Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Tale Of Two Fermented Lovers, An Auto-Siphon From The Eleventh Dimension And Core Brewing Concepts (or Where Did Everything Go Wrong)

Hello there lonely traveller, stay a while and listen. I have tales of fruitfulness and .. fruit and ... Stuff.

Sorry it's been a while since my last post, this thing called 'life' has been getting in the way, but I'm back, and I know you're all pulling your hair out to hear more.

What's new.

Well, firstly I bottled the Pinot-Noir Oak Aged Belgian Raspberry Chocolate Stout, (you can read about what I was trying to achieve here), basically I was trying to clone a beer I really liked.

I made a super low gravity Belgian chocolate stout to blend with the first beer, which was a really intense Pinot Noir Oaked Raspberry Imperial Stout.

Before transfer

Bottling day was insanely stressful. Since it was the first time using a carboy, it was also the first time using an auto-siphon. No one at my local home-brewing store told me that you need a very specific sized hose for the auto-siphon. So here I am, spending most of the day trying to hose clamp on some vinyl tubing to the end of the siphon, panicking that the beer is being oxidised and ruined every time I pump and just get bubbles...

After transfer

Well, eventually I got it all into the one fermenter, as you can see, it only just fit.

So, the question you're all OBVIOUSLY dying to have answered...

Did it turn out good?

Well, does the pope shi -


The answer is: yes of course it did.

The reason I say 'of course' is because, to be honest, this wasn't a hard beer to make. One of the things that I learned early on in my home-brewing career is that anyone can make a decent imperial stout, not anyone can make a decent pale ale.

Sure, it took a little bit of knowledge (AKA: google) in regards to how many raspberries or oak chips to add and when, but it was all still pretty vague. The amount of different flavours in this beer mean that if there are any problems with the base beer, it's not really going to show. As you all probably know, making a light ale or lager is much harder because there's nothing to hide any of the small off flavours that very easily occur if you don't know what you're doing. I still don't think I've made a pale ale yet that I'm completely happy with, but I've made a LOT of flavoursome beers that I could find almost no faults with.

So, how did this beer taste?

Well, as mentioned earlier, I did decide to put oak chips in after all. Pinot Noir soaked oak chips in fact (which was part of the original Boatrocker recipe).

The beer is amazing. It's all sweet raspberries and wine up front, a little acidity, then a nice malty hit of chocolate and the vanillins from the oak followed by a dry finish with a little of the acidity hanging around. It's ridiculously smooth. I had no idea that blending beers could actually be a thing I could achieve, and considering the problems had during bottling, I'm actually surprised it turned out this well.

Another really interesting thing that's happened recently is this run in with a company called Core Brewing Concepts. I'm not going to go into details about what happened, but you can read about it here and there is also an interview with the person in question here.

I'm helping a good friend start up a small brewery in Melbourne called Bale Worker Project Brewery, and he's had a really hard time with the company supplying him equipment. The guy who he was getting things from was being flaky, not replying to emails or calls, and ended up not getting the fermenters to him. This is after about a year of trying to get the equipment.

At the time I thought that this was just my friend who was having these problems, turns out it's not. Someone from Temple Brewing contacted my friend recently and told him they were also having problems with Core, and that they were doing a fundraiser brew with a bunch of other small start up breweries from around Australia who'd had similar problems.

I'm the ugly one, second from the right.

It was an amazing day, I met a lot of incredibly nice people, stood around and drank a lot of beer, it's just a shame it had to happen under such sour circumstances. Some of these people have put around 20 - 30k into equipment, relying on it to get things started, and have gotten nothing. Knowing how much red tape and how brutal the tax office can be on top of that makes this problem so much worse.

Speaking of Temple, I had an amazing beer of theirs recently when me and Becky went and had burgers at their brewery bar (the burgers were pretty good, but the bacon aioli they served with the chips? oh my). It was called the New World Order.

It's an American Style stout, so basically a really big hopped up stout. It sent me back to the days when Southern Bay Brewing's Metal Head and the Holgate Temptress were actually good dark beers. When it's cold you get a big mouthful of Vegemite, cranky roasted malts and big hop bitterness with some nice fruity hop aroma on the back end, and as it warms up it completely smooths out, bringing the hoppiness down a notch and letting the roasted and caramel malts shine. I definitely recommend getting a bottle or a pint at some point.

Until next time we meet...


Monday, February 23, 2015

Trying to replicate one of my favourite beers ever.

If you've been following my blog you might remember a beer I mentioned in a post a while back, the Belgian Summer Stout by Boatrocker, a Belgian Chocolate Stout with added raspberries. It is in my top five, or maybe even top two, favourite beers ever (probably tied with Garage Project's La Calavera Catrina)

I loved this beer so much that I actually emailed Boatrocker asking them when they were planning on making it again, as it was a seasonal beer. The response I got was:


Well, the response wasn't just no, but the whole truth was so much worse. You see, it was an accident and "not easily repeatable".

From Tim at Boatrocker:

"Basically it was a portion of the base imperial stout used to make Ramjet (about 9% abv), put into an ex-wine barrel with fresh raspberries for a few months. The high abv of the stout provided a very fresh and vibrant extraction of Raspberry character. When we racked it out of the barrel the Raspberry character was way too intense, so we decided to blend it down and make it into something more sessionable. We blended it heavily with a batch of dry (low FG) Belgian Chocolate Stout (less than 5% abv). The flavours combined very well, as it turned out Chocolate and Raspberry compliment each other nicely. But it would be exceptionally hard to recreate the same profile."

Ramjet is an incredible barrel aged imperial stout by Boatrocker that, if you haven't tried, you should definitely try.

Well there's no point in crying over spilt beer, I'm a home-brewer, a fucking home-brewer! We can do anything! I'm not going to let this shit stand!

I'll make it myself, I'll create this beautiful, delicious mistake at home!

Credit to contreras19 for the Invader Zim

So I made an imperial stout, around 8% ABV to soak the berries in. The brew day went well, Nothing really to report. My dad was over from NZ and so he came over to help out, along with my friend Jared. It was based on an old recipe of mine, the 'Nathan Fillion' Imperial Stout. It turned out very well and so I figured it would be best to be safe rather than try something new, especially considering how crazy this process is going to be.

So next step is to add berries. I want to add a lot too, I've made a beer with raspberries before and I wasn't happy with amount (the beer was great, just not raspberry enough). So for 20L of beer, I added 1.5kgs of frozen raspberries which I made sure weren't hepatitis A berries.

So first thing was to bring them to just under a simmer for about 10 - 20 minutes. This kills off any bacteria living on the berries that could possibly infect the beer.

Once it had sat for about 10 minutes and was pretty warm, I transferred it into my flask and put it back on the heat. I don't have a funnel so this was going to be the easiest way to get it into my new Better Bottle.

Success with no red stains anywhere!

I haven't decided yet if I'm going to add wood chips soaked in Pinot Noir, this is really the last step to making it an exact replica, but I might do it in the next few weeks. I don't want it to end up being overly oaky, I feel like it could possibly kill the refreshing-ness pretty easily.

And there it is, after a few days of sitting in my fermentation chamber it's starting to show some signs that the berries are fermenting. Will leave it for a few weeks in the fridge then I might move it somewhere dark so I can make that Belgian Chocolate Stout to blend it with!

P.S. The other beer I mentioned earlier, Garage Project's La Calavera Catrina, guess what? They don't make that any more either. 

EDIT: They do make it! But it's just not as good as it used to be...

Stay tuned.