Saturday, June 11, 2011

New Direction

Hi there beer lovers.

As you know, it has been a long time since my last post on this blog (it took a while to remember the password). However, I have new plans for Silver Lining Brewery, so I thought now would be as good of a time as any to catch up with my readers.

A couple of months ago, I brewed an Oatmeal Cookie Stout, using cocoa powder, cinnamon, and raisins to flavor my beer. The result? A decent beer. Not bad, but not as great as my intentions always are. I realized this has happened all too often with my brews. I get these great ideas for really interesting flavor combinations, but they always fail to impress me like I hoped.

Thats when I decided to embark on a new mantra for Silver Lining Brewery. Instead of making adequate complex beers, I am going to focus on taking fairly common styles (with the exception on one - the perfect Pumpkin Ale is my white whale) and work towards perfection. I also decided to up the frequency of brewing.

My new goal is to brew a unique style of beer every month, repeating annually. In other words, every January, February, March, etc., I will brew the same beer, tweaking my recipe ever so slightly until I get exactly the beer that I hope for. This will take a lot more repetition, precision, and note-taking than I have been doing in the past. But, hopefully, result in a better end-product.

Ok, so what beers will I brew? Well, here is a list of what beers I want to dedicate each month, keeping in mind this is the month I want them to be served in, not when I brew them.

January - Porter
February - E.S.B.
March - Irish Red
April - I.P.A.
May - Scottish Ale
June - Witbier
July - Pale Ale
August - American Wheat
September - Brown Ale
October - Pumpkin Ale
November - Stout
December - Amber Ale

So, there you have it. I can't promise I won't occasionally slide a crazy, experimental beer in between batches. But, for the most part, this will be my beer list for the year.

I am also working on setting up a kegging system, so I will try and keep you updated on that as well.

Friday, March 12, 2010

All-grain brewing

Sorry for the delay, but hopefully it will be worth it. In this post, I talk about going all grain.

Brewers have a tendency to rank themselves based on the level of brewing. Beginner brewers may use pre-hopped malt extract that comes in a can. Basically, you choose a can of whichever style of beer you want, then you boil it and add water. The next step up for brewers is extract brewing. This is where you buy extract which is a sticky, thick, sweet solution of concentrated wort. Most extract brewers steep grains, which can add color and flavor to the beer, but still the sugars come from the malt extract. The next step up is all grain. While there is nothing wrong with extract, most brewers seek to get to the level of all grain.

One of the reasons going all grain is a big step is the initial investment of new equipment. To make the switch, I had to buy things like a cooler, turkey cooker, propane, stainless steel pot, and a bunch of random hardware. I won't go too much into the assembly of my equipment, because 1) its probably not that interesting 2) I literally got my directions off of this website ( and followed them almost identically. However, with all grain, you really do save more money per batch and you have a lot more control over the flavor and style of your brew.

The basic purpose of brewing is to get the flavor of the beer (with grains and hops) and create a sugary mixture. Once you drop in the yeast, you pretty much sit back and let them do the work of converting sugars into alcohol. So, as stated before, its possible to buy extract or you can convert starches into sugar through a process called mashing. Here is a basic rundown of our process:

1) We had to heat up 4.5 gallons of water. We got the water up to 165 degrees because we figured we would lose some heat when we switched it over to the mash.

2) We added all of our grains to the mash tun. Then we filled it with hot water and let it sit for an hour at around 157 degrees. During this hour, the starches in the grains are converted into sugars, which can later be consumed by yeast and transferred to alcohol and CO2.

3) We drained the mash to get our wort. Then we heated more water to sparge the leftover grains. Sparging grabs any remaining sugars that might be left in the mash tun.

4) Now that we had our wort, we boiled for an hour, adding our hops at the appropriate times.

5) After an hour, we had to cool down our wort with a wort chiller. This is basically a length of copper tubing that is coiled around. We ran cold water through the tubing, which takes the heat away from the wort, leaving a temperature that wont kill the yeast.

6) Pitched our yeast, the same as we would have using an extract method.

7) Clean up.

Our first all-grain recipe was for a pale ale, actually a clone of Stone's Pale Ale. Here is the recipe we used with a few alterations to the original recipe.

10 lbs 2-Row Pale Malt

1.5 lbs Crystal Malt (60˚ L)

6 oz Crystal Malt (75˚ L) [We just used 2 lbs of Crystal Malt (60˚ L)]

.6 oz Magnum hops [We used Yakima Magnum]

1 oz Ahtanum [There was another substitution here, but I can't find the sheet where I wrote it down, so it will be considered a secret]

White Labs WLP002 (English Ale) Yeast [We used Nottingham Ale Dry Yeast]

1tsp Irish Moss

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pumpkin Ale

Finally, the reason I got into brewing is here.  Fall.  And that means many things: leaves changing colors, weather getting cooler, Halloween, and great beers.  Over the years, I have tried quite a few pumpkin ales, some better than others.  So, when I set out to make one of these seasonal fruit ales, I wanted the flavors to really come through.  I wanted spices and aroma to the point when people have to sit and savor the taste of the beer they are drinking.  I wanted perfection.  

