because of this, I don't think I will have enough time to brew the Imperial IPA before I have to start working on my wedding beers.  I still want to get a full 5 gallon back in before that happens so what I decided I am going to do is brew a Maerzen and let it lager in the basement in a carboy over the summer.

Just like all of my 5 gallon batches, this will be a partial mash recipe.  But instead of using only around 3 lbs of grain, I try to stick to 3 lbs of malt extract and the rest grains.  The majority of my grains will be Munich malt, followed by dextrine malt, caraMunich, caraAmber, and some lighter colored crystal malt.  My hops that I will be using will be traditional German hops, Tettnanger and Hallertau.  The lager yeast that I will be using will be WYeast 2308, Munich lager.

On Deck: Maerzen (4/12)
Primary: Mango Habanero Wit
Secondary: Chili Lime Pilsner
Conditioning: Belgian Blonde, Chocolate Chipotle Rauchbier
Total for 2011: 29 Gallons

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cascade-Honey Ice Cream

Well, we forgot to take out some meat from the freezer for dinner tonight so we ended up going out to the Blue Monk.  I've been there a couple times, but this was one of my first eating there.  I'm not going into a whole post about a dinner, but I will say that one of the beers I had, Goose Island's Dominique was quite exceptional.  It was a sour/wild ale, and it makes me anxious for the weather in Buffalo turn warmer so I can start to harvest my own yeast.

On to the post.  One of my other passions besides brewing beer is making ice cream.  There's just something about making your own ice cream that's satisfying, much like brewing beer.  I've been wanting to combine the two for some time now, and I finally saw the opportunity to make a move with some whole Cascade hops that I had.

If anyone has an ice cream maker, here is the recipe I came up with:
3 heaping tbsp Cascade hops
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup half and half
6 egg yolks
3/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Bring 1 cup of milk to a boil then remove from heat.  Add hops and let steep for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, beat honey, flour and salt into the egg yolks.  Strain the hop infused milk into the egg mixture, add half and half and return to heat.  Be careful not to boil at this point, because the eggs will scramble.  This mixture needs to be thickened up to a custard.  Then remove from heat, strain again, and add the heavy cream.  Then, the mixture just needs to refrigerate until cold and then should be frozen in your ice cream maker.

If the ice cream is made as above, it will end up being an off white/cream color.  I suggest adding two drops of green food coloring to give it a nice light olive tint.

I enjoyed this ice cream, although as I have said in the past, I am not a hop head.  I think the best way to enjoy this, if you are like me, is with a nice rich malty beer in between sips.

On Deck: Imperial IPA (3/17), Mango Habanero Wit (3/24)
Primary: Chili Lime Pilsner, Chocolate Chipotle Rauchbier
Secondary: Belgian Blonde
Conditioning: Elder Ale
Total for 2011: 27 Gallons

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mango Habanero Wit

I don't know what the hell is wrong with me.  Jay and I win a competition then I take a week off of posting.  It could be see it as a deserved break, almost a reward, but I instead restocked on ammunition for the blog, brewing, creating, and experimenting.  So, back I go, onto the three post a week schedule.

This is my last beer in my three beer series.  I am going to take the classic Belgian Wit south of the boarder for my final Cinco de Mayo beer.  The base of the beer will be flaked wheat and Belgian Pilsner malt.  The hops are still up in the air, but they will not be too prevalent since it is a Wit, and for yeast I will use Forbidden Fruit from WYeast Labs.  That's the easy part.  The rest, I don't really have too much experience brewing with.  I will be spicing it with the traditional coriander and orange peel, then for the habanero and mango, I have no idea.  I did find mention of using habanero in Radical Brewing, but it was quite vague on how spicy the beer would actually be.  I think I will end up using one pepper, de-seeded for my two gallon batch and see where that takes me.  The mango is still up in the air.  It may be a game day decision on how much to use and if I should use it in secondary of in the boil.

I'm a bit behind in my brewing, due to some of my longer fermentation times so by the time I brew this one, it will be about a week off from where I would like, but it should still be ready by Cinco de Mayo.

On Deck: Imperial IPA (3/17), Mango Habanero Wit (3/24)
Primary: Chocolate Chipotle Rauchbier, Chili Lime Pilsner
Secondary: Belgian Blonde (Ended up being more like a Biere de Garde)
Conditioning: Elder Ale

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Imperial India Pale Ale

Jay and I won first place in Amber Waves of Grain Homebrewing Competition's Holiday Beer with our Fruitcake/Holiday Spice Ale.  I think I have some ideas about why the other beers were not selected in their categories, but I will have to wait to get the results in the mail to know for sure.  Congratulations to all other winners in the competition.

I brewed the Chocolate Chipotle Rauchbier today, and all I can say at this point is that it was interesting.  It tasted great as I put it into primary, but I was disappointed with the low amount of spiciness, however that and the chocolate may come out a bit more over time.  It was my first time using either in a beer, so we shall see.

