Tuesday, May 03, 2016
I'm an experienced homebrewer. Quadrophila, aka Your Friendly Neighborhood Sith Lord, a Belgian Quad I brewed a couple weeks back is cap code #117 for me. Batch #1 was spring of 1995. I've never lost a batch to infection, but I have made mistakes, and this was one of them.
The worst mistake I ever made was on, I think batch #7, I used a whole quart of blackstrap molasses because Charlie Papazian said a quarter cup in five gallons would give a light rum flavor/aroma. I like rum well enough, why not use eight times as much? Because it's a hard boiled egg fart mixed with a rusty railroad spike, that's why. That's the only batch I've ever dumped out, and I gave it a couple years in the bottle to mellow out first.
So Quadrophilia had an O.G. of 1.100. That's high. That's a freaking beast. And I've brewed enough beer to know you should make a starter when you're going there. Back in the day, nobody sold pitchable yeasts (enough cells to do the job, typically 100 billion), so we always made starters, and for a big beer like this we'd ramp up two or three times. Making a starter is like making a tiny batch of beer, so if you like brewing, why not make a starter, right? Well, because time. And because I've pitched gnarly O.G. with Activators before and got away with it.
This time, I was already racking when I read the specific gravity and learned that I hadn't gotten away with it this time. At that point, I so should have stopped transferring, run whatever back into the primary, rocked it to get the yeast back in suspension and maybe hit it with some DAP or yeast energizer. But no, after a few years of not brewing much I didn't think this through and I went ahead and transferred a beer that was still 1.072 on the Wyeast Flanders Golden Ale carboy and 1.062 on the White Labs Abbey carboy. If I'd really wanted to avoid making a starter I probably should have doubled down on yeast, 2 billion cells from a pair of Activator packs would probably have done the job. But once I'd racked off the lees, I had a whole other situation on my hands.
A tiny handful of highly stressed yeast trying to make it through what would be a fairly big O.G. to begin with. But there's alcohol present because they've fermented 30 to 40 points off the start, so you can't just throw new yeast in, they'll just get drunk and do a Hank Williams Sr. impersonation.
So I bought a new Activator of Wyeast's Abbey II, the Flanders Golden Ale was sold out and it was the closest thing available. And I made a starter, a quart of water to 2 cups of DME and let it chew on that for 24 hours, then racked roughly, aerating a bit, eyeballed a teaspoon of yeast energizer (DAP and other good stuff for the yeast). The hydrometer samples affirmed the wisdom of this repitching, the specific gravity had dropped maybe two points in two days. By making the starter I'd helped build up the yeast population plus got them acclimated to alcohol so they could impersonate Don Draper instead of Hank Sr. and do their job despite the boozy atmosphere.
And it occurred to me that the whole 'quad' thing (which I admit is a ridiculous beer—the best kind IMHO), this is going to have a quadruple fermentation: it had it's primary, secondary, now tertiary, then once it's fermented mostly to dryness I'll rack it to clear in what, a quadratic fermentation?
And then? Then I keg this bitch up and drink hearty of a beer that has easily been four times the work and four times the fun of most.
Friday, April 29, 2016
Okay, if I ever need legal representation, I'm totally calling this Abogados firm.
I mean, this is the local branch by my house, but this firm is all over the place. I mean, they're everywhere. I bet they're the biggest law firm in the country.
Thursday, April 28, 2016
I thought I hadn't brewed since my wedding, but the wedding brew was the penultimate brew to this one. I brewed a Tripel a few months after the wedding, then a bit of mead and cider a couple years back. So we're almost at our four year anniversary and I'm finally mashing in again.
I think of myself as an 'all grain' brewer, when you buy malt extract you're paying for someone else to do the mash, convert the starches in the malt to sugars and evaporate it down. Why pay them to have all that fun? But there is a place for extracts. I should probably do an all extract brew here and there because the fact that my all grain methods take the whole day is part of why I end up going stretches without brewing. There's things I can do with a whole day of play, such as riding my bike a hundred miles.
There's a technique referred to as 'partial mash' which means you do a mash yourself, then supplement with malt extract. Some people use the term when they aren't mashing at all, just soaking some specialty grains such as crystal malt and roasted barley, but are getting all their fermentables from extract. But in this case, it's a true partial mash. There's the 25 pounds of Pilsner malt, a pound and a half of 60º Crystal, a quarter pound each of Special B and Chocolate Malt, I mashed that at 152ºF and collected 17 gallons of wort which was then supplemented with six pounds of DME and a collection of sugars Belgian and otherwise.
