This entry may be more of what I get out of beer brewing rather than the steps to making a good brew. Do we derive something from this hobby besides making good beer? This might be compared to a beer memoir as I show you what I have observed or noticed and how I came to perceive things.. You might also learn how to enjoy this hobby more after you read this. Some may not like some of the observations I make but try not to take it too personal.
Homebrewing is a hobby just like any other interest. Let me contrast this with my previous leisure activities. With stamp collecting, I never got around to doing the work of getting all the stamps into the albums. I was previously a member of the American Kitefliers Association flying single, 2 and 4 line kites. Some of us just liked to fly at the festivals, but I was discouraged that I could not do all the kite flying tricks. Purchasing the many books about how to build kites never lead to getting around to actually making my own. I have collected several types of kites: over 100 sit idle taking up space in a home closet. Call me a collector rather than a flyer these days. Hey, we all have to collect something, right? It is encouraged but members are not required to compete. I never felt the need to perform to compete with others and never competed. The kite competitions were really about showing whether you were better than someone else with flying skills. Unlike kites, I have created many recipes and followed through by making my own beer batches. I was also a book collector that was part hobby and part side income. Profits were slim as I worked with a local dealer to help find the books that he was looking for. My book collecting was an exploration and search for titles from various surplus and thrift stores. As I covered racks of books, my mind stayed actively engaged and distracted in the search. Former hobbies were enjoyable but homebrewing far exceeded those previous interests in every way.
Homebrewing has been a consuming obsession more than other. I'm more enthusiastic, ambitious, more of a planner, good at starting and finishing more brews than I have performed any other activity. I have set my goals on producing: 1. Former Frankenmuth Brewmaster Fred Scheer's Dark and Oktoberfest recipes 2. An authentic gruit ale 3. Paulaner's Oktoberfest Wiesn clone. My Fred Scheer recipes are very close to the taste as they are the first microbrew beers I fell in love with years ago. I've paired the Dark, actually a Schwarzbier, with a homemade bread pudding. The Oktoberfest turned out to be a Festbier. Baked chicken usually paired well with Fred's Oktoberfest at restaurants in Frankenmuth, Michigan. Reading and researching gruit ale recipes may lead to brewing the real thing soon. Some of the brew recipes carry warnings because of possible herb dangers; I'm not concerned as I've taken herb supplements. Overall, my biggest dream is to recreate Paulaner's Wiesn.
When I cook a batch I observe it, smell it and take the whole experience through my senses. It comes natural like when one might soak up the impressions of a garden outside. It isn't like work where you have to start some project to be something for someone else in a predetermined time period. The mash causes one to focus on specific actions while the boil is less engaging as one can be hypnotized while watching the brew bubble in the pot. Brewing is like cooking where you can enjoy the fruits of your labor. It brings about an inner peace and calm like I got from flying kites and collecting stamps. There is some sense of discovery like I had from collecting books. All my leisure pursuits caused me to get absorbed into something other than my concerns and problems of everyday life. Call it leisure therapy.
There does seem to be a kind of status quo when it comes to brewing. If you choose to step outside those methods don't tell anyone about it and that includes social media. You can blog your beer experiences as most readers rarely comment. If you join a forum or other social media group, try never to issue a statement or observation as you might be in for a fight and possibly be put on the spot to offer proof of your findings. Hobbies usually are solitary pursuits for me. My only exception is this blog which I thought might help others to take on what may be an overwhelming hobby to get started.
Now, it appears to be an increased interest in homebrew experimenting. Just a few tests will suffice for me but I don't want to spend my time collecting data. It kind of reminds me of someone planning a vacation like work: we have to be at point A at this time, point B at that time, etc.
I had noticed that very small amounts of beer foam developed after adding the correct amount of Irish Moss to a batch. I seem to recall one author stated increased Irish Moss amounts resulted in decreases in foam. Now, after many batches, I have plenty of foam while not using any Irish Moss. I will probably run one more test to see if the addition of Irish Moss results in less foam or maybe I'm not accounting for my improved brewing efficiency. I doubt I will spend my time trying to convince others online that my findings are true. Trying to convince others of something true just isn't all that fun. If I determine that Irish Moss causes less foam I am more likely to just toss the remainder in the garbage and keep the new findings my little secret.
