Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Microbreweries, Oktoberfest, and Even More Microbreweries

After spending more than a year with little more than a single beer, it was finally time to tempt my tastebuds with some suds. And what a better way to do so, than to see some of Germany, have some fun at Oktoberfest, and try some lesser known, yet better quality, German beers. Join me and my family for a trip through the German countryside and see what I discover.... First stop Heidelberg. Prost!
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Thursday, November 11, 2010

My First Brewing Failure -- Although not a Total Loss

This years Midsummer brew was to be a plum porter. Again Kim, Krzysztof, Karla, Jakob and I got together for the brewing. I added a chiller to my equipment this time which didn't work quite as well as planned, due our makeshift setup, but it clearly worked well, and once we got things flowing, it took no time to get the beer to the approx. 24 C that we needed for pitching the yeast. Of course we also had problems with the thermometer saying the beer temperature was over 70 C after coming out of the chiller, but we quickly figured out that could not be right (the hose going from the chiller to the fermenter was cool to the touch, as well as the fermenter itself) and tossed the thermometer.

Other than that, brew day went smoothly. We were a bit concerned about our original gravity, but when I measured the final gravity before adding the plums, it turned out the beer had slightly more than the 5.5% alcohol that it was supposed to have (yes!). The beer smelled heavenly going into the secondary fermenter (ah, that chocolaty smell of porter drifting through the house), but the addition of the plums turned out to be too much of a challenge for me.

During the 10 days the beer was in the primary, I searched on the Internet for how to add fruit to beer, specifically plums. It seemed like the consensus was that you either added them sliced or crushed. A few people said they blanched them to remove the skin, but others said that was not necessary, some used canned plums, but that wasn't an option for me. I ended up taking 3kg of ripe plums and threw them in a blender with the skin on to chop them up a bit. Then I added them to the secondary and hoped all would go well.

Another couple of weeks of waiting, and then it was time to bottle. We quickly discovered that having crushed plums was a problem and the bottling took forever because the spout on the fermenter got clogged very quickly. This made bottling slower and messier than normal; the two things that I dislike about home brewing, it's slow and messy.

Finally after another week of waiting, it was time to try the beer. The first beer I opened was the last one I bottled, it turned out to be plum juice with a hint of porter, and completely flat. I knew the last couple we bottled would probably be the same, which meant fewer beers for me and Kim, and maybe the beer would all be totally flat and a complete loss. A couple days later I decided I'd have to see, so we tasted the next one. At least it wasn't flat, but was too sour to drink. Not wanting to waste any beer I at least came up with a way to make the beers drinkable, maple syrup. Just a little bit of maple syrup (about a teaspoon in each glass) and, viola, the beer was quite tasty, although it tasted more like a Belgian beer than a porter.

So no more fruit beers for me, at least until I perfect my craft a little better, but I am still looking forward to the next brew. Maybe I'll just go back to basics and try another IPA, I'm sure Kim would be happy about that.