When I set out for a recipe, I made an immediate decision to use fresh pumpkin.  Some beer experts will say use only fresh, others will swear by the canned goods.  But, I wanted to be involved in the entire process of this beer.  I wanted to know it inside and out.  One of the drawbacks of fresh pumpkins is waiting for season.  Which meant that it wouldn't be ready by October.  But, still, my beer should be here before Halloween, hopefully giving me a little bit of October drinking.  

Upon further recipe investigation, I found none that looked appealing to me.  So, I set about to make my own recipe, which was really just a hybrid of about four different ones.  I had to make decisions with ingredients and technique, which will probably turn out disastrous.  But, fingers crossed, I made a list and drove off to the brewing store to get my ingredients.  

Here is the stuff I got from the brew shop:

6.6 lb Amber LME
1.65 lb Light LME
1 lb 2 Row Pale Malt (meant to pick up Pilsner)
1 lb Vienna Malt
.5 lb Caramunich Malt
2 oz Styrian Goldings Hops 

In addition to that, I picked up three small baking pumpkins from the grocery store and some spices at the local Farmer's Market (cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and ground nutmeg).  

Preparing the pumpkins turned out to be a bit of a process.  First off, I had to cut my pumpkins into 2 or 3 inch pieces and clean them (taking out the seeds and other "innards").  Then, I baked them at 350 degrees for about an hour (until they were soft to the touch).  After they cooled down, I removed the outer skin of each piece, leaving the "meat" of the pumpkin.  At the end of the process, I had about 3.75 lbs of the baked pulp.  From this, I divided it into two sections.  2.5 lbs of pumpkin would be placed in a muslin sack and steeped with my grains before the boil.  The other 1.25 lbs would be put into a hop bag and placed into my fermenting bucket similar to a dry hopping technique.  I wanted to do make sure I got pumpkin flavor in whatever way that I could.  I just hope I didn't overdue it!

After steeping my grains and pumpkin (a very crowded brewpot!) for 45 minutes at 155 degrees, I added my liquid malt extract (LME) and brought everything to a boil.  My LME may have been another mistake because instead of putting in about 7.5 lbs, I added all of the extract which was over 8 lbs!  Along with my 2.5 lbs of steeped grains, this created a very sweet wort, which could mean strong beer or bad beer.  We will have to see.  

When I got my wort to a boil, I added 1.5 oz of the hops.  After 45 minutes, I added the rest of the hops.  At 50 minutes, I added my spices.  Again, because I was creating my own recipe and desired strong flavors, I may have gone a bit overboard.  I added 5 cinnamon sticks, 1 tsp of nutmeg, and 7 whole cloves to my boil.  Everything was starting to smell delicious!  In the last 5 minutes, I put the other pumpkin in a hop bag and threw it into the boil.  This was not to take out any flavors, but simply to sterilize my pumpkin that would go into the bucket.  

After cooling down my wort, I pitched by yeast (Nottingham Dry Ale Yeast), tossed the cooled pumpkin back in, and hammered my lid shut.  I left the pumpkin in for about 48 hours before removing it. 

The wort ended up being 1.060 OG and tasted wonderful.  It really did taste like a pumpkin pie, especially in the sweetness.  I will probably rack over to a secondary sometime this week.  

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

ABV of Belgian White

Bottled my Belgian White Sunday, after having to finagle some bottles from a guy a met online.  Bottling is a long and tough process to do solo, so I wouldn't suggest it.  However, the beer looks and smells great.  Should be ready in about a week and a half.  Contemplating waiting until the first day of summer (June 21) but that is Father's Day, so I might not be in Raleigh.  Maybe a good last day of spring beer?  Final gravity ended up being 1.014, which brought my beer to about 5.15% ABV. 

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Belgian White

Hello all.  As promised, I am writing here more often than before.  I am currently brewing a batch of belgian white beer, similar to a Hoegaarden clone.  For those of you who don't know it, my girlfriend is currently on a trip to Europe right now (which would explain a lot of free time for brewing).  Her first stop was Amsterdam where she was greeted with a Heineken.  She wasn't a huge fan (no surprise) of this, so she tried a Hoegaarden, which she said she loved.  Now, she has always been a fan of white ales, so this was also not much of a surprise.  So, as a surprise (i keep using this word) for her, I decided to make a batch for her return.  

