“The Cutalian” – Banana Tiramisu Brown Ale

The Beginnings

I  first made this beer for a friend’s wedding. The inspiration came from a marrying not only of two people, but of two cultures. I really wanted to create a beer that celebrated the coming together of an Italian, and a Cuban… Hence the  name: “The Cutalian”. The brainstorming process was a more difficult than I expected. Pork and spaghetti beer did not sound good, in fact, tomato sauce was out all together. So I started looking toward desserts. Tiramisu is an Italian classic, and it already has alcohol in it! – These flavors would be awesome in a beer! Now…. what could I incorporate from the  Cuban world. I’m no Cuban expert, but from what I could tell, these people only eat rice, beans, and pork. There do not seem to be many traditional Cuban desserts, and fewer still that would pair with Tiramisu. Finally when looking through Cuban recipes it hit  me…. PLANTAINS! The only real issue with plantains is that they are low on fermentable sugars, and for that matter flavor. So I decided to go with bananas.  Bananas have plenty of sugar for the yeast to eat and lots of flavor.

7 LB of Bananas

7 LB of Bananas

 

Now I tasked myself with figuring out how I would get the Tiramisu flavor in the beer. The primary flavors in Tiramisu come from coffee, rum, chocolate, and mascarpone. How the heck am I going to get all that flavor in the beer!? I started researching each ingredient. Coffee and chocolate seemed simple enough. The consensus among home brewers is to make an extract or infusion of sorts. I just added more rum than was recommended and – viola! – I ended up with the following infusion recipe:

  • 16oz Golden Rum – I used Mt. Gay
  • 4 oz of organic cocoa nibs
  • 2.5 oz whole bean coffee – I used Starbucks Breakfast Blend

This sat on the counter for about a week to pull all of the yummy flavors from the coffee and cocoa nibs then I strained the solids.

Coffee beans being strained.

Coffee beans being strained.

Cocoa nibs after straining.

Cocoa nibs after straining.

Now everything is falling into place, but what about the mascarpone? I can’t just add cheese to my beer. This would likely ruin my whole batch of beer. I started to think about it…how do people add dairy to beer? I actually already had the answer as I have made several milk stouts in the past. Lactose sugar! Lactose sugar is really cool to add to beer for several reasons. It is a complex sugar so the yeast can not eat it… This results in a beer with a little thicker mouth feel that is a touch sweeter than a usual beer. Perfect to simulate the role mascarpone plays in  Tiramisu.

Well all of the decisions were made…except for one…what style of beer is worthy of carrying all of these beautiful flavors? I made this decision fairly quickly. My first though was a stout. Stouts naturally have chocolate and coffee flavors added from the roasted grains, however, I was afraid the Stout would actually overpower the other flavors I’m adding. What i need is a watered down Stout.. a BROWN ALE!

The Recipe

Now for the recipe! – This may or may not be interesting to you if you are not a home brewer:

  • 12 lb 2-row malt
  • 1 lb crystal malt 40l
  • .5 lb brown malt
  • .5 lb chocolate malt
  • 1 lb lactose sugar
  • 1 oz Kent Golding Hops at 60 minutes
  • 1 oz Fuggle Hops at 20 minutes
  • BRY97 yeast – I made a 1000 ml starter.

I mashed at 154 degrees for 60 minutes and sparged. I cooled the wort (unfermented beer) pitched the yeast at about 69 degrees and threw it in the closet for 2 weeks.

The Fun Part!

It’s time to add the bananas! There is actually not a lot of information out there on how to add bananas to beer. Fruit in general can be a challenge to add to beer because fruit typically harbors some amount of bacteria and wild yeast. – Both things you do NOT want in your fermenter. So I came up with my  own method. It worked very well on my first batch. I take the bananas and puree them in a food processor. I make sure to sanitize the food processor, it’s lid, and blade fully before I puree. As an extra precaution I actually add some of the rum infusion into the puree to help things along and to kill bacteria and wild yeast if there is any.

Bananas in the blender with some coffee/cocoa nib rum infusion.

Bananas in the blender with some coffee/cocoa nib rum infusion.

When the puree is complete it will look like this:

Banana puree

Banana puree

Once the banana puree is complete and the secondary fermenter is sanitized it is time to pour the puree in the fermenter and transfer my brown ale on top of the banana puree.

Transferring the brown ale over to the secondary fermenter.

Transferring the brown ale over to the secondary fermenter.

Once the brown fully transferred I topped the carboy off with an airlock and put it back in my fermentation closet.

Air-locked and ready to ferment.

Air-locked and ready to ferment.

Now the yeast will wake back up, revitalized with the exciting new food, and create more alcohol to add to the beer. I wait about 3 more days to add the rum infusion so that the yeast can do their job. A few more weeks and it will be ready to keg and drink!

Glamour Shot.

Glamour Shot.