A recent blog experiment had shown that temperature of 2 separate mashes had little effect in getting more sugar or alcohol in beer. Some brewers may not have read many of the brewing books that are available. I feel I'm more open minded to consider a variety of methods suggested by other authors. I took note of Randy Mosher's book, Radical Brewing. He showed that to get fermentability you need to consider a temperature of 145 F in a 2 hour mash diluted to 3 quarts water per pound with a pH between 5.3 - 5.5. So, temperature, time, diluted mash and pH may be key factors to a beer with more alcohol. Temperature may not be a factor by itself. Per Mosher, if I'm looking for a sweeter mash for my Weisn I may need to hit 159 F for at least 30 minutes with a denser 1 quart per pound mash and a pH outside that former range. I just need to test his statement to determine the real truth.
I am more of one to take a pinch of this and a pinch of that rather than measure every ingredient. I take the easy way out as I am just plain lazy. This is supposed to be a time to play and not a period to do any work. However, I do still take the time to measure the small amounts of salts that are to be added when making adjustments to my brew water.
Contrary to what others online may think, I'm not against science or experiments. I used to be a lab technician, tested plastics, observed results and collected all kinds of numbers. That data can be all over the place but you only get a small picture of what is really going on. It is really about how your experiment is constructed. What are all the factors that can influence your results? Have you collected enough data? What does it really prove? Ask yourself. Does it pertain to all styles of beer? Are you sure? Why? Why base an experiment on other people's tastes which is kind of subjective. I'm not out to prove how good my beer tastes for others because it's meant for me. I've always asked myself - why? A lot of science can be a lot of work. I would rather just cook in the kitchen! Besides, I don't want to be a judge of other people's beer nor do I want to have my beer compete against the brews of others. Why would I want to judge a number of IPA's? I don't even like IPA's. Doesn't winning a beer contest just mean that your taste buds are the same as the majority and that you are able to create a beer that will be picked by the majority? I might get an opposing counterpoint on this issue but just ponder that question for awhile.
My mother's aunt kept her recipe for custard pie a secret and took it to the grave when she died. There is a lot of wisdom in this. She didn't enter any contests to prove how good her pie was. She didn't have any serious discussions, that I know of, with anyone regarding the best ingredients that go into pie. She presented it as it was and most of our family members liked it. Is it really necessary to give up all your secrets? I can discover, test and find things out for myself. It takes time to convince others that something is true and takes all the fun out of it. I love to make beer because I enjoy it, perhaps, better than any other beverage. It still beats my wife's shots of Bourbon at the bar. Take time, slow down and smell the glass in your hand. I will probably take my time, brew it simply with a "pinch or two" of this and that just like I was cooking a food dish. Besides, my postal scale is still broken. You get the idea.
Facts about brewing procedures can be wrong, and in many cases, opinion can be downright wrong. Just be sure to observe everything around you to find out the truth. It isn't always necessary to convince everyone of the truth - just keep it as your little secret. It doesn't matter if others don't see something as real fact. Run a test to discover the truth from your own experiments in brewing and record the results. The foam test, mentioned above, could be done twice using the same recipe and the only changing variable is boil with or without using Irish Moss. I can get a ruler out, pour as much as I can into a glass resting on the counter and compare the number of inches of foam on the first pour. I don't need to hold the glass at an angle as I'm trying to find the maximum foam coming out of the bottle. I would say an inch difference would be significant. Repeating the same foam experiment with another style of beer would prove it further yet.
Drink your beer slow, savor it, experience it and enjoy it.
I am getting closer to retiring this blog. I will continue to brew beer with the 3 goals above, but I've gotten a new interest making historical tonics and sodas. I've been creating extracts to make what I hope to call another cola that beats Coca Cola or Pepsi. See this Facebook link for my latest group - Rediscovering Soda:
I have created my version of the historical Pemberton's Wine Cola. See the results at that Facebook group link. I'm out to create my own cola; I am hoping to sell it to an existing soda pop maker or the recipe might go into a book sold at retail.
My Paulaner Wiesn clone: Due to my recent car accident with a deer and sinus infection, I've was under the weather in the last month and a half. I ceased brewing beer for awhile. I have no batch to review in this entry. I'm still in search of a yeast that might bring my batches closer to the right taste. All About Beer magazine, March 2016, had an article named "Brewing German Rarities". Florian Klemp, the author, discussed Dampfbier utilizing nothing but Bavarian barley with a weizen yeast: Wyeast 3056. This may give the clove phenols or banana esters I'm looking for. This will be my next yeast to try after White Labs Bavarian Weizen Yeast WLP351 which is currently in the refrigerator. This White Labs yeast is a former Yeast Lab strain with the phenolic overtones of clove. I'm awaiting shipment of some hops because my local brew shop didn't have it available. I think this is one step closer to Paulaner's Weisn.