Well, my idea to grow and malt my own barley will have to be put off at least another growing season as all my barley has died. I planted two blocks of barley and one block of wheat in my garden this year. The wheat developed fine, but the barley never developed its heads. (If you know anything about barley development, it looks like it got to the "boot" stage and then died.) I suspect it was the Texas heat.
My homebrewing is fairly episodic. I go fairly long periods without brewing, then knock out a bunch of batches in row. I average around 20 batches of beer a year, but they are not spread out evenly across the calendar; most are probably produced in a two or three month timespan. Right now, I'm trying to get some beers brewed in time for the Austin ZEALOTS Homebrew Inquisition and also before the time of year when BYO goes monthly and I'm very bust at work.
So, last week -- before I brewed the pale ale mentioned a couple blog entries ago -- I brewed one of my favorite beers . . . the Cranberry Zinger. However, saying I brewed it might be an overstatement. It's an insanely easy beer to put together. (I'll tack the recipe onto the end of this blog entry.) I basically heat a gallon and a half of water to 170 °F, stir in some LME and let it sit for 15 minutes, then I add some honey, rack it to a bucket fermenter, add water and sprinkle on some dried yeast. My "brewday" for the start of this beer is literally like 45 minutes (not including cleaning, etc.).
Once the base beer has fermented, I make cranberry relish, put it in a big bucket and rack the beer onto it. The relish consists of cranberries, Granny Smith apples and whole oranges (fruit, rind, zest and all). This year I also added peaches to the mix, just to see what would happen.
The base beer tasted great. This time around, I used Huajillo honey and you could really taste the honey's varietal characteristic (although it will probably get buried by the cranberries). This time around, I also added peaches because my grandmother used to make a side dish called peaches and oranges (which was just peaches and oranges cut up in a light sugar syrup), so I knew the two went together well. Like the honey notes, the peaches will probably be buried....
Back in March of 2007, my wife Jennifer and I brewed a batch of beer at the house of some friends of ours. (See my blog entry at the time for more.) The beer was a Flander's red -- a sour beer -- and it had been sitting in a bucket for over a year now. A few months ago, I poked my head in the room where the bucket was sitting and saw that the airlock was completely dry. I filled it, but had no idea how long the beer was exposed to air. Last weekend, I finally got around to racking it to a keg and . . . it tasted awesome! It had a very "clean" sour aroma (as opposed to a sour aroma with lots of acetic, "barnyard" or other off characters) and was tart, but not over-the-top puckering sour.
This is a brewing blog . . . and finally, I have some brewing to blog about!
On Sunday, I brewed 10 gallons of pale ale. I decided to make 10 gallons, instead of my usual 5, because I was low on homebrew. Also, I had just bought a 15-gallon demijohn and two 10-gallon Corny kegs last year, and I wanted to use them.
The brew was basically my usual pale ale. I called it Patrick Henry Pale Ale in the March-April 2006 issue of BYO, where the 5-gallon recipe appeared. It won a medal in the balanced beer category of my club's competition (the Austin ZEALOTS Homebrew Inquisition) last year. That time around, I called it Pretzel vs. President Pale Ale. This time around, since I've been watching the cartoon Metalocalypse -- the cartoon about the death metal band Dëthkløk -- quite a bit recently, I decided to call it "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Deth." I'll list the recipe, as I brewed it this time, at the end of this entry.
I squeezed the grains for the mash into my 10-gallon mash tun, but didn't have room to add boiling water for a mash-out. So I sparged with 190 °F water until the grain bed temperature rose to 170 °F, then dropped the temp of the sparge water to 170 °F. I ran the whole wort off in a little over an hour - a bit faster than I usually go. I boiled for 75 minutes in my 15-gallon converted keg and chilled the wort with my immersion chiller. I used six bags of ice in my two "pre-chillers" as my tap water is around 75 °F....
Most sequels aren't as good as the original. There are, of course, a couple exceptions. Aliens, the 1986 sequel, was at least as good as the original 1979 movie, Alien. With that in mind, I'll try to make this blog entry at least as interesting as the first "Beer Gardening" entry. The previous one dealt with me watching the (barley) grass grow, so I think I've got a good shot here.
In my last blog, I mentioned growing and malting my own barley as a project for 2008. And, thanks to a run of nice weather, I had the time to plant two 5' by 9' (1.5 x 2.7 m) blocks of barley. I also got one 5' by 9' block of spring wheat planted. I planted the first blocks of barley and wheat on Thursday and the second block of barley on Saturday -- and the first two blocks are already up! (Yes, I am excited about watching grass grow.)
I don't make New Year's resolutions. As with most people, when I do, I end up dropping them before February. However, many times during the year I will make plans, or what I call "overplans." An overplan is a purposely overly-ambitious plan, meant to inspire me to get the core of my plan done. For example, back when I was in graduate school, I injured my knee. Once I was up and walking again, I set a goal to run in the next Boston Marathon. I never did run the marathon, but I did log a lot of time on the jogging trails that year. As a consequence, I lost some weight and generally got into pretty good shape, which was my "real" goal.
Well, my 15-gallon (57-L) batch of pale ale is brewed, fermented and kegged. Everything went well, though I did worry a bit during the fermentation. I fermented the beer in a 20-gallon (76-L) garbage can. The lid closes, but doesn't seal tightly, so it was a quasi-open fermentation. The open part didn't bother me much, but not being able to see or hear an airlock bubble as a confirmation that fermentation had started was a little disquieting. I didn't want to open the lid to look until I was sure things had kicked off and there was a protective layer of kräusen.
I'm always busy when we put together the September, October, November, December and January-February issues of BYO. Most years, the once-a-month schedule means that my brewing gets scaled back a bit, compared to when we put out an issue every other month. This year, we were busier than usual and now I'm almost out of beer.
Ask any editor to name the greatest editorial invention of all time and he or she will likely say the Top 10 List. Top 10 lists are easy to compile and, since they're just someone's opinion, you don't need to fact-check them. They take virtually no work at all to get on the page. Plus, readers love them. (Even knowing they're just a way for editors to escape work, I'm still curious to read about the "10 Ugliest Sports Uniforms," the "10 Worst Automobiles Ever" or the "10 Most Influential Alternative History Novels of All Time.")