The recipe I got for this clone came from a beer message board, however, after visiting American Brewmaster, I decided to take the advice of the knowledgeable staff and tweak my recipe a bit.  Here is the original recipe that I found:

3.30 lbs. Light liquid malt extract 
2.00 lbs. Dry wheat malt extract 
0.50 lbs. Cracked unmalted wheat 
0.50 lbs. Rolled (flaked) oats 

HOPS (pellet) 
0.50 oz. Saaz for 60 min 
0.70 oz. E.K. Goldings for 60 min 
0.50 oz. Saaz for 15 min 

1.25 tsp. Coriander seeds (cracked) for 15 minutes 
2.00 tsp. Dried bitter orange for 15 minutes 

Steep whole grains in 1/2 gallon water @ 155F for 30 minutes. Rinse 
with 1 or 2 pints of 170F water. Remove grains, add 2.0+ gal water & 
extract, start 60 minute boil. Add hops and other ingredients as 

White Labs Belgian Wit Ale Yeast (WLP400)

Now, while a lot of people said they enjoyed this clone, there were a few things that I did differently.  First of all, the flaked oats don't give off any sugars when they are steeped alone.  They need a catalyst of another grain to get them started.  And since the wheat I got was unmalted, this wouldn't help either (however, unmalted wheat is beneficial not only for flavor, but for head retention, which is something that I might consider for future brews).  So, to get the flaked oats started, I added in a pound of pilsner malt.  I also decided to steep these grains for an hour instead of the recommended 30 minutes from my recipe to get the full reactions.  This left me with that grayish color that really screams Hoegaarden (see picture above).  However, once I added in my malt extract, my wort became much darker (even with light malt extract).  

As for the hops, I wasn't able to find EK Goldings, so I bit my pride and bought just plain Kent Goldings.  However, this shouldn't make a whole lot of difference, right?  As for the orange and coriander, 15 minutes was much too long to be left in the boil.  The clerk at American Brewmaster suggested I add them with 5 minutes to go and to also add in a gram of Camamile "to give it that juicy fruit flavor of Hoegaarden."  I placed these in a hop bag so I could immediately take them out after the last 5 minutes, because sure enough one of the complaints on the message boards were to strong flavors of orange and coriander.  

I also switched out the yeast for a Wyeast 3944 Belgian Wheat.

Anyway, I will let you all know how it turns out before too long.  I am still throwing some ideas around for what to name this one, but I will let you know soon.  And make sure to not tell Lauren about this beer!  Remember, the word of the day is surprise.  

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Apocalypse Wow Review and Label

Been too long since my last post.  I have tried many beers since we last spoke, but have forgotten most of them.  Whoops.  However, there is a whole summer of Saucer ahead, so there will be many reviews to come until I reach my 200th beer!

One review I can dish out is for my last batch: Apocalypse Wow.  I wasn't as proud of this one as my Pale Ale, but (as my roommate, Bryan, said) "it's not bad."  Still very dark (as was my intention) this beer has a very complex taste that was missing from the Hinesight.  The aftertaste bothered me a lot at first tasting, but upon aging for a few extra weeks, I find the flavors more defined.  The brown sugar an molasses came through much more than I expected, and kind of hinder the vanilla that I was originally going for, although it is there.  There is not a lot of head retention or carbonation in this beer either.  

Anyway, here is the label design:

Monday, March 23, 2009

Apocalypse Wow!

For my next beer, I wanted to try something a little more complex that the pale ale that I did last time.  I have been really getting into the complexity of porters lately, so I decided I wanted to experiment with the versatility of this dark ale.  After a lot of tasting beers at saucer, I decided I wanted to make a vanilla porter.  Breckenridge makes a very good one, and, if you can get it on draft, it's even better.  So, with the help of my friend and fellow brewer, Mike, I set out to embark on a journey along the Nung river, into the heart of darkness of all porters.  The Apocalypse Wow.  

Like I said, I really wanted to experiment with this beer and try to add in a bunch of crazy ingredients.  Taking a page out of The Joy of Homebrewing, I decided on the perfect recipe- Goat Scrotum Ale (not making this name up).  Apparently, this beer was made hundreds of years ago using the same ingredients as today.  However, unlike the name suggests, we did not add any goat scrotum.  It's not really goat scrotum season anyway. 

As you can see from the above picture, this was a very dark beer, even after the addition of all of the water to make the full 5 gallons.  We used roasted barley and black malt in addition to brown sugar, molasses, and chocolate to achieve this beautiful color.  Here is the full list of ingredients that we used.

5 lb Dark Malt Extract
1 lb Crystal Malt
1/4 lb Roasted Barley
1/4 lb Black Malt
1 lb Corn Sugar (for the boil, not for bottling, of course)
1 cup Brown Sugar
1 cup Molasses
1 cube Baking Chocolate
2 tsp Gypsum
1 oz Cascade Hops
1/2 oz Tettanger Hops

The first thing we did was pop open a homebrew and played with this dog, Roxy.  