I had a couple of pounds of candi syrup from a door prize a couple years back, and I bought a pound of dark belgian candi crystals at B&B, and then I got worried as I did gravity calculations and did some reading on 'invert' sugars, and I ended up putting 2-1/2 pounds of white table sugar in the kettle.
Using table sugar in a homebrew is near putting ketchup on your eggs in a French restaurant as far as faux pas go. But a Quad or Dark Belgian Strong like this, it cries out for sugar. The sugar boosts the alcohol content without adding body for a start (leading to a sneaky-drinkable beer). It also seems to contribute some flavors and aromas of its own as the yeast deals with all that extra glucose. Strong Belgian ales are complex, endlessly variable things. But Belgian candi sugar? It's expensive here in the States, and its credited with magical properties because it's 'invert.'
The inversion happens when you take table sugar (sucrose) and break it down with heat and acidity to be fructose and glucose.
Guess what? Wort is acidic. And I boiled the shit for two hours. I don't think I'm going to get cidery off flavors and aromas, but I did save like $30 over buying more Belgian candi sugar.
Derek got a late start, but I'd gotten a later one. So instead of doing the lift to the cooker trick around noon it was after 5:00. And it was almost midnight by the time I had wort chilled, pitched, and shit cleaned up and put away.
The lifting, bending, squatting, and so on involved in this process, I guess all the cycling I do works a whole different muscle group because the next day I could hardly walk. Four days later I'm still feeling it. But I figure if you need a second weekend to recover from the fun you had on a weekend, that's a weekend worth having.
And as I explained in this post, I experimented not just with two yeast strains but two yeast suppliers on this one.
I think I feel a Belgian phase coming on actually, with the revelation that I can invert my own sugar. For light, adding white sugar to the kettle as I was collecting the wort makes perfect sense. And since I had some dark candi sugar aside from that, plus that little touch of Chocolate Malt and Special B, I had plenty of color this time. But I could have just used a bit more white sugar, boiled it with a bit of Acid Blend for however long it took to get dark enough and used that.
I've never been a big one for 'clone brews' where you try to make something just like a thing you can get at the liquor store, though I have made my Ugly American Stout a few times and it's essentially a clone beer for Sierra Nevada Stout. But I was thinking, a Duvel clone would be an interesting project. I love Duvel, would drink it more often if it weren't so freaking expensive. I bet if I mashed 30 pounds of Belgian Pilsner Malt and supplemented that with eight pounds of sugar, used some Saaz finishing hops in the last half hour or so of the boil...
Bacchus & Barelycorn is having a demo day on May 7, maybe me and that Duvel clone idea can meet up there.
When I adopted Bulldog, it was an appendix to Gonzo who was to replace Jello. Jello and Zippy came as a set and they were inseparable. Until we had to put Jello down. And Zippy was so lonesome I went to find him a buddy and I sorta succeeded. Gonzo plays with Zippy some but he's really all about the dogs. It freaks Sheba out, but he follows her around, petting himself on her, wants to make kitty biscuits on her tummy, etc.
Bulldog has turned out to be Corinna's cat. He stalks her. Inside, outside, wherever Mama is, he's all about that.
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
So my super awesome friend Jill had a birthday party and I got an invite. How cool is that?
And before it was done, I'd gotten to play a little guitar, shoot a few pics, and imbibe some truly spectacular Scotch.
The guitar, yeah. I should practice more. As in, wow, a lot more. And the crazy thing is I've played more in the past couple weeks, but I was still a fish out of water, in a room full of people who can actually play.
But the whole deal was such a kick.
My friend's daughter modeled for this bunny, true story. She's, I think, eleven years old, and she's the subject of a Scribe portrait. How awesome is that? I guess she got to eat dinner with him and everything.
My all time favorite Scribe is the billy goat that's in the background of this blog, which has sadly been tagged by idiot gangsters and then covered over. But this one is probably a close second.
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
I keep playing with the Tokina 11-16mm lens. And lately when I take the enormous lens cap off it, I picture Slim Pickens crying out, "What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on?"
