Saturday, July 28, 2012

Such Great Heights

Standing on top of Independence Pass (12,095 ft)
 My torrid love affair with the state of Colorado resumed last week as Mrs. HolzBrew and I visited Boulder and Vail on vacation.  The trip was largely made possible by my fun loving in-laws, for which I am eternally grateful.  The trip involved plenty of hiking, cycling, and eating and of course plentiful consumption of Colorado craft beer.

A highlight of the trip involved a visit to the Avery Brewing Co taproom for beer and dinner.  While we tasted several beers at the taproom, the most remarkable beers I tried were the Lilikoi Kepolo and the Columbus/Chinook IPA.  The Lilikoi Kepolo as described by Avery is, "... slightly sour and on the palate is very fruity, with plenty of wheat, a hint of citrus and generous taste of yeast. The mouth feel is dry, yet refreshing, which makes for the perfect early summer drink."  I couldn't agree more!  This is definitely the king (or should I say Queen?) of summer beers.  As mentioned, the Columbus/Chinook IPA was really good as well.  I was skeptical at first as many Chinook beers to me taste overly earthy, but this IPA had more to offer.  Maybe I should reconsider brewing with Chinook (for those who are unfamiliar, Chinook is a type of American hop).

In other news, I should be bottling my first brew in Bloomington, Hoosier Daddy IPA, this week.  Also, as I mentioned in my previous post, upon my return from Colorado I was greeted by approximately 15 lbs. of wheat from a friend in Kansas.  I need to learn how to clean and malt wheat.  Does anyone know how?  If so, please drop me a line.  I'm thinking of brewing a Trappist fermented wheat wine with it.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

'Tis the season for ... wheat

To deal with the 100 degree heat, Mrs. HolzBrew and I have recently been on a wheat brew kick.  Wheat beers are brewed with a large quantity of ... wheat (no surprises there), but they may also contain malted barley.  Wheat beers are typically "top-fermented", meaning they are brewed with an ale yeast strain.  Additionally, they are usually low IBU beers (read: not hoppy), however, some American wheat ales do not keep in line with that sweeping generalization.

While there are many beers that contain wheat, generally speaking there are two major categories of wheat ale, the Belgian Witbiers and the German Weizen (Western and Northern Germany) or Weiss (Bavaria) beers.  On the German side of the ledger, most people are familiar with the hefeweizen.  The style is particularly noted for its high carbonation and low hop bitterness.  Further, another defining characteristic of the hefeweizen beer is its distinctive phenolic character.  This flavor is oftentimes described as "clove."  Other distinctive flavors include "banana" and "bubblegum" and Mrs. HolzBrew's least favorite "band-aid." 

We recently picked up seven German Hefes at Big Red here in town for comparison (Weihenstephaner not pictured above).  We drank them two at a time (except the Weihenstephaner, which we drank seperately) and this how the match ups turned out:

Hofbrau v. Paulaner:  Winner --> Paulaner

Erdinger v. Hacker-Pschorr:  Winner --> Hacker-Pschorr

Ayinger vs. Scheiderweisse:  Winner --> Scheiderweisse
On another note, a really nice guy we met on a flight out to Colorado a few months back, just happened to be a wheat farmer from Kansas.  After finding out that I was a homebrewer he offered to send us some wheat that I could use to brew with.  I just recieved an email from him this week saying that his wheat harvest was all done and that our wheat was in the mail.  I'm excited to see how much is coming our way.  And I'm a little intimidated about trying to malt a significant quantity of harvested wheat.  I've never malted grain before, I usually just buy it malted.  Regardless, it should be an adventure.  If we are sent a decent amount (15 lbs+), I'm thinking about brewing a wheat wine with it.  Here is a picture from Jason of our wheat being harvested:

Drink your wheat!


Sunday, July 1, 2012

It didn't take long ...

So I've been in Indiana since Monday and it just felt like it was time to brew.  This afternoon in 100 degree heat, I brewed a recipe that I conceived several months ago, an Indiana Pale Ale (Hoosier Daddy IPA).  I haven't brewed a good old American IPA in years and it just felt like the right first brew here in the Hoosier state.  For my birthday I received a Blichmann Propane Burner, thanks Mom!  Needless to say I was excited to give it a spin.  This was also the first time I have ever brewed outside, which was great (minus the heat).  Cleaning mash tuns and brew pots is ten times easier with a hose versus your kitchen sink.  The burner also came with leg extensions which I completely forgot to install until after the brew was complete.

The only major problem I ran into was during chilling.  As you would imagine the ground water is pretty warm right now.  My immersion chiller was only able to get me down to around 90 degrees.  I had to implement alternative measures to drop down to 68 degrees for yeast pitching.  I decided to fill a number of freezer bags with ice and dunk them in the cooling wort.  I put the ice in the freezer bag since it had not been boiled and I also didn't want to water down my wort.  The risk is that the freezer bags weren't completely sterile and they introduced some sort of contaminant to the cooling wort.  That being said I have used this technique before without any serious repercussions, but it always makes me uneasy.  I managed to hit my target OG of 1.070 almost exactly, however, I wound up with about 4 gallons of wort when everything was said and done.  I must have had more evaporation and loss due to the significant hop schedule than I had expected.

I must say that I really like the Blichmann Burner.  I got the pot heated in half the time as before.  Having never brewed with propane before (previously stove top) I wasn't aware just how must propane is used during a brew day.  I doubt I could get two complete brew days out of a full tank of propane.  Maybe I'll become more efficient with time.

Praying for the end of the heat wave,