Monday, March 24, 2008

My Carboy Overload/Bottling Crisis and Planning for the BrewBQ

So I apologize for not blogging for awhile, but don't worry I haven't stopped brewing.

Last Friday at the "brew house" we had 5 secondary carboys that were ready for bottling all at the same time. 2 American style pale ales (a Sierra Nevada Clone & a Tongue Splitter recipe) a Dry Irish stout and an Irish Wee Heavy were also added to our bottling extravaganza. And last but certainly not least we bottled our small batch Belgian Golden Strong. Probably going to have to be aged for awhile, but looks like it will turn out to be quite the beer.

There are only two beers currently in primary, my favorite being a semi-clone of Dogfish head's Indian Brown. Its a really smooth, yet hoppy brown ale, probably one of the only commercial browns I really like. We ended up adding another ounce of hops to this already hoppy brew(typical). Between caramelizing brown sugar and adding loads of hops, the boil smelled fantastic and was probably the most fun beer we've brewed so far. This beer has been named "Jackie Brown" to honor Pam Grier, this may even inspire a series.. who knows.. If you want the recipe, shoot me an comment/email.

Speaking of special recipes, I'm working on my BrewBQ beer. The inner competitor in me wants to make something special. I'm leaning towards summer seasonal.. but nothing has really impressed me yet. Any suggestions? Id love to hear them.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The 4 Varieties of Hops I Will Be Growing This Year

From my Hop Trellis post yesterday, you all now know I am growing hops this year. I think it going to be a big trend this year due to the hop shortage. I ordered my hops rhizomes (root cuttings) from the Thyme Garden in mid February and they should be here any day. I went for all high-alpha hops that are hybrids with both clean bittering and pleasant aroma characteristics. Thyme Garden is an Organic company, so the rhizomes were raised without chemicals. I'm not expecting much this first year growing them. But with in a couple years, I am expecting to harvest a couple pounds from each bine.

Below are the hops I chose and a brief description.


Alpha rating: 5–7
Description: Unique flowery, spicy, citrus-grapefruit, herbal, perfumy aroma. Soft, well-balanced bitterness. Good dry hop.
Use: A must for American pale ales and IPAs, especially Northwest versions. Also good in steam beer, porter, American wheat beer, barley wine.
Substitutes (bittering and aroma): None, but Centennial is closest.


Alpha rating: 7–11.5
Description: Smooth bitterness, flowery citrus aroma. Similar to (and blends well with) Cascade. A pleasing hop that many brewers ignore.
Use: Bittering and aroma in American pale ale and wheat beer, stout and porter.
Substitutes (bittering and aroma): Cascade.


Alpha rating: 11–14
Description: Very bitter; medium-heavy aroma with a spicy, resiny, grapefruit character.
Use: Primarily for bittering, although some brewers appreciate the aroma, even using Chinook as a dry hop. Use in pale ale, IPA, lagers, steam beer, heavy-bodied dark ales.
Substitutes (bittering): Galena, Nugget, Cluster.


Alpha rating: 12–14
Description: Extremely bitter. Mild flavour. Pleasant herbal aroma.
Use: Bittering for all types of beers, especially English ales. Aroma good for many beer styles (but not light lagers).
Substitutes (bittering): Galena, Chinook, Cluster, Cascade, Centennial.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Hop Trellis Design For Growing Hops In The Back Yard

With the hop shortage in full swing, I decided to take a stab at growing my own hops. I’m not alone. I have found a ton of posts of new backyard hop gardeners. My bought my hop rhizomes from Thyme Garden and they should be arriving any day now. One thing though. I do not have a trellis set up yet. After scouring my yard to find the perfect place, I decided on the side of my house.

I have read a lot about different designs and am going to take a stab at building one this weekend. I did not want to “just wing it”, so I laid it out on the computer. Below is what I will be building, unless I hear some objection to this design from someone more experienced than myself.

What do you think?

Hop Trellis Design V.1 by Jeff Louella

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Scotch Kissed Vanilla Bean Robust Porter

I’ve had my eyes on some different recipes for a Vanilla Bourbon Porter and I have one major issue with them all. I am not a huge Bourbon fan. I am a Scotch kind of guy. I don’t know why the Bourbon was attracting to me when I like the peaty flavors of the Speyside and the lighter fruitier flavors of the Highlands. So I put together a recipe for myself that include Scotch.

I wasn’t looking for a huge high gravity Porter, just to make something more sessionable. The hops I used may not be typical Porter hops, but I sure love the flavors of Chinook and Cascade.
Since I am a Scotch drinker, I had a couple bottles on hand. I chose a 12yr Glenmorangie Sherry Wood Barrel scotch. I believe this style is now discontinued, so I only went with 3oz of it. I didn’t want the scotch flavor to be overbearing or the center of focus, so just a kiss is what it needed.

The vanilla beans I bought at Whole Foods. I don’t know much about them, so I just opened the containers and took a deep sniff. I chose the one that smelled the best. The Papua New Guineas won out. They did not have Bourbon Vanilla Beans, so they were not an option. I hear those are the best, but I had to use what I can get. Whole Foods prides itself on the freshness of the products, so I feel these may be better than picking some up at the local homebrew store. I could be wrong, but the Whole Foods was right around the corner. Two beans came in a tube, so I just bought one tube. I didn’t want to make the porter too vanilla either, just a light hint of it. I just wanted to enhance the flavor, but still taste mostly like a porter.

Basically I just cut the beans down the middle and then cut in quarters. Then I soaked them in the scotch on the day I started brewing. Once the primary fermentation slowed (3-5 days), I just poured everything in the primary.

Below is the recipe I used. I’m still an extract brewer (hopefully not for long), so I don’t have an all-grain version of this. I’m sure it isn’t too hard to convert.

Steeping Grains
0.5 lbs - Simpson's Chocolate
0.5 lbs - Simpsons Dark Crystal

Malt Extract
6.0 lbs - Munich Malt Syrup
1.0 lbs - Dark Dry Malt Extract

1.0 oz - Chinook (60 min)
1.0 oz - Cascade (1 min)

Wyeast #1187 Ringwood Ale Yeast. (Fermented at 67 degrees).

Added Flavors
2 beans – Papua New Guinea Vanilla Beans
3oz (3 shots) – Shots of Glenmorangie 12 year old Sherry wood finished Scotch

I fermented at 67 degrees. This is my first batch using the temperature controller and I was able to keep the beer at the exact temperature for the duration of the fermentation. I also decided against secondary fermentation. After listening to Jamil Zainasheff, a world-class brewer, he states he usually never uses a secondary. I decided to try it. I will be bottling this week. I’ll post a comment on how it came out.

This beer scored a 28.5 at nationals in the spiced and herb beer category. The main issue was it wasn't vanilla and scotch enough. So I entered this into another competition as a Robust Porter. It received 39 points and the only comment was that it could have used a little more malt complexity.