Random thoughts on brewing and beers
November 26, 2010

There's a new show on Discovery channel called "Brewmasters", which focuses on Dogfish Head Beer and its founder, Sam Calagione.  Sam is (in)famous for using unusual ingredients in his beers.  

The link for the show is http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/brew-masters/.  The link to Dogfish Head's site is http://www.dogfish.com/

November 7, 2010

There are many homebrewing-related websites out there, many of which are listed on the Home Brew Index at www.homebrewindex.com.  If you've got a few spare minutes to look around the interwebz, this can be fun.  Check it out! 

October 23

I sometimes read a really interesting blog called 'the mad fermentationalist' - the blogger is a young guy from Washington DC who posts about "beer, bread, cheese and funk" - how can you not like that? The current blog post is about a Sour Cherry Flanders Red Beer that he began making 2 1/2 years ago!  Its a fun blog to look around at - check it out at http://www.themadfermentationist.com/

Last night, I stove-top pasteurized another batch of handmade, semi-dry, bottle conditioned/carbonated cider.  We love this cider - its refreshing, apple-y, crisp, bubbly and best of all - no exploding bottles. 

October 17, 2010

Bottled up the Munich Munich Ale and the latest batch of cider.  Decided to leave this batch of cider a little sweeter than the previous batch.  It will be good to have a couple of different varieties of cider, depending on what sounds good for that evening.  

Both of these are carbonating or conditioning in the bottle.  That means that we do not filter out the yeast, like most commercial beers.  We add a sugar solution before bottling - the yeast will eat up the sugar and produce CO2, carbonating the beer.  The yeast will also help the beer mature in the bottle.  A few commercial beers are bottle conditioned, with yeast in the bottle rather than filtered out; Sierra Nevada www.sierranevada.com/, Duvel www.duvelusa.com/home.php, and Bells http://bellsbeer.com/ are three that I know.  

Here is a link to a blog posting about bottle conditioned beer http://blog.beeriety.com/2009/08/03/what-is-bottle-conditioned-beer/

October 13, 2010

We've moved the amber ale from its primary fermentation carboy to a secondary carboy where we are using another process called 'dry hopping'.  Dry hopping means adding whole leaf hops to the beer, letting them soak in the beer. This adds a brightness to the beer, adding hop aroma and flavor, without additional bitterness.  

This amber ale is using an american hop variety called Cascade, which typically have a bright, clean, and flowery flavor and aroma with citrus overtones.  These particular Cascade hops were grown on a new, small, family-operated organic hop farm in Colorado.  Read more about it at http://www.breworganic.com/AmericanCascadehops.aspx

September 27, 2010

Well, first off, the great ginger cider experiment ended in failure - it turns out that ginger and apple flavor don't really go well together.  I guess that's why you don't see ginger apple pie at the Baker's Square.  

But, we've got another batch of regular old sparkling cider in the fermenter, this time with Windsor yeast.  

Also, we have a Pale Ale in a carboy fermenting, made with organic Munich malt and Pacific Gem and Cascade hops.  Stay tuned . . .

September 10, 2010

A bottle and glass of our 25th Anniversary Cider, a light, refreshing sparkling cider.  For more info about  cider and how we make cider, follow this link

I've adopted a stove-top pasteurizing approach for cider and put together a tutorial with pictures on a discussion board at http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f32/easy-stove-top-pasteurizing-pics-193295/

July 31

We've got another five gallons of cider on the way - we used apple juice from the grocery store (pasteurized but no preservatives), pectic enzyme, and some yeast I had harvested, washed, and stored from a previous batch - a Scottish variety called Edinburgh.  Its bubbling away and I'll check tomorrow to see if its at the right balance of dryness/sweetness (about 1.010 sg for those who know how to use a hydrometer).  .

June 6 2010

I guess we're going to have to rename our home brewery to "Singing Boys Brewing and Cidery."  Read all about this new effort here

April 2
Two weeks ago, we brewed a Cream Ale, a beer that appeals both to folks who enjoy craft beers and those who favor mass-produced American-style lagers.  It is flavorful, made with organic pilsner malt and hallertauer hops and designed to be light and crisp.  Tonight, I transfered it to our bright tank - a glass carboy, where it will age briefly and probably be ready to bottle in about a week.

After transfering the beer, I harvested and "washed" the yeast (a highly attenuating american variety called California Ale), and will store it to be reused for four more batches.  

Also, the Red Ale bottled a very weeks ago is really delicious - very malty, with just enough hop bitterness to balance.  Definitely worth brewing again!

March 14
We bottled the Red Ale last night - 52 bottles.  They are bottle conditioning now (we added priming sugar to carbonate, plus they need to age in the bottle).  We expect they will bottle age for around 3 weeks, but its difficult to predict how long it will need.

From our taste testing, this seems like it wll be a malty beer, with a good hop bitter balance, not overly sweet.  There was a little more roasty flavor than I thought there might be, but the carbonation might help wash that out.  

FYI, with this batch, I "harvested" the Scottish yeast I used after the fermentation was over, "washed" it and have stored four jars of it for future use.  This is our first effort at managing our own yeast - rather than just buying it - another element of truly handmade beer.  

February 28
Racked the Red Ale from its primary fermenter to our secondary bright tank.  It had fermented drier than I thought it might - 1.010 specific gravity.  With two pounds of crystal/caramel malt and a mash temp of 154 I thought it might be higher, but the scottish yeast really did a good job of attenuating.  

And the really fun news - it actually turned out red!  And it tastes pretty good - for flat and warm beer that's only a week old . . .

