WHAT'S NEW AND WHAT HAVE I BEEN DISCOVERING?
What did you do over the summer? From the date in this blog I can see it has been awhile since I wrote. I've got some personal issues out of the way, but have been busy with some new interests. I may publish this blog semi-annually as I get time. The pictures above will show you what I've been doing lately as I cover some short stories below. I won't give you all the answers, but will steer you in the right direction and hopefully give you some new ideas about brewing your own beer. Check out my activities below:
TORCH REPLACES DECOCTION?
While some people were grilling up their favorite steaks over the last Labor Day weekend, I was putting the torch to some Pilsner and Dark Munich grains. I decided to involve my dad in the experiment. He had asked if I had wanted to do it, but I needed to take the picture. I was attempting to carmelize the grains more fully with a blow torch. Pictured above: half the dish was brown sugar on the left and the grains are on the right. Grains tended to burn quickly even though we used a small flame. The brown sugar carmelized rather well and smelled good. These grains are now undergoing fermenting after going through the normal brewing process of some multi-step infusion. The torched grains represented only 1/3 of the total grains in the batch. Some of the beer will be bottled with the torched brown sugar and the others will have regular brown sugar for comparison. It's kind of like making crème brûlée and I will let you know later how it turned out. I'm trying to see if it has a burned taste to it.
POPCORN ALE FERMENTED WITH WILD YEAST AND FLOWERS
I've been reading a lot here and there from the internet. Instead of collecting wild yeast randomly in the backyard I decided to use flowers from various edible plants around the house. Why wait for the yeast to come to you when you can just go get the yeast from flowers. I knew that wild yeasts would come with the flowers as documented in some article I read. Wild yeast came from different locations around the house. I pulled some flowers from lavender plants, next catnip, then clover and yellow wood sorrel (because they are similar with their leaves) and finally mint. My gallon of corn ale was fermented in 4 separate bottles with each containing the flowers mentioned above. I was supplying flowers as well as wild yeasts into each of the samples. I thought I would simulate open fermentation vessels which may have introduced wild yeasts to the beer in the past. I was surprised to find the catnip flavored beer was my favorite with the clover and wood sorrel bottle a subtle but a good second. Aroma seemed to be more pronounced than the change in taste. I didn't care for the lavender and the mint had a nasty black mold growing on the flower, which foretold, its nasty acidic taste. I sipped a small taste of the mint, but poured it out just to be on the safe side also. Wild yeast is a whole new ball game. You want to add enough hops to help with the antibacterial/safety issues and you want to keep the pH more acidic. Check out milkthefunk to see more about wild fermentations. I was pleasantly surprised to see how the batches were affected by the different aromas and flavors. Also, let it be known that my corn ale was made from some popcorn and with a whole package of cilantro put in at the last minute of the boil. The ale was really clear, but without a foamy head as I'm still working on. This turned out a lot better than my recent tortilla ale which ended up with 2/3 of each bottle being a gel or colloid substance. I can see that the corn sugar is going to gel during the aging in the refrigerator. The popcorn ale had no problem with gel. This was very interesting results..soaking of the grains in raw honey and lime juice was done overnight before the brewing. Oh, and I'm already working with open fermentation vessels as they did years ago.
EVIDENCE OF CORN AND MOLASSES BEER and PUMPKIN WASN'T USED AS FLAVORING IN COLONIAL AMERICA
I research for beer brewing knowledge continually on the web. My research lead to a blog maintained by the Library of Congress: https://blogs.loc.gov/inside_adams/2014/09/early-american-beer/
I found out pumpkin was used as a sugar or sweetener for beer. It wasn't used as a flavoring back in the early days of America. You can see reference to an online book called Resources of the Southern Fields and Forests... by Francis Peyre Porcher is listed here also: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001505461
Note that the old recipe for corn and molasses beer (1/2 of each) left to cook by a fire over night.