So I was on my way to Grain to Glass to get some yeast and I realized the lens would be very interesting for shooting tall buildings up close. I realized this as I passed 12th & Oak, where the Jackson County Courthouse sits across the street fro Kansas City Hall. Beautiful buildings, if the architects who designed them could imagine the inept and corrupt decision making that would go on in these structures, they'd have designed them as Soviet style concrete blocks.
I'm still a loyal Bacchus & Barleycorn guy as far as my homebrew supplies go. I'd been out there to get the ingredients for a Belgian Quad, the first beer I've brewed in a couple of years.
And being it's been a couple of years, I got to talking to Alberta and almost left without yeast altogether, then went back in and got one Activator smack pack of the limited release Flanders Golden Ale strain. When I realized my mistake, I had choices. I could drive instead of cycling to work on Friday, and go back out to Bacchus & Barleycorn for a second (I was brewing a ten gallon batch, so one for each carboy, especially since it's a high gravity beer). Or I could try to get there on Saturday Morning, a time I had penciled in for sleeping in and then riding my bike to Jill's birthday party in midtown.
Or on Friday night I could try to make it to Grain to Glass before they closed and get some yeast there. A friend of mine used to work there, and I found out when I arrived, another friend does presently. I've known Alberta for over twenty years, and Bacchus & Barleycorn leaves absolutely nothing to be desired in a homebrew supply: you'd have to be looking for something incredibly exotic to have to go online or look elsewhere. And I mean incredibly exotic. And they're as knowledgeable as they come, the owners used to teach BJCP test prep classes, they've both made more wine and beer than a couple could possibly drink in several lifetimes, they know their shit. And sentimentally, my family has been doing business there since my Dad was making wine when I was growing up (before Jackie & Alberta's time, actually, when it was the Wine Art shop on Johnson Drive).
So Grain to Glass didn't sell Wyeast, so no second Activator, but they do sell White Labs, which is also excellent. Except I really like the smack pack as far as, without having to make a starter, you really get the yeast moving, you're pitching 100 billion active cells. White Labs, you basically let it come up to temperature and pitch. Though, and I'm getting a little ahead of myself because there's a post on the Quad coming up here, I admit the White Labs carboy took off faster and even foamed out of the airlock before 24 hours were up. So no dis on White Labs, they make quality pitchable cultures, too, they just use a different approach.
Oh, so now that I've digressed totally into homebrewland, these Liberty Memorial shots were taken the next day with that wide-wide lens, on my way to Jill's birthday party. And thanks to Grain to Glass I got to experiment with a yeast I wouldn't have tried otherwise, got to ride to work Friday and ride to the party Saturday.
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
I'd kind of gotten out of the habit of hitting the Nelson and Kemper museums regularly. For one thing, Mo always says no when I offer to take her.
For another, on the Nelson front, parking there has gotten a bit more challenging. For good reason, they changed the bike lane markings on Oak and took out a block of on street parking in the process. Then the Nelson upped the charge for parking from $5 to $8. So a few times I was going to take Mo there anyway the on street parking was scarce enough I just moved on.
But if you're a member at the Nelson, parking is free in the garage. Also, if you're a member, those traveling exhibits I usually pass on because they're $12 a person, you get to go in those with a guest. This individual membership turns out to be only $55. So when I took Mo through the Dutch masters exhibit today and parked in the garage, I could have paid $32, but instead I paid $55, tax deductible, and I can do it a bunch more through the year.
So after a long drought, museum-wise, we ended up doing the Kemper on Saturday and the Nelson on Sunday.
And while Mo always says no when I offer these places, she also goes and stands in front of or by selected pieces for me to take a picture. I'm 90% sure she's saying, "I like this one, get a picture of me by it."
Except the Haas 'Four Seasons' sculptures. I had to tell Mo to get in front of one of those. I don't know if she didn't like them or if they seemed scary to her or what.
Well, and the guard. She's posed mocking the guard pretty much every time we've been by him.
But in the Rembrandt and Vemeer anchored traveling display of Dutch masters, she kept going and standing by paintings and waiting for me to take the shot. But they don't allow photography in that exhibit, so I couldn't do it. Or else this blog would have a bunch of pictures of her standing by photo-realistic paintings of 17th Century Dutch people.