Immerse yourself in all things beer
So everything about this beer from inception was a bit of a experiment so let me explain why before briefly going over how it turned out.  

1st: I was planning on going to a music festival for which I wanted some good homebrew to supplement the PBR  but they prohibited glass and kegs so I wanted to test out bottling in 2-Liter bottles.
2nd: I had never used Citra hops and had some laying around so I wanted to test them out.
3rd: I have never really tried hopbursting a beer before and wanted to try that out.  
4th: I have never done a SMaSH recipe before and wanted to try that out.

So first off the 2-liter bottling was a great success.  I did a 2.25 gallon batch and had just over enough for three 2-liter bottles.  I used Root-beer and Ginger Ale bottles and even after cleaning with PBW and sanitizing with Star San the smell of the soda wafted out while I was bottling but luckily the Citra hops overpowered anything left behind during drinking.  I used Northern Brewers priming sugar calculator and it carbed up just perfect in two weeks and with a full campsite of people we were able to drink each bottle quickly enough that there were no issues with the beer going flat.  Overall I thought this was a great idea for special occasions like this because it was easy to transport, share and then clean up with no negative affect on the beer.  

Secondly; Citra Hops are awesome!  They were packed full of aroma and flavor and I have never heard of a more appropriately named hop.  Honestly, as much as I liked them I think they would be even better as an accent hop because while they were great by themselves I found the beer overall to be a bit simplistic in taste.  Perhaps with a more traditional bittering addition they really would have thrived.  Or with another flavor addition and then utilizing these as a aroma and dry-hop addition.

Thirdly; hopbursting was interesting to try.  I went with no bittering addition and did a 15, 10, 5, 0 hop schedule with a half ounce of Citra each time and my kitchen smelled glorious.  However, while I was being punched in the face with the Citra aroma and flavor the beer seemed to be a bit lacking in complexity.

Fourth and finally I failed miserably at the SMaSH recipe.  Maybe someday but every time I attempt to do one I find myself adding something at the store.  This time it was 5% Honey Malt which in the end I think did add to the sweetness and was  nice complement to the Citra.  I also tossed two ounces of Midnight Wheat in for a color adjustment which wound up being over the top and producing a much darker wort that I had expected.

Overall though this beer was pretty tasty and exactly what I was shooting for on a hot summers day.  The simplicity of the grist along with the crispness of the San Francisco Lager Yeast really let the hops shine through while producing a very sessionable tasting 5% beer. 

Hybrid Citraburst 
American Pale Ale 
Batch Size (fermenter): 2.25 gal 
Brewer: Charles Madison 
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65.00 %

Ingredients Amt Name Type # %/IBU 
4 lbs 12.0 oz Briess 2-Row Brewers Malt (1.8 SRM) Grain 1 92.7 % 
4.0 oz Honey Malt (25.0 SRM) Grain 2 4.9 % 
2.0 oz Midnight Wheat (550.0 SRM) Grain 3 2.4 % 

0.50 oz Citra [12.00 %] - Boil 15.0 min Hop 4 21.1 IBUs 
0.50 oz Citra [12.00 %] - Boil 10.0 min Hop 5 15.4 IBUs 
0.50 oz Citra [12.00 %] - Boil 5.0 min Hop 6 9.3 IBUs 
0.50 oz Citra [12.00 %] - Boil 0.0 min Hop 7 0.0 IBUs 

San Francisco Lager yeast slurry from previous batch
So that first month into my first ever sour beer, a Flanders Red, I couldn't see myself possible forgetting about this mysterious new beer sitting in the dank corner of my basement.  Then out of no where it slipped from my mind until a while back when I went to move a carboy in the basement and decided the three month mark was an appropriate time to steal a tasting.  What I got was a pretty damn good beer; an amazing red color, slightly fruity aroma, no hops, light-bodied, a hint of fruitiness in the taste, incredibly easy to drink and a very slight yet lingering tartness.

So I forgot about it again until today when I decided to sneak a peek under it's tee-shirt and there they were; disgusting, vividly white bubbles!  Pellicle!  I'm assuming I introduced some oxygen to the carboy when I took that sample which prompted its formation.