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The Grainfather

It’s been a while since I last updated my blog…. Sadly, almost a year. Hopefully I will keep a better public record of my beer activities from here on out. I’ve upgrading my brewing equipment and moved on to all-grain brewing. I have been extract brewing for almost 7 years now and decided it’s time to step up my brewing game. As we all know, ultimately, every home-brewer wants to move to all-grain brewing if they do not start there.

So you know the story…. I went out and bought a few old half-kegs, cut the tops off, bought  hundreds of dollars in valves and steelhead pumps, built a frame for it all complete with burners….. If only there was an easier way! – Well there is. I actually never did any  of that. For less (read zero) work and about the same amount of money I sprang for a fairly new offering from our Aussie friends. I present to you the all-in-one brewing system; The Grainfather:

The Grainfather

The Grainfather

I actually got a great deal on it. I can not find it for less than $900 shipped online. My good friends down at Dogwood Growlers in Woodstock hooked me up with a Grainfather for a great price! If you are interesting in switching from extract to all-grain, from my research, this is the way to go. I’ll be brewing my first batch of beer on the Grainfather Friday and will update the blog with my experience!

 

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Wedding Homebrew 1 – Galaxy IPA

GalaxyIPA

The first wedding brew is in the closet fermenting. Want to see how it was made?

First let’s take a look at the ingredients:
Malt:

  • (2) 3.3 lb Briess CBW Brewers Gold Dry Malt Extract
  • 1 1 lb Briess CBW Brewers Gold Dry Malt Extract

Steeping Grains:

  • 1lb Maris Otter Pale Ale Malt
  • .25 lb Crystal Malt 60L
  • .25 lb Caramel Malt 20L
  • .25 lb Brown Malt 60L

Hops:

  • 1.2 oz Whole-Flower Cascade for bittering
  • 1 oz Citra
  • 2 oz Galaxy

Yeast:

  • Bry 97 WEST COAST Ale yeast
Ingredients for the Galaxy IPA.

Ingredients for the Galaxy IPA.

Let’s touch on the basics of brewing for a quick review. The basic process goes like this: extract sugars from grains in water to create a sweet malty liquid called wort, boil the wort and add hops to flavor it, put it in a fermenter with some yeast, the yeast eat the sugars and produce alcohol and co2 as byproducts. Now it’s beer!

I’ll go over the basics with this brew and go into greater detail on individual steps on my later posts.

To start we simply need water.

Filtered water.

Filtered water.

I am using about 3 gallons here, even though this will be a five gallon batch. You simply add water to make up the difference once you transfer the wort to the fermenter. I’ll discuss what wort is later on.
I use filtered water as I believe it has a cleaner taste. Some people actually prefer tap water as it gives their beer a unique flavor that can only be accomplished locally, kind of like a signature or a fingerprint, each water source actually adds different flavors to the finished product.

Now that we have our filtered water ready we need to heat it up and start steeping our specialty grains. Why do I call them specialty grains? Because this is not actually where the majority of our fermentable sugars come from. These grains will add a little bit of sugar (remember sugar is what later turns into alcohol), but are mostly there to add specific flavors.

Specialty Grains.

Specialty Grains.

To steep the grains we put them in a bag and put them in the pot much like a tea bag. Then we need to bring the temperature up to about 160 degrees and let them sit for about 10-15 minutes. Why 160 degrees? This is about the temperature at which long complex sugar chains in the grains are converted to the shorter size sugar molecules that the beer yeast cells like to eat. Some of the complex sugars will be left over and these will add a little sweetness to the beer.

Upper-left: Grain just got dropped in. Lower-right: After grain is done steeping.

Upper-left: Grain just got dropped in. Lower-right: After grain is done steeping.

Once the steeping is done we need to bring the grain water (wort) to a boil. Now that the water has some grain sugars in it we call it wort. Once the water starts to boil I add in the DME (dry malt extract) which is where the majority of our sugar comes from. Basically I do not have the setup yet to properly extract and convert sugars from large quantities of grain (25 – 50lb) so there are companies out there that extract the sugars for you and reduce it down to an extract. So DME is simply a bag of grain sugar.

Once the DME is added we start what brewers simply call “the boil”. The boil is where the beer really starts to come alive because we get to add my favorite ingredient, HOPS! Most people do a 60 minute boil, but times may vary depending on recipe and style. We are doing a 60 minute boil here.

Currently if we were to ferment the wort we would be left with a sweet bready tasting alcoholic drink. It would be bland and nasty. This is where hops come in. Hops actually can do many things for the beer but mainly they provide bittering, flavoring, and aroma. So right now I’m going to bitter the beer up a bit by adding 1.2 oz of whole-flower Cascade hops.

Adding the cascade hops.

Adding the cascade hops.

