Pints for Prostates

Friday, June 22, 2012

Brewery Ommegang

A couple weeks back, Kim and I took a road trip to Cooperstown, New York to tour Brewery Ommegang. The brewery makes some of the best Belgian style beers here in the States and worldwide. I'm sure I could go on and on about the brewery and the beers (I highly recommend them), but I'm just going to post some pictures and comment.
Ommegang Farmhouse
Ommegang was built in the 1990s but the design is that of a traditional Belgian farmhouse.

We checked in at the gift shop to sign up for the next tour and purchase tasting tickets ($3/person). We had a short wait so we went to the cafe/bar.
Cafe Ommegang
Fermentation is pretty awesome.
Beer, wine, bread, pickles, cheese, fish sauce, sake, yogurt, sauerkraut, vodka, etc.
Belgian (style) breweries:
Ommegang, Maredsous, Duvel, Liefmans, Brasserie  D'Achouffe
Belgian Pale Ale and cappuccino 
Tasting Ommegang's Belgian Pale Ale, fresh from the tap at the brewery, may have been the high point of the day for me. Really! We could have left right then and I would have been happy. I've had the BPA before, but it didn't taste like this. So much flavor. It even seemed like it had a slight barnyard Brett flavor (I'm fairly certain no Brettanomyces was used), which I loved and I hope I never forget.
Our tour guide in front of bottling equipment
The half hour tour was good. The brewery is fairly small. Our tour guide talked about how beer is made, the fermentation, and bottling. They have a clean room with an open fermenter. The beer ferments at 75 F!

After the tour, our guide led us to the tasting room. He put pretzels and various cheese spreads and sauces on the counter. We sampled all six of the Ommegang beers, from lightest (Witte) to darkest (Three Philosophers). The tour guide described each of the beers and the special herbs and spices added to each (I guess the Belgians didn't buy in to the whole Reinheitsgebot thing).
Herbs and Spices
After the tasting, we asked to be seated outside to enjoy a Sunday afternoon lunch/dinner. We had rain showers on and off that day, but luckily it held out long enough for us to eat and enjoy glimpses of the sun.
Outdoor seating
and a little red after the tasting
Hennepin ,a farmhouse Saison
Witte, a Belgian style wheat ale, or witbier
Checkout this menu!

Frites (twice-fried fries) with two sauces:
1) Abbey Ale and cumin ketchup and 2) Mustard with Witte Ale and honey
Moules Witte (mussels in Witte broth and Shiitake mushrooms)
Crepe with spinach and goat cheese
Crepe with duck confit and Shiitake mushrooms
Obviously, the meal was stunning. Visually appealing, good execution, and lots of flavors. Very enjoyable. Not too expensive either (though watch yourself when you pass back through the gift shop--that can get expensive, trust me).

I recommend visiting Brewery Ommegang for your own Upstate New York flavor adventure. And if you can't make it, look for their beers. All six are excellent representations of their respective beer style. Rather than a bottle of wine, pick up a bottle of Ommegang to take to your friends house for dinner. Cheers!
Ommegang Abbey Ale and Hennepin

Monday, June 18, 2012

Hop Growing, Take 2

This last Thursday (2012-06-14) I planted two more hop rhizomes. The rhizomes I bought and planted earlier in the spring did not come up. Looking at these new rhizomes--which I bought from Freshops this time--are sturdier, healthier and more robust than the weak little twigs I had before. That difference in quality gives me hope that these will indeed shoot out of the soil, climb themselves up the guide wire, and dangle those cirtrusy cones of hop goodness in front my nose.
Centennial Tag
The new rhizomes are both Centennial hops. Centennial is one of the "Three C" hops of American hops (the other two being Cascade and Columbus). It has a floral and citrus flavor and aroma with a 9 to 12% Alpha Acid. The pungent flavor and Alpha Acid rating causes the hop to be described as a Super Cascade hop. It can be used for bittering and flavor (i.e., dual-purpose). Great for Pale Ales and India Pale Ales--my favorite.
Many great beers use Centennial as the flavoring addition. Stone's Ruination IPABell's Two Hearted Ale, and Founders' Centennial IPA are just a few examples. My Free IPA, a clone of 21st Amendment's Brew Free or Die IPA uses Centennial as the 20 minute, flavoring addition. The near legendary Centennial Blonde recipe my BierMuncher on the forums features Centennial hops (at the moment, 2318 gallons!! have been brewed by homebrewers--it's on my list). I'm happy with my choice and I hope to use a lot of Centennial hops in the future.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Free IPA

As cliche as it might be among craft beer aficionados these days, I have to say, I love a great IPA. I am always trying new IPAs and adding more to my "best of" list. One of the IPAs that I instantly went gaga over (a total BILF) was 21st Amendment's Brew Free or Die IPA. Great hop aroma, even more hop flavor, and almost no bitterness. A very smooth, late-hop-addition beer. That is what I want.
21st Amendment's Brew Free or Die IPA
A quick search and I was able to find a clone recipe. I do not know how close it is. If you compare that beer recipe to what I list below, you can see that I changed it some because Amarillo and Simcoe hops are hard to come by this time of year. They are both very popular hops. Instead, I added an ounce of Summit hops. Maybe not the best substitution, but whatever. I named the beer "Free IPA," as a reference to the clone beer and to the fact that I brewed it on Memorial Day.