CHEFS AND WINEMAKERS TEACH US NEW TRICKS
A trip to my local library helped me to find some real gems when it came to improving my homebrewing. The picture above shows brewing books on the shelf at that library. Brew It Yourself covers both wine making and beer brewing techniques. Brooklyn Brew Shop's Beer Making Book also covered a lot about brewing with fruit. These books would help me to make just about any ale I could conceive of. I'm thinking about combining wine making with brewing to come up with a whole new realm of possibilities. I love to experiment. If you are exploring low oxygen in brewing start looking at campden tablets that wine makers have been using. Beer magazines have been covering the subject as well. I love desserts almost as much as making beer and now the book, The Cake Bible, showed me the best way to make puree from pumpkin. I was trying to solve another beer group member's problem of getting enough pumpkin flavor in his ale. I've watched chefs Bobby Flay and Alton Brown and hope to add more cooking techniques to brewing.
ANOTHER PORTER BLEND IS HIGHLY RATED BY BOTH WIFE AND I
I mixed together another historically correct Porter using a beer blend of Newcastle Brown, Old Carmugeon from Founder's Brewing and Bass Ale. My wife and I both taste tested it to find it was the best beer blend ever! I mixed all three together in my brewing pot and then poured our glasses from the mixture. See my previous entry about the early Porter beers.
TRYING SOME SAMPLES OUT AT OZONE'S BREWHOUSE
During the summer, I had a chance to stop by Ozone's Brewhouse, a local craft brewery in Lansing, Michigan. I like to try some new beers now and then to taste test and to find out the latest things they are putting in beer these days. Always give some of your business to your local breweries as you can review what's going in and how good it tastes. The magazines are good but the party stores and craft breweries can give you some new ideas to try in your own batches at home. This brewery has a little food truck that parks outside and I haven't come at the right hours when it was open - I've got to try the truffle fries sometime.
AVOID BEER BREWING METHOD DELUSIONS
You'll know which blogs or forums I'm talking about here. Call me a beer writer critic, but I've got to say something!
1. Forget Group Taste and Insignificance
One blog is spending time on a group of tasters to determine if they can tell the difference between samples. If it is established that those that like IPA's can't taste bitterness why would I leave a group of these people to decide what's good or what's different? I wouldn't leave it up to my wife to determine what's good to drink. Besides, she drinks mixed drinks with whiskey. I call whiskey liquid fire as it has no taste for me - just the burning. Secondly, she also likes wine which doesn't have the complexity for me like beer does. Wine all tastes the same. Would you leave it up to an IPA drinker to decide what's good for you? Or, how about a non-IPA drinker deciding? Also, is that group of tasters mostly bitter beer drinkers or is it 50% bitter beer and 50% non-bitter beer tasters. You can't really run a statistical test for a group subjective beer taste. I look for significant changes in what I can taste instead of looking for a case where I can't tell the difference. Now, if you wanted to run a brewery you could have your local customers run a taste test of 2 drinks to see what you would release to party stores in national sale. Remember, in a test, you can't rule something out because it was insignificant once. You have to do many tests with different variables to see if you have truly ruled everything out. I know because I used to be a lab technician in a chemical plastics test lab.
2. Don't Follow the Leader!
I noticed there is a group out there on the web that wants you to follow one guy and adhere to his teachings. While many homebrewers have something to contribute why give all your attention to one guy? And just cause he's a German brewer? I also don't follow only one engineer who has the brewing water computations all figured out - even when someone says, "that's who we follow". There are many experts out there, but I don't follow just the German ones. I have never had a mentor, but maybe some are meant to be followers. I give equal weight to many authors - even those authors that I just read at the bookstore because I couldn't afford their book at the time. Why follow one author exclusively? Think about this: would you follow your wife's advice exclusively? I don't look for a leader to decide what I'm going to do next. I think we should have a choice in the matter. I don't believe beer styles only can come from Germany. This kind of closed mindedness has limitations. I also don't believe nominating a leader is going to solve all my problems or concerns. Look at the current president of the U.S. - do you believe he has your same viewpoints or interests? Republics can nominate pretty crummy leaders sometimes. Go for an ideology that gives you a choice. Maybe, we can make Mark Zuckerberg President of the U.S. someday; he can give us all a choice to what America should be like. He should be able to give us a choice for America in seconds with a survey from his social media company.
HOW DO YOU REACH YOUR BEST TASTING BEER?
Find a style of beer you like the best. Research it until you know how to copy it: the grains, the hops, and the yeast. It is trial and error as you try different things. Change one thing at a time and compare to see what you like the best. After you find you favorite combination, try messing with the pH of different brew waters. I assure you that if you keep trying these steps you should eventually converge on the your best tasting homebrewed beer.