The four beers I’m brewing now are either “big beers” (high gravity, high alcohol) or tree beers (with distinctive ingredients coming from trees). These beers are for the long haul—to drink Thanksgiving 2006 or later.
Wednesday I made “garbage can barley wine” (hat tip for name: Mark Grieve). Basically, whatever I had around the house, though no tree-based ingredients, and nothing silly (no pudding—sorry, Brent). A colleague gave me a bunch of Mr. Beer kits when her husband decided to stop brewing after his brewing partner died somewhat unexpectedly. I totally understand that. One of the reasons I didn’t brew much this spring (besides this reason) was that my brewing partner Tom moved away.
Anyway, the Mr. Beer cans were each 1.2 lbs. Not the right scale for 5-gallon batches. I felt a little bad about dumping them all into one vat and making barley wine until I read the ingredients for the “Golden Wheat,” which included no wheat. Okay. So in went 10 cans. (I saved two cans of “Nut Brown Ale” which I’ll make according to their recipe, though with real yeast.) Add to the mix a half-gallon of wort from the barley wine I made with Curtis–tipped the pot too early and the spigot clogged, and I didn’t want to risk fouling 6 gallons for the sake of two quarts. But I didn’t want to waste the wort, either. I used mystery Crystal grains (lost the label, so I don’t know if they were 60-120°) and mismatched hops (Centennial for boil and Fuggles for aroma). Despite this hodgepodge, it’ll probably turn out pretty good; I pitched the wort onto the yeast cake from last week’s barley wine, and it blew the top off the fermenter at 7:30 Thursday morning. Yeehaw.
Yesterday’s effort was quite a bit more complicated. Last Sunday we went to Tom Sadler and Holly Stovall’s for ice cream (Holly’s peach sorbet was my favorite; amazing). They served a cherry tart made with fresh cherries from their own tree. “Hey, what do you folks think about cherry beer?” Tom and Holly thought very highly of it. So Wednesday we picked about 16 lbs of cherries. I pitted cherries like a madman yesterday, finishing with Tom as we made an evening of it: brewing, eating pizza, and enjoying the mild weather in the backyard. Here’s the recipe for tree beer #2:
6.6 lb Cooper’s dark malt extract
1/4 lb flaked barley
1/4 lb roast barley
1/2 lb chocolate malt
2 oz Northern Brewer hops @ 6.6% aa
16 lb Montmorency cherries, pitted, juiced with a food mill, and strained (about 1 gallon juice)
WLP 001 California Ale Yeast
5 gallons water
Boil water. Draw water to make tea with grains; strain twice. Add malt extract and hops and return to a boil (about 60 minutes). Add cherry juice and reduce or cut heat; maintain above 180° for at least 15 minutes. Chill and decant into 6.5 gallon fermenter.
We moved tree beer #1, maple porter, from primary to secondary to use the yeast cake for the cherry stout. I poured a glass or two as we racked the beer, and I am very pleased. The maple really comes through, both in the nose and palate, but is not overpowering. It still has a nice roast, but it’s not too strong. I think it’s gonna be contest-worthy.
Not to mention my most recent pale ale is great, and the cider I brewed last fall—I guess that’s tree beer #3—is finally getting a little sparkle to it. Larry Bell got nothin’ on my basement. At least for now.