Like I said this is my first sour so I have no experience here so any comments on the pictures would be great.  I've heard some people do not ever get a pellicle so I was excited to see this nastiness when I pulled off it's shirt.  It truly looks disgusting.  There is just no way around that fact other than to think of how amazing it will be sometime next year.

Here's the recipe just for your reference courtesy of Brew Your Own:

West Flanders Red Ale
by Jeff Sparrow
(5-gallons/19 L, all-grain)
OG = 1.057  FG = 1.002–1.012
IBU = 11  SRM = 22  ABV = 6.5%

  • 5 lbs. 5 oz. (2.4 kg) Vienna malt
  • 2 lbs. 8 oz. (1.1 kg) Pils malt
  • 15 oz. (0.43 kg) aromatic malt
  • 15 oz. (0.43 kg) CaraVienne malt
  • 2 lbs. 2 oz. (0.96 kg) raw wheat
  • 5.0 oz. (0.14 kg) special B malt
  • 3 AAU Hallertau hops (60 mins) (0.75 oz./21 g of 4.0% alpha acids)
  • 2.0 oz. (57 g) oak cubes (medium toast)
  • Wyeast 3763 (Roeselare Blend) or White Labs WLP655 (Belgian Sour Mix)

It's hard to get a good shot through glass so I popped off the airlock just long enough to get a top down view.
A bit hard to tell from this angle but there are some bubbles in there that are probably about two inches in diameter.
Bonus picture of my Barleywine with the Golden Girls keeping the light out. That's right, I have a Golden Girls tee-shirt covering the carboy of my 12.9% Barleywine!
Yesterday my brewday started with 3.2 ounces of water in a spray bottle rather than the traditional few gallons of strike water in the boil kettle.  In case you missed my first posting I wanted to make a run at conditioning my malt before crushing it which basically means wetting it down so I can get a better crush while leaving the hulls of the grain intact to help with lautering.  The spraying and stirring went easy and afterwards the grain had a wet and leathery feel to it rather than the it's dry usually texture.  I took this as a good sign so I went ahead with the milling which was more difficult than usual.  Perhaps it was due to the wetness of the grain but I experienced more trouble getting the drill to supply enough power to the mill without over doing it.  It was a constant state of squeezing and releasing trying to find the right balance which is noticeably more work than under normal circumstances.  

After milling I took a look at the crushed grain the first thing I noticed was that it was more fluffy in appearance and less powdery than usual. Upon closer inspection the hulls appeared to be more intact as well which led me to checking to see if any remained un-cracked.  There were none so I started up the strike water and went into prep-mode like any other brewday.  

This is were the story gets more interesting. For whatever reason my mash in temp was five degrees lower than I wanted.  I added some boiling water but only got it up another two degrees so I ended up mashing at 151 instead of 154.  Oh well right?  Same story with mash out; added what Beersmith told me too and missed by about six degrees.  Lautering however was alright which is what is important here in my malt conditioning experiment.  With nearly 30% Rye in my recipe the first runnings came out easily enough until it gummed up after the water dipped below the grain bed.  I don't think I left much in so I guess I was successful in this regard.   

Either through user error or some Beersmith fail (which I've found rarely happens so I'm guessing user error) I wound up with too much sparge water so I had to leave some behind due to the limited size of our boil kettle.  I also had a boil over and lost a bit of wort to trub in the boil kettle so I wound up with 4.75 gallons instead of five and still missed by a few points on my starting gravity.  All in all I guess it was an ok brewday considering it was 93 degrees outside and I was struggling to keep up with everything.  

So was it worth it?  Honestly I would have to say no at this point but I'm going to try it one more time just to be sure.  Considering the extra struggle with the grain mill, a slightly stuck sparge and no uptick in efficiency I don't really see the benefit at this point but considering the user error with the sparge water and every other little mishap it would be worth it to try again on hopefully a more smoothly routine brewday.  

First thing I realized is that it is hard to get a decent shot of grain on a cheap camera but here it is. You can kind of notice the way the hulls look almost unbroken in this picture.

I know there are a lot of homebrewers out there who love their Simcoe hops so when I stumbled upon this brew at the store the other day I couldn't help but pick it up.  