Brew Date: 2012-05-28 (Memorial Day)
Recipe Name: "Free IPA" (based on a 21stAmendment Brew Free or Die IPA clone recipe)
Batch Number: B7

Expected Original Gravity: 1.069
Expected Final Gravity: 1.010?
Expected ABV: 6.2%
IBUs (bitterness): 70
SRM (color): 9.1 SRM
Expected Efficiency: 70%
Actual Brewhouse Efficiency: ?

Yeast Starter
Water Volume: 2 liters
Dry Malt Extract: 200 grams
Yeast: White Labs WLP001 California Ale Yeast
Yeast Nutrient: 1/4 teaspoon of LD Carlson Yeast Nutrient
Note: I forgot and used post-softened water for the starter. The yeast might have liked the pre-softened better.

Water Chemistry: Remsen well water (Ca 84, Mg 10, Na 3, Cl 8, SO412, CACO3 228)
Added: 3 ml Lactic Acid, 6 g Epsom Salt, 3 g Calcium Chloride (to mash)
Brewing Salts and Yeast Nutrient
As you can tell from my previous posts, the last couple months have been about trying to improve my water. With the second water report I was able to use a spreadsheet to determine what ought to be added and how much. To this point I have studied and acted according to what makes sense. Next, perhaps the taste of the beer will suggest what should be adjusted.

Brew Day Start Time: 8:05 AM
Music: Grateful Dead - Rocking the Cradle: Egypt 1978 (1978-09-15,16)
One of the tools I use to track my brew days and recipes (besides this blog) is my 2012 Brewer's Logbook from Basic Brewing. I listen to the Basic Brewing podcast each week and purchasing the logbook was a good way of saying thanks. The logbook has a calender so that I can plan brewing activities and pages to document significant information and notes about each brew day. Like the act of brewing, using a pencil and paper to take notes keeps me away from a computer screen for awhile.
My 2012 Brewer's Logbook
Grain Bill
11 lb Canadian Two-Row
1 lb 12 oz Munich Malt
12 oz Carapils

Strike Water Volume: 3.5 gal
Strike Water Temperature: 165 F
Mash Rest Temperature: 154 F
Mash Time: 60 min

I stirred the grain more than during previous brew days. It ought to help the conversion. 
Sparge #1
Sparge Water Volume: 2.0 gal
Sparge Water Temperature: 170 F
Rest Temp: 160 F
Mash Time: 15 min

Sparge #2
Sparge Water Volume: 2.5 gal
Sparge Water Temperature: 170 F
Rest Temp: 160 F
Mash Time: 15 min

I wanted the rest to be at 170 degrees for both sparges. As you can see, the temperature went down 10 degrees. Next time....
Composting Spent Grains
Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.050
Pre-Boil Volume: 5.3 gal (calculated)
Boil Time: 60 minutes (Note: It appears I deviated from the recipe here. The recipe calls for a 90 minute boil)

Hop Additions
1.00 oz Warrior @ 60 min
1.00 oz Centennial @ 20 min 
1.00 oz Columbus @ 0 min 
1.00 oz Cascade @ 0 min
1.00 oz Cascade dry hop @ 3 days
1.00 oz Summit dry hop @ 3 days
1. 00 oz Styrian Goldings dry hop @ 3 days

I should mention that I also added 1 teaspoon of yeast nutrient and 1 half tablet of Whirlfloc @ 15 minutes left in the boil.
Lots of Hops!

All Green and Chillin'
Original Gravity: 1.058
Brew Day End Time: 1:30 PM   

Fermentation Schedule
Week 1: target of 67 F, with incubator set around 18 C
Week 2 and 3: target 67 F, with incubator set to 19.4 C
3 days at 35 F (? still researching what a good cold break temp is)
3 days at 67 F with dry hop, then rack to keg
New Incubator with  Fermenter and Blow-off Tube
This incubator is my new baby. It cools and heats, maintains the temperature I want, in Celsius. This fermentation tank will allow me to brew throughout the summer and keep a consistent temperature. I was able to buy it cheap off of craigslist. (Shout out to my friend Howie for helping me transport it. It was a nice Sunday drive in the sun, windows down, music playing.)