Archive for the ‘homebrew’ Category

Sassquash Mild
April 6, 2009

Drinking the mild I brewed four weeks ago.

Drinking the mild I brewed four weeks ago.

That moment you crack open a beer you have brewed yourself– it’s kinda magical, kinda scary.  It’s hard not to load it with harbingers of life in general (if the beer is shit does that mean I’m shit at life? What if it’s good, but not good enough?  Am I consigned forever to mediocrity?)

I am a worrier, and drink beer as a way to regulate certain personality flaws, this being one of them.  But my first solo brew is totally drinkable.  Sure, the body is thin, and there is no head to speak of.  The carbonation level threatens the delicate flavors– in short, a hyper active child only a mother could love.  And I do love it.

I shared it with friends, and we were all eating pizza and playing with a Blythe doll.  It seemed like the thing to do, as my beer wasn’t going to put hair on anyone’s chest.  It’s a shandy-like beer, a return to childhood, to the furtive sippings of forbidden stuff.   My friend noticed the chocolate malt and the biscuit, and she’s not even a beer-head.  She also said it was squash-like.  For non-Brits, squash is a refreshing, fizzy fruit drink. I don’t think it really tastes of squash but the mouth-feel is certainly reminiscent.

Sassquash.  It’s as good a name as any, and my friend is pretty darn sassy.  I realize now, just like Adam in the garden, naming things is a certain privilege.  Just so with beer.  I love the ‘in-joke’ names of home and micro brews that crown this anachronistic labor of love.

I don’t want to spend my entire brewing career churning out fizzy lifting drinks.  Now I have to figure out what exactly went wrong here, and how the next batches could be improved. But where to begin?

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A Stout as Black as my Heart
March 29, 2009


Today I decided to use up the 6 pounds of dark spray malt I had laying around (don’t ask me how I ended up with so much). I steeped a 1/2 pound of chocolate malt which in hindsight maybe wasn’t the best idea as the charred flavor might take over everything. It did make the wort blacker than black. \m/

It’s in the fermenter now. I remembered to take a gravity reading this time. Wooo. 1.049. Hopefully this is OK. The recipe says the gravity should be at 1.054. I was pretty fast and lose with this recipe which I found in How to Brew. It will be curious to see how it turns out.

Polarities
March 25, 2009

The beer flavor wheel.  GEEK OUT!

The beer flavor wheel. GEEK OUT!

The more  beer you drink, the more you notice things– my latest fixation has been texture or mouthfeel in a beer. People will describe beer as chewy or smooth, dry or creamy. (I enjoy looking at the flavor wheel.  It’s a bit like a diagram an ex of mine had with emotions clearly labeled.  It was supposed to help him talk about his feelings.  I liked to put together the worst combination of emotions possible, and I do the same thing with the beer wheel!  Mouthcoatingly-solventlike-cooked veg, anyone?)  Italo Calvino once said that one of the most admirable qualities of good writing was lightness.

photo by _bubby_ on flickr

photo by _bubby_ on flickr

The same can’t be said about beer.  Or can it?  Yesterday I had some Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout.  It’s an imperial stout, my favourite style of beer.  I should have loved it but I couldn’t finish it.  It was just…so…sludgy.  With a weird mineral tang that distracted me from what should have been round, chocolaty warmth.

Still, it reminded me that beer is a mystery.  This stout is a polar opposite of the Brew Dog IPA I had last week. No matter how many beers you try, there is always the possibility of tasting something new.  What other beverage can claim such a thing?

And also a complete contrast to the stout is my own beer I just bottled.   It was  my first solo batch– the batch I brewed without my friend Bob.  I tasted it before putting it in the secondary fermenter and it is light in color and body, and gently carbonated.  Though I used the mild recipe it is nothing like a mild. The water here is very different than LA water.  Also, I had to substitute different grains and spray malt (DME), and I’ll admit finding the ingredients and equipment here has not been easy.  I bottled the beer using some janky make-shift siphon purchased at Wilco because I couldn’t find a regular stick filler. But hey, it tasted good, and hopefully after bottling it will taste even better but who knows?  I’m worried that if it carbonates more during bottle fermentation I’m going to have some really lively beer on my hands.

How important is mouthfeel to you in a beer? What kind of carbonation is too much?  How heavy is too  heavy? Have you ever had what’s described as a ‘powdery’ beer?

A Mild for my Old Man
February 19, 2009

So this post is no longer topical, being a Valentine’s post. I’ve returned from America and blame the jet lag.

With the help of my friend Bob, I brewed a mild, which happens to be Mr. Malting’s favourite kind of beer. I smuggled back a very large bottle of the Blackout Mild, swaddled in bubble wrap and tee shirts and I gave it to him on Valentine’s Day.

We drank it together and he said it was second only to his favourite, Harvey’s. On occasions like this I would really welcome hyperbole and maybe even some white lies (what do you mean it’s not the best thing you’ve ever tasted?) but he’s not that kind of guy. It was malty and smooth and at 3.5% it seemed really true to the style. The crisp carbonation, which I really enjoyed, seemed a slight departure.

Can I reproduce another successful beer without the help of my friend Bob? It remains to be seen. I still have to buy some basic equipment, most of which I can get from Wilkinson’s down the way. But those of you that do brew at home, would you recommend an online seller?

Brewing by Candlelight
January 17, 2009

Last night I brewed my first beer with Bob. In the dark.

It’s a mild, and because we embrace irony we’re calling this low gravity beer Blackout Mild.

You see, right as the wort started to boil, the lights went out all over Echo Park.  We had to do the rest by the light of two stubby little candles. Originally Bob had suggested we call the beer 28 Days Later Mild because he had devised the process to last the month-long duration of my trip here.

You don’t think about light until you have to do without it.  The yellow candlelight shifted the shadows of the normally bright kitchen, and the neighborhood cat kept coming in and jumping beside me, startling me.  Worrying over the steaming wort I felt like a witch at her cauldron.

Later we started freaking ourselves out saying it was the 28 Days Later Mild, whispering, “Turn out the light!” lest the infected find us.  And, why yes, we were drinking Bob’s home brew at the time, a delicious American Pale Ale.  Thanks for asking.

We woke up this morning to electricity and the joy of a bubbling air lock. Glory to the micro-organism!