Roxy is an awesome dog.  That is all.

Ok, so we heated up 2 1/2 gallons of water 
to 150 degrees and steeped the grains for 30 minutes.  The water turned very, VERY dark much to our delight.  We took out the grains and steeped them to get even more of the flavors out of our precious grains.  After that, we added our malt extract, sugars, molasses, gypsum, and baker's chocolate.  We brought the pot to a rolling boil and added our boiling hops.  The recipe called for 1 1/4 oz of boiling hops but the cascades came in 1 oz increments.  Since we were only using 1/4 oz of the tettanger hops, we put some of the tettanger in place.  

With 2 minutes left into the boil (60 minutes total), we added 1/4 oz of the tettanger hops.  We cooled down the wort and pitched the yeast (Nottingham) into the bucket.  The original specific gravity was 1.055.  Should make for a really nice beer in about a month.  

After about 18 hours, I checked the bucket and was happy to see it was already bubbling a lot.  The yeast is very active and, because the batch was so sweet, they should have a lot of food to convert into precious alcohol.  Good news for me!

Wow, thats a lot of wort.  Although the head is hiding it, there is sweet, dark beer in there.  Darker than Col. Kurtz's heart.

Trying to get the boil with no boil-over.  This was a bit of a worry because we put so much water and ingredients into the pot.  But no problem because Mike is a natural.

Mike trying to aerate our beer after we pitched the yeast.  He looks so happy, and he should be.  Before too long, we will be drinking this yummy beer.  

Friday, March 13, 2009

100 Down, 100 to go

Well, I finally had my 100th beer at Flying Saucer this week.  For those of you who don't know, Flying Saucer has something called the UFO Club.  Basically, you have to drink 200 beers and you get a party for you and your friends plus your name forever immortalized on a saucer (along with a quote).  Anyway, I'm halfway there which got me a free "Biggie Beer."  I got a Lone Rider Shotgun Betty, which I was very happy with.  Another local brewery from Raleigh, this hefeweizen is the first beer from Lone Rider and is now offered all over the Triangle.  Although sweet, it was still very easy to drink, even drinking 22 oz!  It's good to have another great brewery in this area.  I can't wait to see what else they have to offer.  

Since I got my first beer for free, I decided to splurge a bit and go for a bottle I have been meaning to try for some time now.  Stone Smoked Porter was the next beer on my list.  This dark, gothic beer was one of the best I have ever had.  Again, one of the darker porters I have tried, but very complex and full of many flavors.  The first flavor that stood out was the smoke.  It was almost as if I was sucking on hickory chips, which is understandable why Stone says it would go great with BBQ.  The malts were also wonderful.  It gave the perfect balance of chocolate and coffee aromas.  I also really liked Stone's mantra on the back of the bottle.  Not verbatim,  but they pretty much say, they don't make this so everyone will like it, but they make it so some people will absolutely love it.  Guess I am in that second group.  

Friday, March 6, 2009

Beer Tastings

While I still have yet to start on  a new batch, (soon, I hope) I figured I could talk on a few of my latest beers tried.  

First of all, due to a generous beer grant from my friend Matt, I was left with a sample pack of Flying Dog.  I have yet to find a Flying Dog that I didn't like, and I always love looking at the work of Hunter S. Thompson (although after too many, some of the art begins to freak me out a bit).  The bottles only add to the "Flying Dog Experience," something that gets lost in the pints of the Saucer.  My favorite from the mixed pack has got to be the Road Dog Porter.  Very robust malted flavors in this beer.  The chocolate aromas really come out when I poured it into a glass (Flying Dog glass complements of drunken Flying Saucer night!).  Road Dog only makes me want to try Gonzo Imperial Porter even more than before, so I might have to make a stop at Peace Street Market in the near future.  Old Scratch Amber is also worth noting.  There is nothing very complicated about this beer, and it sure does go down smooth.

Highland Black Mountain Bitter: One of the more unique beers that I have tried lately.  Highland is another brewery that I can always seem to count on.  Being local makes it even better.  Hopefully, I can make it to a tour sometime.  According to the description, this beer has grassy hops with a finishing hint of butter.  I loved the earthy hops (with some citrus) because I actually did get tastes of grass (which is one of my favorite smells).  I probably would have never thought butter, unless I read it, but I was able to recognize it.  

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot: Wow, what a beer.  Served in a smaller glass, (thank goodness) this barleywine style beer really defined "sipping beer."  There was almost too many flavors in it to the point of it not being enjoyable, although not as bad as Dogfish Head's 120 min IPA.  I would like to give this beer another try, again when it is cold outside.  However, I have to say, I was not as impressed as I had hoped to be.  

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Pictures of Hinesight Pale Ale

Enjoying one of my beers while I watch a hockey game.  Go Canes!

Here is a close-up of Hinesight.  See how pretty it looks.