I am a bit reluctant about he next beer that I will be brewing.  That's because it is one of my least favorite beers due to the culture surrounding it of loading as many hops into it as possible and then on top of that occasionally passing it through a Randall.  I prefer my beers with a nice balance between the malt and hops of the beer.  I take on this challenge as I plan to brew this beer.

This is going to be another partial mash brew with a base of 2-row and light malt extract.  I am going to use a plethora of specialty malts in order to balance out the hops.  I will us a 60L crystal malt to give some nice color and a light biscuit flavor, American caramel again for color and a slight malty caramel flavor, Marris Otter for some smoothness, and some Munich malt in order to build the body of the beer.  I will try to build the hop flavors in a similar fashion.  I will use Cascade which is typical for a it more or a sharp and citrus flavor and use Centennial and Simco to boost the overall bitterness.  I will finish this off with a California Ale yeast.  I am aiming for about 7.7% with this beer.

On Deck: Chili Lime Pilsner (3/6), Imperial IPA (3/13)
Primary: Chocolate Chipotle Rauchbier, Belgian Blonde
Secondary: Elder Ale
Conditioning: Irish Red
Volume Brewed in 2011: 25 Gallons

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Homebrewing in Buffalo

Not too many things going on the homebrew from right now.  I am mainly biding my time until I get to brew beer one in my three beer Cinco De Mayo series, my Chocolate Chipotle Rauchbier, on Sunday.  I tried the Elder Ale last night as I was putting it into secondary, and I cannot wait until this beer is ready to drink.  It is almost more like a wine than a beer.  I am excited to see how the flavors round out over time and how it tastes slightly chilled and carbonated.  I cannot rememer the last time I was this stoked about a homebrew, probably the Barley Wine.

The Buffalo News posted this homebrewing article the other day.  Its definately worth the read, although I wish it would go into a bit more detail about the growth of homebrewing in the area.  The big thing that it mentioned was that this year for the Amber Waves of Grain competion there are over 400 enteries from over 100 people.  Even if I don't have much luck this Friday and Saturday, at least I will have some great feedback from the judges.

The Sultans of Swig were also mentioned in the article.  Jay and I went to a meeting last year, and they seemed like a great group of people that I could learn alot from, but then summer crept up on us and the rest is history, and now that the meetings are in Hamburg, I'm not sure if they will be in my future.  Perhaps I will have to look into the Niagara Association of Homebrewers.  If anyone in the Buffalo area has any interest in attending either of the meetings with me, let me know.

On Deck: Chocolate Chipotle Rauchbier (2/28), Chili Lime Pilsner (3/6)
Primary: Belgian Blonde
Secondary: Elder Ale
Conditioning: Irish Red Ale
Volume brewed in 2011: 23 Gallons

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Widmer Brothers Brewers Reserve #2 - Prickly Pear Braggot

I've tried to become a bit more active using the 33 Bottles of Beer book that Jay got me, but I just cant help the fact that I get wrapped up in drinking the beer rather than rating it.  This beer was one that I picked up from Beers of the World a couple weekends ago, and I couldn't wait any longer to try it.  I have never had a prickly pear beer before, or a pear beer for that matter, so I was walking in without knowing exactly what to expect.  What I did end up getting was an excellent beer that was deceptively alcoholic.

This beer has a very light color, similar to that apple juice, and although it had a great malty flavor and aroma, the head did not last too long and reminded me of the level of carbonation of a sparkling hard cider.  There was not a strong hop aroma or flavor in the beer, but there was a very heavy fruity/estery flavor and an aroma that was reminiscent of apple blossoms, (perhaps prickly pear blossoms, never smelled them before so I'm not sure).

Enough cannot be said about the body, maltiness, and linger of this beer.  The longer you held the beer in your mouth the better.  Over time, the spicy notes traveled from the tip of your tongue to the back of your mouth.  The flavor and the linger lasted for over a half minute.  Sour, bitter, and astringent notes were practically non existent in this beer, and for being listed as 10%, this beer can really sneak up on you since it does not have a strong alcoholic aroma or taste.

On Deck: Chocolate Chipotle Rauchbier (2/27), Chili Lime Pilsner (3/6)
Primary: Elder Ale, Belgian Blonde
Secondary: Nada
Conditioning: Irish Red Ale

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Chili Lime Pilsner

So there is bad news and even worse news for the sarsaparilla ale.  I was about to transfer it into secondary yesterday when there was a bizarre aroma coming off of it.  It almost smelled like tomato paste/catchup.  After tasting it, my worst fears were proven, the beer was spoiled/infected.  The worst part is that I cannot pinpoint the source of the infection.  The good part of this whole situation is that I smelled the elder beer and can safely say that the yeast was not the culprit.  My hopes are still high for the sarsaparilla ale though and I am planning on brewing it again in the future.  It held such promise as it was being brewed.