These hops are commonly used in IPAs and are responsible for the infamous grape-fruity flavor. But guess what, by putting them in early in the boil as a bittering hop they will only impart a slight citrus quality, not the overbearing grapefruit flavor that I actually quite love. Alas, another hop will take center stage for the flavor of this beer.

 

Hops in the pot.

Hops in the pot.

So now we have bittered our sweet wort up a bit and we are starting to round out the flavors. Now we wait 50 minutes for the boil to continue and let the flavors meld. … Now with only 10 minutes left in the boil we are going to add some aroma and a little flavor to the beer by adding 1 oz of Citra hops. This hop is a favorite of mine. It imparts a bit of a floral aroma and tropical fruit notes to the taste. 10 more minutes and we turn off the heat.

Now that the wort is done we will cool it as rapidly as possible (this locks in flavor) and move it to the fermenter. Once in the fermenter we need to add water until we have 5 gallons total and pitch the yeast. “Pitching” the yeast basically just means adding the yeast. Most large breweries will do what is called a yeast starter. The yeast starter is just a nice warm moist home for the yeast with plenty of sugar to get them multiplying. This way breweries can test the viability of the yeast. I’m not a sissy like those big brewery guys and I throw my yeast right on top of the wort, because guess what, the wort is a perfect place for the yeast to live and multiply.

Pouring the wort through a strainer into the fermentation bucket.

Pouring the wort through a strainer into the fermentation bucket.

Now we throw the fermenter in the closet with an airlock so co2 can escape and not blow up my bucket, and let the yeast go to work turning our wort into beer. The fermentation will be done in about two weeks. But there is one more step since this is going to be an IPA. You may notice I never added the 2 oz of galaxy hops from the ingredient list. That is because we are going to “dry hop” the beer with them. I’ll post more on this in 2 weeks when I dry hop.

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Love is a-brewing

Two good friends of mine are getting married this year. You know what’s good at a wedding? Beer, but not just beer, home brew!

VRlove
So as I said, some friends of mine asked me to make the beer for their wedding. I put a lot of thought into what beers to make. At first my own pallet dictated that I would make some uberly flavorful artisan style beers. My mind ran wild. Maybe a nice slap-your-tongue-off double IPA (see comic below), maybe a nice heavy stout aged with whiskey barrel chips. But alas, this is a wedding not a craft beer festival. The crazy craft beers I came up with just wouldn’t be palatable to the average population.
beer comic
I finally decided on 3 beers for the wedding. Beer 1: An IPA hopped with Galaxy hops, Beer 2: A Nut Brown ale, and Beer 3: An American Hefenweizen. I believe these 3 beers will provide a good balance for a wide variety of pallets. The IPA will prove to be a good choice for the IPA lover, while still being mild and unique for the less experienced beer drinker. Though it will be dry hopped with a good amount of Galaxy, it will not be too bitter and grapefruity (something many non-IPA drinkers complain about), because Galaxy provides more apricot and passion fruit flavors than the strong grapefruit flavors you get from the three C hops (Cascade, Centennial, and Columbus).

The Nut Brown will be a good compromise for those who do want a darker beer like a porter or stout. It will still provide a roasty flavor with toffee, chocolate, and coffee notes, but not in huge quantities. It is a well balanced beer and very easy to drink for non-craft brew lovers. Finally, the American Hefenweizen will likely be the most popular. It is very easy to drink, refreshing, and quite palatable to just about everyone, especially in warm weather.

So over the next two months I will be brewing three batches of beer! I’ll post the recipes and walk you through the brewing process for those that are interested. These will all be extract brews which basically means the step of converting grains to usable sugars has already been done for me. I just buy the dehydrated grain sugars and rehydrate them, then to complete the recipe I add specialty grains, hops, and anything else I want.
I started my first brew lastnight (2/14/2014), the Galaxy IPA, and will post the process and pictures soon!
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Sacred Cow Review – Red Brick

Red Brick Sacred Cow
Purchased at: Dogwood Growlers
Brewery: Red Brick
Beer: Sacred Cow
Style: Masala Chai Milk Stout
ABV: 6%
Rating: 4/5
Personal Review:
Namaste fellow beer connoisseurs. Whether you hold the Cow as sacred, or just delicious, this beer has something for everyone. At first sip you can taste the amalgam of spices that make up Masala (a tradition Hindi spice mix). The spice characteristics give way to a great milk stout flavor. The lactose sugars sweeten it just enough but it still finishes with a nice bitterness that compliments the style. If you like Chai tea and you like milk stouts this is the beer for you. Don’t be scared of the spices they are not over powering. You know what this beer would go great with? A burger.

