Pints for Prostates

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Holiday Beers

Happy holidays! I've been drinking some great beers to celebrate. Here's a picture:
Holiday Brews
From left to right:

Union Jack (Beeradvocate Review)
I scored a six pack of Firestone Walker's Union Jack IPA, which is a rare find in Central New York. Union Jack is a good example of a west coast IPA.
A friend posted a picture and brief review of Brooklyn Brewery's Black Chocolate Stout on facebook. He recommended it. I have had a growing interest in dark beers such as porters and stouts. This beer is an example of a Russian Imperial Stout. Yummy, thick, bitter-sweet chocolate beer.

White IPA (Beeradvocate Review)
This beer surprised me. Saranac may be the local favorite around here, but I am no fanboi. But this beer really impressed me, enough to email Saranac and express my appreciation. There does seem to be a buzz about this beer. The appearance is yellow and cloudy. The taste and aroma is grapefruit and orange citrus, with very little bitter. Saranac/Matt's Brewing Company describes the beer as such:
Saranac White IPA is a tasty innovative twist on a traditional IPA. We've taken a delicious American IPA bursting with Citra hops, and given it a whole new direction by adding the refreshing fruitiness of orange peel & coriander and the softening characters of wheat malt and oats. You'll notice the complex hop flavor you've come to expect in an IPA, balanced with the extraordinary bright flavor of a wheat beer. Cheers to twisting tradition! (source)
I had a chance to have it on draft at Nail Creek Pub and at The Green Onion Pub. I was happy to find the beer in bottles at Marcy Beverage.

Oat (Beeradvocate Review)
The Oat from Southern Tier was a nice surprise that I found under the tree from Kim. She is fostering my interest in dark beers. This is an example of an American Imperial (Oatmeal) Stout. I drank it on Christmas eve. I thought it was great.

Double Jack (Beeradvocate Review)
Firestone Walker's Double Jack is the Imperial version of the Union Jack; it's their Double IPA. This was also a gift from Kim. I drank it on Christmas day (evening). I've had the Double Jack before and it's fantastic.

Adoration (Beeradvocate Review)
Ommegang's Adoration is a Belgian Strong Dark Ale. It has 10% ABV, which makes it a sipper. I've tried this once at The Green Onion Pub and was simply enamored by it. The beer is dark, rich, and complex. The beer is considerably more pricey than Ommegang's other beers. This one is an extra special gift from Kim. She chose well. I'm going to open it on New Years Eve.

Happy New Year! 
Drink responsibly and be safe!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Making a SCOBY Mother

Last night I brewed some tea so that we can make a SCOBY mother. That SCOBY mother will allow us to brew kombucha.
Kombucha is a tea-based beverage that has various health benefits. It's a fermented drink that tastes good and is good for you. Kombucha contains active cultures. SCOBY stands for, "Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast." (source)

The process involved boiling 2 cups of water and adding 2 tea bags to steep (i.e., I made tea). I then poured the tea into the jar, and poured the (baby) SCOBY--found floating in bottles of kombucha--into the jar. I covered the jar with mesh cloth and put the jar into a dark closet. The jar will sit in the closet for about 4 weeks until we have a SCOBY that covers the surface of the liquid.

Here's a video that explains the process:

Here's a second video on how to make the SCOBY mother:

Here's a video of how to make kombucha once you have the SCOBY:

Happy holidays, btw. Ring in the Solstice Bells!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dry Hopping

Tonight I dry hopped the Chinook IPA. It was the first time I've dry hopped. It's not all that special; I just opened the fermenter and poured in 1 oz of Chinook hop pellets, then put the lid back on. Adding the hops during the late portion of the fermentation period will impart that citrusy, hop aroma to the beer.
Dry Hopped

Friday, December 9, 2011

Making Mead

I made my first batch of mead the other night (2011-12-06)! Mead is a honey wine.
For a 1 gallon batch:
  • 1 quart of Orange Blossom Honey (3 lbs)
  • 1 packet of Lalvin 71B-1122 yeast
  • Juice from 2 organic oranges
  • 1 cup of strong, organic Darjeeling tea
  • 1 teaspoon of Diammonium Phosphate (a yeast nutrient)
Lalvin 71B-1122

  1. Clean and sanitize everything (thermometer, bowl, spoon, stopper, bung, gallon jug, etc.)
  2. Heat 1.25 gallons of water in brew pot, to around 150 degrees.
  3. Take brew pot off burner and stir in honey.
  4. Heat 1 cup of water to 100 degrees and pour in sterilized bowl and add dry yeast (to rehydrate).
  5. Boil 1 cup of water and add two tea bags. When dark and strong, stir into brew pot.
  6. Squeeze two oranges and add to brew pot.
  7. Pour honey and water mixture (called “must”) into gallon jug.
  8. Pour yeast into jug.
  9. Add 1 teaspoon of Diammonium Phosphate.
  10. Plug jug and shake vigorously to aerate.
  11. Pour sanitized water into stopper and insert into bung.


The process I used was a little haphazard and certainly not efficient. I was hurrying some and not being patient and calm. I made several mistakes:

  • I heated more than 1 gallon of water becuase I figured I might lose some in the initial boil. However, I didn't actually bring the water to a boil (maybe 150 degrees). Coupled with the 1 cup of tea I added, there was more liquid than could be put in my gallon jug. Therefore, the honey is dissolved in more water (read: not as concentrated), and not all in my fermenter.
  • I poured the must too close to the top, so when I poured in my yeast starter, it wouldn't all fit. I had to move my funnel over a sanitized bowl to catch what was in the funnel. I then had to empty some of the must and yeast into the sink to make room. Ah! Then I put the captured yeast into the jug. This means that I don't have as high a yeast count as I would have.
  • I don't know where my head was, but I put the must and yeast in the jug with the must still quite warm. As I was aerating I was thinking that the jug was hot. I measured the temperature and found that it was 120 degrees! That was too hot for the yeast. I should have targeted between 80 to 86 degrees.
  • When I poured the teaspoon of Diammonium Phosphate into the jug, I did so using damp funnel. The granules stuck to the funnel. I poured a small bit of left over must in to wash it down.