We had been thinking we might dry hop this beer, with more of the organic east kent goldings that we already used in the boil.  But, after tasting it, i think its good the way it is - a nice hop bitterness balanced by the Munich malty-ness.  It will need to sit in the secondary/bright tank for at least two weeks

February 20Brewed a Red Ale today, the two main styles of red ales are usually referred to as either Irish or American.  We brewed this one to neither style or type exactly.  First, we used Munich malted barley as our base malt - this will give a maltier, richer flavor to the beer than the more traditional two-row or maris otter malted barley.  Secondly, we used english hops, specifically East Kent Goldings for all three hop additions (bittering, flavoring and aroma).  This will be more bitter and hoppier than an Irish Red, around 30 international bittering units.  We will also dry hop the beer when it is done fermenting, with more East Kent Goldings to give it even more aroma.  Finally, we used a scottish variety of yeast, Edinburgh from White Labs, which will not attenuate or dry out the beer as much as most American style red ales.  We're fermenting it at 67-68 degrees.  Now we wait!  

January 3, 2010
Wow, I haven't updated this blog for two months!  There have been beers and photos added in The Beers section for you to check out.  The current lineup of beers that are ready to drink include:
Drinkability Isn't a Word Light Beer
WPA (Wheat Pale Ale)
Abundant Field Belgian-Style White Ale
Cream Stout
Cherry Stout
In other news, last night, we went out for burgers and I had two wonderful beers from a small Chicago-area brewery, Metropolitan Brewing.  They specialize in lagers, which is unusual for craft brewries.  You can find out about this small brewery (and where their beers are available) at http://www.metrobrewing.com/main/index.html  I enjoyed their Krankshaft (Kolsch) and Dynamo (Amber Lager).  
November 7, 2009
Although its been ready for a few days, I've been fighting the flu and haven't been able to rack the AWA (American Wheat Ale) to the secondary/bright tank until tonight.  It looks, smells and tastes good (for young beer not ready to be drunk yet).  It has a final gravity of 1.008, right on target, with an alcohol by volume of 5.47%
October 27, 2009
Today, we brewed a new batch, a recipe we created, that we are calling a CWPA - Chicago Wheat Pale Ale.  More info to follow soon.  
Tonight we also bottled the Cherry Stout - see more here 
October 26, 2009
Tonight we bottled the batch of Cream Stout.  For the beer geeks, it ended up with a final gravity of 1.020.  
Beer when its ready to be bottled is usually kinda bad - flat, green, and warm.  But this beer tasted remarkably good - the roastiness of the dark grains, the bitterness of the hops and the sweetness of the lactose were balanced and there was really very little "green" taste.  Hope that's a good omen!
October 20, 2009
Brewing has traditionally been seasonal - Oktoberfest beer in the fall, stouts and scotch ales in the winter, Saison in the spring, and kolsch in the summer.  
There is an interesting blog at BeerSmith and the latest entry is about seasonal brewing (and drinking) - its brief but interesting.  Go to http://www.beersmith.com/blog/2009/10/18/seasonal-beer-brewing/
October 17, 2009
Racked the sweet stout from primary fermentation to what's sometimes called the bright tanks (two glass carboys in our case) - split the batch in half, with 3 lbs. of pureed sweet cherries in one of the bright tanks.  The carboy with the cherries began showing signs of active fermentation almost immediately (within 15 minutes) - the yeast will eat its way through the sugar in the cherries, leaving that batch with an undertone of cherry (which we hope will compliment the roasted barley flavors and slight sweetness) and a higher alcohol by volume.
October 12, 2009
We brewed up a batch of sweet stout, and 16 hours later it is bubbling away in the fermenter.  To see a picture and more info, follow this link 
October 11, 2009
Bottling day for Abundant Fields Witbier!  Unlike many brewers, I enjoy bottling.  Some brewers go into kegging because of how much they dislike bottling, but I've got our process locked in and it only takes about an hour, from start to finish.  One key is that we rinse bottles clean after we enjoy their contents, so they are easier to clean before bottling.  I also use the miracle product hyped by the late Billy Mayes - Oxiclean!  Soak the bottles in Oxiclean and rinse well, and they are ready to go.  We also use a pump called a Vinator, which shoots saniitizing solution (idophor) into the bottle and hang the bottles on a bottling tree to dry.  
In any case, Abundant Fields Witbier is now in the bottle, conditioning in a warm place and we'll open one up in about two weeks, to see how its developing.  Stay tuned.  
September 28, 2009
Singing Boys Brewing makes organic beers, using certified organic malts, grains and hops.  I want to share two links with you related to organic brewing.  The first is to Seven Bridges Cooperative in California - www.breworganic.com   They have great information on organic brewing (and coffee roasting) and if you are interested in brewing, they sell kits, equipment and ingredients - all organic, of course.  
The second link is to The Beer Activist blog at http://beeractivist.com/
a interesting blog about drinking beer and saving the world.
Finally, check out a fellow artisanal brewer in Minnesota who also brews organic beers at http://www.beardedbrewing.org/ 
September 26, 2009
Last Saturday night, our congregation had its annual Steak Fry, feeding about one hundred people.  Its a project primarily of the older members of the congregation, which is great.  They've sold beer at the event every year, but this year, instead of Miller/Coors/Budweiser, we brewed up a Cream Ale.   The congregation is celebrating its 95th Anniversary this year and we named the beer in honor of that occasion.  Three members of the congregation came over and helped to brew it, which was fun!  We donated the beer to the Steak Fry and they suggested a $2 donation per bottle.  We finished the 5 gallon batch by the end of the evening.  The funds received went towards a project to renovate the church's narthex.  
A number of people were interested in how we brewed it, what beer was made from, etc.  It was a fun evening.  For more info on the beer, follow the link.  
September 24, 2009 
If you would like to learn more about making hand-made beer at home, check out www.homebrewtalk.com  Its a great resource.  
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