This post though, is looking towards a brighter note.  This is a continuation of my Cinco de Mayo beers, and it will be a Chili Lime Pilsner.  I have been wanting to brew this beer ever since I've started brewing.  Basically, this beer would be a michelada, minus the salt, tomato (no one needs that in beer) and having to add lime and hot sauce.

I cannot say that this beer will conform to a specific base style since in quite a few aspects I will be deviating.  The base malt for the beer will be a Czech Pilsner and I will possibly add some flaked maize, considering the history of the ingredient with the American style lagers/pilsners and that corn is used so much in Mexican cooking.  I will be Cascade hops exclusively.  I feel that this is a no brainer since the citrusy notes of the hops should play off the lime perfectly.  I think I am going to use a Boheamian Lager yeast since it has such a wide range of applications and be a great addition to my yeast bank for future brews.

I very much look forward to this brew, I just hope that the basement will be cool enough for lagering.

On Deck: Belgian Blonde (2/21 - yes I was lazy and am putting it off until tomorrow), Chocolate Chipotle Rauchbier (2/27), Chili Lime Pilsner (3/6)
Primary: Elder Ale
Secondary: Nada
Conditioning: Irish Red Ale, Beef on Weck Ale

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Beers of the World

Last weekend, Marygrace and I went out to Rochester for a birthday party, this seemed like the perfect time to make a stop at one of my favorite stores, Beers of the World.  It is housed in an old supermarket, so there are literally isles and isles of beer after beer.

On the most recent trip, I was sent out to pick up some ACME IPA and Augustiner Edelstoff.  (For Edelstoff, the export beer, the story goes that it won so many gold medals that they decided to make the label all gold.)  While I was there, I had to pick up a few bottles for myself.  Those ended up being the Widmer Brothers Brother's Reserve #2 - Prickly Pear Braggot, Arcadia Ales Sky High Rye, and Breckenridge Agave Wheat.

I haven't gotten around to trying the Prickly Pear Braggot as of yet, since I have been saving it for a special occasion, but I have greatly enjoyed the other two brews.  The Sky High Rye is an excellent Rye Pale Ale.  It is light in color with a fair amount of bitterness and with the typical rye spice that would be expected.  It was all I was hoping for out of this beer, nothing spectacular, but a great overall beer.

The Agave Wheat was also quite a treat.  One of my favorite parts about drinking a Weizen is being able to swirl the last bits of beer with the yeast and pour out the cloudy goodness.  This beer does not disappoint on that level.  The Agave is extremely present in both aroma and flavor. Hops however are not too noticable and I would have to imagine that an American wheat yeast was used since there are no strong clove or banana flavors present.

It was a great trip.  I cant want till the next one...whenever that may be...

By the way, Jay recommended that I add the Android Brewster App, where you can add the beers that you are drinking, rate them on a simple scale of 1-5 and share them with your friends.  I did, so friend me if you feel like sharing what you are drinking: aaron.piskorowski (at)

On Deck: Belgian Blonde (2/20), Chocolate Chipotle Rauchbier (2/27)
Primary: Elder Ale, Sarsaparilla Ale
Secondary: Irish Red Ale
Conditioning: Beef on Weck Ale

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

ABS Label Making Paper

I got some new label making material for Christmas, and I decided it was just about time to open them up and give them a whirl for the Beef on Weck Ale.  These labels are made by ABS Inc.  I can't find any web site associated with the company but they are available in a variety of colors: blue, green, white, orange, red, and yellow.

These labels couldn't be any easier to use.  All you have to do is design your labels, print the paper, moisten the back and apply.

Overall, I was fairly impressed by these labels.  They stick great on the bottles (much better than the glue sticks I used to use).  And although it has yet to be seen how easily these will peel off once the beer has been drank, my hopes are high.  I tested one by wetting a small corner of one of the bottles and after a few seconds the label started peeling off with no problem at all.  The rest of the label however was rock solid and started ripping when I got to the dry portion.

All in all, these labels look great.  I am quite excited to get some of the white ones so I can start printing in colors and not only use black and white.

On Deck: Belgian Blonde (2/20), Chocolate Chipotle Rauchbier (2/27)
Primary: Elder Ale, Sarsaparilla Ale
Secondary: Irish Red
Conditioning: Beef on Weck Ale

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Chocolate Chipotle Rauchbier

Another brew day, another need for an inspiration post.  In celebration on Indiana's birthday (my dog), I was planning on brewing a few different beers utilizing different types of peppers.  Coincidentally, her birthday is on Cinco Day Mayo, so in essence, it's like killing two birds with one stone with this theme.