 

Technical Review:
This beer pours a dark brown color. Slightly lighter than a typical milk stout.
The aroma hints at the Masala spices but is primarily comprised of strong roasted malt.
The mouthfeel is smooth and silky, though lighter than a traditional milk stout.
The taste is initially of Indian spices. This gives way to a well balanced milky stout with hints of toasted bread.
The finish is surprisingly bitter but not in a bad way. The bitter finish is a perfect compliment to the sweet taste.
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Woodstock Homebrew Supplies – Dogwood Growlers

Dogwood Growlers has really stepped up their game! When I started visiting Ernesto for my weekly growler(s), his shop seemed a bit empty. But I didn’t care! How could I? Good local craft beer was now right around the corner. Now when you walk in, you are inundated with choices.

Bottles:

Ernesto now carries a HUGE range of great bottled craft beer. Some of it is hard to find elsewhere and in limited supply. It is easy to tell he tries hard to stock a wide range of in-demand craft brews.

Wine:

For those of us who prefer a grape-based fermented beverage, Ernesto started carrying wine as well now. Does the wife get jealous when you walk in the house with a growler? Pick her up a bottle of wine.

Homebrew Supplies:

Now for the best part. Dogwood Growlers now carries a GREAT assortment of home brew supplies! From beginners equipment all the way up to malted grains and 50 different kinds of hops. Dogwood Growlers is now a great local source for home brew supplies. Ernesto has even started making his own custom beer kits.

I love watching and supporting small businesses as they grow. I hope you do too. Why buy online when you can support your local growler, and now, homebrew shop?

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Lazy Magnolia’s Timber Beast – The beauty is in the balance.

Purchased at: Dogwood Growlers
Brewery: Lazy Magnolia
Beer: Timber Beast
ABV: 9%
Rating: 4/5
timberbeast

Lazy Magnolia Timber Beast

 

Personal Review:
The name is fitting. This thing is a BEAST! But not the kind of beast that sneaks up on you in the Siberian forest, rips out your jugular, and then feeds you to it’s young. It’s more like a tamed wolf, loyally at your side, but with a bit of a wild streak. It’s not a pet, more of a partner. Don’t underestimate it, there is a possibility it will turn on you.

 

Technical Review:
This beer pours a light amber color with an orangish hue, white head, and has good head retention.
The aroma is of citrus, orange peel, grapefruit, and has a slight green, grassy smell.
The mouthfeel is smooth and silky.
The taste is surprising after the aroma. It is maltier than expected, but  VERY well balanced. The taste is very sweet and there are hints of caramel.
The finish lights up your senses with a beautiful bouquet of hops, but not too much. The beauty of this beer is truly in the balance.
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Now THAT’s an IPA!

IPA
I have always loved comics. There is something masterful, yet very playful in the ability to make someone smile or even laugh with such limited page real estate. I have drawn comics for fun my whole life and figured I would start combining some of my more recent hobbies. So here is my first comic released to the world! Hope you like it!

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What is a Session Beer?

Beer Terms: “Session Beer”, “Sessionable”
I have heard this question a lot lately. The definition is somewhat of a moving target as it is subjective.

Basically a session beer is defined as a beer that you can enjoy several of in a sitting. You can see why this varies from person to person. To many people a sessionable beer is in the 3-5% ABV range, and is typically malty, and light, but well balanced with only a small hop bite if any. Good examples would include: most Lagers, Killian’s Red, Sweetwater 420, BlueMoon etc.

These are all easy-drinking beers that go down smooth. A session beer is the comfort food of the beer world. The are usually familiar, and easy to get. As you can see from the examples above, session beers cross beer styles. There is such thing as a sessionable stout, Guiness is a very good example. SweetWater 420 is an extra pale ale. It definitely falls into the category of a session beer.


So when you hear someone say a beer is sessionable, they probably mean they enjoy it, its smooth, but nothing about it really knocks their socks off.

What is your favorite session beer? Leave it in the comments!
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Finch’s Fascist Pig – Not your standard Red Ale.

Finch's Fascist Pig

Finch’s Fascist Pig

 

Brewery: Finch’s
Beer: Fascist Pig
ABV: 8%
Rating: 4/5

 

Personal Review:
Need someone to cuddle with? Cozy on up to this malty masterpiece. This red ale is a bit of a rebel, but it has a soft spot. It defies a category of beer filled with generic, overly malty brews, and spices things up with some dry-hops (Palisade and Zythos). One sip and you’ll feel safe in the company of this brew. It will patiently listen to your worries and when you’re done venting, it will give you a light smack on the cheek to knock you out if it.

 

Technical Review:
This beer pours a slightly cloudy, amber color with a surprisingly white head in comparison to the color of the beer.
The aroma is sweet and fruity with hints of citrus accented with biscuit notes.
The mouthfeel is smooth with just a slight thickness.
The taste compliments the aroma. It is sweet with a slight biscuit flavor. You will also notice an apricot fruitiness.

The initial taste steps aside to reveal a nice finish. The finish is light and crisp with an inviting citrus flavor that perfectly follows slightly heavy malt body.

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