Revised Process
Here is my revised process, based on the experience gained from my mishaps, and from the input from knowledgeable mead makers on the HomeBrewTalk mead forum (Thank you again!):
  1. Clean and sanitize everything (thermometer, bowls, spoon, stopper, bung, gallon jug, etc.)
  2. Boil half gallon of water in brew pot.
  3. Remove water from burner and stir in honey.
  4. Heat 2 cups of water in sauce pan. When water hits 100 degrees, pour 1 cup into sanitized bowl and add dry yeast.
  5. Bring remaining cup of water to boil.
  6. Turn off heat and add tea bags to steep.
  7. Squeeze two oranges into sanitized bowl. Pour the resulting juice, without any seeds, into the tea.
  8. Stir the tea and orange juice mixture into the brew pot.
  9. Stir and cool the must to 100 degrees.
  10. Pour must into jug using a funnel.
  11. Add cool water to jug to “top it off.” This will cool the wort even more. Remember to leave room for another cup of water for the yeast. The must should be just up to where the jug starts to get smaller; there needs to be some oxygen space in the jug. 
  12. When the temperature is 85 degrees, pitch yeast into jug using a funnel.
  13. Add 1 teaspoon of Diammonium Phosphate directly into jug (without funnel).
  14. Plug jug and shake vigorously to aerate.
  15. Pour sanitized water into stopper and insert into bung.

The mead will ferment for at least three months. I’ll save some wine bottles and corks so that I can bottle the mead and let it clear up and condition. Alternatively, if it tastes decent at three months, Kim and I will just refrigerate the jug and drink it, and eschew any bottling efforts. If the mead does not taste good, or obviously appears to need more time to ferment, I’ll just leave for another month or two. Like wine, mead can hang around for years and tend to get better over time.

If I like the mead, I‘ll want to make more. Then I’ll have to decide whether to get more jugs from wine drinkers, or to buy a larger fermentation bucket so that I can make a 5 gallon batch.

Adding More Yeast
As of Thursday evening (2011-12-08), there were no visual signs of yeast activity in the mead. I know that mead has a longer lag time than beer, but I thought that after 48 hours I ought to see something. I decided to re-hydrate a packet of Red Star Montrachet yeast.
Red Star Montrachet
While I let the yeast sit in the bowl, I measured the gravity of the must: OG 1.080. I'll have to do some research to determine how typical that number is. I pitched the new yeast and put the jug back in the closet.

Update: The mead started to ferment more vigorously this morning (2011-12-10). There is foam coming out of the top of the stopper. I put a pan beneath the jug in case the foaming overflows. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Eremita Wine Tasting

Last night we finally had a chance to taste the wines from Eremita Winery. Our friend Josh owns the winery and we had meant to get out to visit the winery in Lodi, NY over the summer...but we didn't. Lucky for us, he traveled out our way. Josh and his girlfriend, Abbie, were at the Nail Creek Pub last night to do a tasting.
Eremita Goddess and Chardonnay
As we stepped into the Nail Creek Pub I was reminded that we are indeed in the holiday season. The pub was quite warm and cozy with a festive, lighted tree in the front window. There were people in winter sweaters sniffing and sipping from stemmed wine glasses. Kim and I removed our coats and were greeted with wine glasses and our first pour of the evening: the un-oaked Chardonney.

Josh and Abbie were sure that we had a chance to taste all of the wines. Josh provided a brief description of the flavors and the relative sweetness for each.

I am not a big wine drinker. I prefer Rieslings and I like a good table wine. I'm not even going to attempt to provide a full, bottle by bottle review of the wines. My under-developed palate would provide few helpful adjectives. That being said, I liked all of the wines. Because I don't care for oak-aging, the Chardonnay was just right for me. The Riesling starts with a subtle, fruity note (the website says apricot, green apple, and peach), which I found to be a pleasant surprise. The Goddess is a great, red table wine that isn't too sweet and has a dry finish. And, although I don't typically care for oak-aging, the Pinot Noir may have been my favorite with the richest and most varied of flavors.

Each of the wines are described on the website. I encourage you to seek out some Eremita wine and have your own tasting. Josh mentioned that Eremita will be available at City Liquors in Utica, NY. You can also visit the tasting room in Lodi, NY (they have new winter hours).

Thank you Josh and Abbie! We love your wines.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Tasting the Hefeweizen

We decided to try our Bavarian Hefeweizen this weekend. It is our second homebrew and it has bottle conditioned for two weeks. 
Bavarian Hefeweizen in Pilsner Glass
Appearance: Orange and cloudy. Not as yellow as we thought it might be. Not much head. Some carbonation below surface. The carbonation might increase over the next couple weeks in the bottle.

Smell: Banana and clove. Bubblegum. This beer had a strong banana and clove smell throughout fermentation. That smell is entirely attributed to the yeast.

Mouthfeel: Light body. Smooth. Creamy head around the edges of the glass (again, the yeast).

Taste: Smooth wheat. Mellow. Some yeasty earthiness. Very drinkable, as they say. The banana, clove and bubblegum flavors bookend the experience.

Overall: It's awesome! Drinkable. I'm sure another week or two in the bottles will make this beer even better. I can't wait though; I already put some more bottles in the refrigerator. This is one to share with family members over the holidays.