The first thing that hits you is the smell.  It's terrific like any good IPA needs to be.  Grapefruity, citrusy, piney awesomeness!  I think my beer rolled around in the car a bit on the way home so I got a yeast infused, hazy brownish orange color which was pretty dark for the style. 

When thinking of an IPA I think of hoppy and crisp so this beer, while it was very good, had a bit too much body and sweet malty flavor for my preference.  That of course is just one mans opinion and should not be counted against it because it is well balanced for an IPA and drinkable for a 9% beer.  With all that malty sweetness and Simcoe flavor this could be drank and enjoyed young for all the Simcoe hop-heads out there or could probably be aged for a while as more of a barleywine type ale.  Either way, moderately priced and good with a cool bottle.  Go get one.

What's that you say? A hugely dark stout for the end of July?  That sounds delicious but not very thirst quenching for an 85* day.  Well, you would be absolutely right if this were a stout and not a lager.  

In House Brew's first attempt at a Schwarzbier (basically a northern German Black Lager) has been bottled for a bit and turned out alright.  While it is passable as an alcoholic beverage this wouldn't be a competition beer for several reasons.  First off, I went a tad overboard on the Carafa III to give it a jet black color which is not exactly to style despite being called a dark lager.  That said it does look awesome!  

Secondly there is just something slightly off about the taste.  It's final gravity finished high leaving it a little heavier than I wanted which when combined to the rich Munich sweetness is just a bit overboard.  I also think I got a hint of diacetyl and some kind of fruity esters which I can't really pin down but are definitely there.  I guess I can't complain too much; this whole beer was all an experiment to test how much work it would be to ferment a lager in a swamp cooler while adding some ice to maintain the cool temperature (answer by the way is too much, it was too much work to make it worth it in my opinion).  This resulted in some temp swings which is probably responsible for some of the undesirables and the yeast most likely dropped out early when I tried to add too much ice to compensate for a jump in temp.

So overall I'll still rate this beer in the drinkable range.  It's not horrible, just not great.  I'd be curious to try something like it again in the winter or with the Bohemian Lager Wyeast which I've read can ferment successfully with lager characteristics at warmer temperatures.  

Please leave me a comment if you are and how you found out about me.  Also, thank you for stopping by and please come back soon.  I promise to have more going on but I just randomly got this started before it was really ready.
Hop outlook for 2012 not great.  As of right now I have two plants growing.  A third year Fuggle is over in the corner of the yard strung up on a wooden trellis with some clotheslines while a first year Nugget is growing close to house and simply strung up to the window with some string that will need to be replaced next year.  

The Fuggle:
Not even sure I really like these hops but having them laying around in excess this winter seemed like a good chance for me to get more acquainted with them.  I'm sure in some combination they could be complimentary rather than just tasting like dirt on their own.  But perhaps I won't get the chance; the aphids got after these guys good and after trying soap and water and a chemical spray it looks like I may be too late.  They are wrinkling up and dying just as some lovely buds are starting to form... 

The Nuggs:
These fellas are doing much, much better than the Fuggle being in another corner of the yard.  There were some aphids early on but I hit them with the spray and they seem to be doing fine.  They have grown up to the house so I'll need to string up somewhere else for them to grow.  I was thinking about pulling them horizontally underneath the windowsill so maybe I'll try that out.  Not sure if they will produce anything this year but maybe I'll get lucky and snag a few latter on.


Almost everything near the top of the trellis has withered away by now.

I have read about malt conditioning a few times in the past now but have never really felt the need to try it until now.  My next brew is going to be the second coming of my Redheaded Rye-child which uses a bunch of rye (27.3%) which is making me nervous about lautering.  I've heard that there are several advantages to conditioning your malt including: increased efficiency, a lower chance of a stuck sparge and lower tannin extraction which all sound good to me.  

After doing some research on these two websites:
I have decided to go ahead and do it.  The rule of thumb seems to be adding water equivalent to 2% of the weight of the grainbill.  My grain bill is eleven pounds which means it is 176 ounces which when multiplied by 2% equals 3.5 ounces of water so I guess I'll go with that.  Not sure but I think I'll do it fifteen minutes before crushing.  Pictures and notes to follow.