Big and tree beer

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.

Garbage Can Barley Wine

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&deg) 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:

Cherry stout

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.

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8 Responses to Big and tree beer

  1. Bill H-D says:

    Sounds like a great batch! I’ve not graduated to doing multiple brews at once – but you have me thinking…when it gets toward winter, I am going to do some lagering.

    Thanks for the tip about the bigger carboy – I am going to go with that next time for sure.

    Also, here’s the passage about the over-active yeast I mentioned, about a possible cause of vigorous fermentation he calls a “gusher infection” caused by wild yeasts:

    “If the beer seems to be bubbling too long, check the gravity with a hydrometer. Use a siphon or turkey baster to withdraw a sample from the fermentor and check the gravity. If the gravity is still high, in the teens or twenties, then it is probably due to lower than optimum temperature or sluggish yeast. If it is below 10 and still bubbling at several per minute, then a bug has gotten hold. The beer will not be worth drinking due to the lack of flavor.”

    http://www.howtobrew.com/section4/chapter21-1.html

    Not sure what he is talking about.

  2. cbd says:

    I like doing multiple batches because I can pitch on yeast cakes. Especially for big beers, that helps fermentation get off to a good start, and prevents infection from wild or other yeast (the bug I want will run off any others). And I save a few bucks on yeast, too. Since I brew a lot less during the school year, now’s the time to put some beer away for the long haul. Right now I have four batches going, and expect to add pale ale today or tomorrow (though I’ll be bottling the maple porter soon as well).

    Wild yeast infection usually means something went wrong in inoculation (did a healthy yeast culture get in the beer quickly?) sanitation (were all the ingredients and equipment boiled or chemically treated?) or fermentation (was the beer moved from primary to secondary to bottles in the right time, with good sanitation practices?). Some wild yeast don’t affect the flavor of the beer at all (many strains of Brett). Some make it gnarly and nasty.

    I’ve had two infections since I moved here, one caused by a cracked carboy, and one caused by waiting too darned long to bottle (five months). In the first case, the beer had a little “ring around the neck” but tasted fine. In the second, there’s a little bite in the aftertaste, but it’s a stout so it’s forgivable.

    And I frequently bottle beers with gravities of 1.010-1.020, so I don’t think that’s “too high” at all.

  3. Bill H-D says:

    The hefeweizen tasted fine at racking time, so I think we just had a smaller-than-recommended-carboy problem. First time using the all liquid yeast in the little vial too rather than the activator pack. We’ll bottle in another week or so.

  4. cbd says:

    Super. I wouldn’t worry about blowoff. Nice thing about it: hard to get bad bugs in when everything is going the other direction.

    What kind of extract did you use? I’m unhappy with the Munton’s and Alexander’s as well, and I can’t find Ireks anywhere. I may go back to all grain just to get good hefe.

  5. Bill H-D says:

    Our local homebrew shop, Things Beer, is connected to a microbrewery, Michigan Brewing Company that makes their own extracts. They sell the extracts with instructions in kits, any specialty grains or other stuff, all in pre-measured quantities. Makes it dead easy for us beginners. We used the Williamston Wheat kit for our hefe.

    So far I’ve made three brews from their kits and couple with my own combinations of ingredients: Trout River IPA, Lily’s Red Ale, and the about to be bottled Wheat.

  6. cbd says:

    Hey, thanks. I called the shop; they don’t actually make the extracts but package them from bulk. So it looks like I’ll be heading for the mash tun!

  7. Bill H-D says:

    Ah! good to know re: the extracts.

  8. Mark Grieve says:

    Hey Bradley,
    I googled myself despite warnings that doing that to excess would cause me to go blind. I’ll keep it up till I need glasses. Imagine my surprise when I found that my name keeps appearing on your blog. I need to brew. I finally kegged a beer that had been in primary on top of my microwave for about 16 months. The CO2 setup has a leak that I have to track down. Also need to clean the lines and tapper.

    I have a package for you. I bought whole wheat rotinni when regular was not available. I’m afraid the stuff just isn’t to my liking. I’ve got a pound or two that I would like to send your way. I’ll drop it off sometime.

    Are you brewing this weekend? I have pager duty so I can’t get far from home. I need to make some porter but I only have light syrup. Not really a problem I guess. Maybe I’ll just do it.
    Mark

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