Back about four years ago, some friends and I began to make chocolate covered bacon (I may have to convert this into a beer somehow in the near future).  Throughout the years, there have been several iterations, the most recent incorporated chipotle peppers in the chocolate.  The heat from the pepper didn't stand out, but you could notice the smokiness.  From that, the natural progression was Rauchbier, but to make the heat of the pepper pop.

For my malts, I plan on using a 2-row, Munich, and smoked malt.  I may end up using some chocolate malt in order to enhance the flavor from the cocoa powder that I will be using.  I haven't decided for sure yet, but I think I may go for a medium to high amount of hops in this beer.  I think that a higher bitterness from the hops will go great with the chocolate and the heat from the chipotle peppers.

This is going to be my second attempt at a lager beer.  I am thinking I will use a Munich Style lager yeast since it will be a strain that I will be able to use in a wide variety of lagers.  The target brew date for this beer is 2/27.

On Deck: Belgian Blonde (2/20), Chocolate Chipotle Rauchbier (2/27)
Primary: Elder Ale, Sarsaparilla Ale
Secondary: Irish Red Ale
Conditioning: Beef on Weck Ale

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Stockade Pale Ale

This is the American Pale Ale I brewed back on January 9th, 2011.  I decided to call it "Stockade" because in my mind, it was a classic American Pale paying homage to one of the older colonial communities in New York, the Stockade in Schenectady.

I was a bit disappointed that I only brewed this as a 2 gallon all grain.  I am thinking that in the future this may be one that I actually brew for a second time, not that my previous beers haven't been worthy of being rebrewed, just the fact that I like to move on to different styles and recipes constantly.

This beer ended up being a great pale amber color, and it doesn't hold a full head, but retains a nice foaming ring around the rim.  The aroma is fairly mild with a hoppy note.  It is slightly sweeter with a light malty flavor, subtle biscuit after taste, and a slightly creamy mouth feel.  There is a medium hop presence with the slight citrusy taste that comes with the cascade hops.

Here is the recipe for a two gallon batch:
3.44 lb 2-Row Brewers Malt
6.5 oz Crystal Malt 20°L
0.8 oz Tettnanger (4.5%) - added during boil, boiled 60.0 min
0.4 oz Cascade (5.5%) - added during boil, boiled 15.0 min
1.0 tsp Irish Moss - added during boil, boiled 10.0 min
1.0 ea WYeast 1056 American Ale

O.G.: 1.050
T.G.: 1.010
Alcohol: 5.2%
Bitterness: 43 IBU
SRM: 7.2

This was just entered in Amber Waves of Grain.  Hope it goes well...

On Deck: Elder Ale (2/13), Belgian Blonde (2/20)
Primary: Sarsaparilla Ale
Secondary: Beef on Weck Ale, Irish Red Ale

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Buffalo Breweries Lecture and Wilson House Tasting

A couple small things going on here besides more and more lake effect snow.  The brewing of the sarsaparilla ale went great on Sunday.  The flavor and aroma of the beer was amazing.  Once it ferments, I believe this will be a delicious late spring or summer braggot.  The key to that last statement is "once it ferments."  It's been extremely sluggish to start and I can only blame it on my own sluggishness.  The yeast was over a year expired, and although it is still viable, I should have made a starter but never got around to it.  I made some slants with the yeast that are beginning to show signs of growth which gives me hope that in the next day or so, fermentation will start.  If it doesn't, I will be stuck with pitching some more yeast.

There are a few things coming up in the next short while, however I'm not familiar with either of them enough to do a whole blog post on each one.  Those would be "Buffalo Breweries" lecture at the Tonawanda City Hall, sponsored by the Tonawanda Historical Society, and a beer tasting at the Wilson House.

The Buffalo Breweries lecture sounded quite interesting, and had I had a bit more notice, I would most likely attend.  I have not yet had a chance to read Nickel City Drafts, but this sounds like it is along the same lines.  Anyone who is interested in the historical aspect of brewing in Buffalo and the surrounding community, I would suggest you make an attempt to attend.  It is tomorrow night (2/9) at 7 pm at the Tonawanda City Hall.

The next event I saw a flyer for at work, and although it is about an hour away, it is sounding like I might have to take the trip out there.  It will be a paring of food and drink with Tim Herzog from Flying Bison at Wilson House in Wilson, NY.  The tasting takes place on 2/23 at 7pm and tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the Wilson House, or by contacting

I tested the Irish Red today and transferred it to secondary today.  It tastes great, although since I have been drinking so much of the Rye-rish Red recently, it seems like this one is missing that nice little spice the rye gives.  The Beef on Weck ale will be bottled this Saturday.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

On Deck: Elder Ale (2/13), Belgian Blonde (2/20)
Primary: Sarsaparilla Ale
Secondary: Beef on Weck Ale, Irish Red Ale