Saturday, March 24, 2012

Saison de Triton

After my English ale fermentation  failure, I decided to go with something I couldn't ruin with my swelteringly hot 68 degree ambient temperature..  That pretty much leaves the Belgians and maybe Australian ales.Its gonna be hot soon so the obvious choice for a fan of saisons is a Saison! After way too much deliberation I settled on a simple grist and hop bill. I went with Wyeast 3711 French Saison because everyone whines so much about the Dupont strain.  The aforementioned English ale fermentation scarred me and I did not want to deal with yeast issues again. For similar reasons I didn't do a yeast starter and kept the gravity reasonably low. Another reason for not doing a yeast starter was that I found lots of people recommending underpitching.. we will see if they are right.

I used the trial version of BeerSmith for this to give it a whirl. Quite nice. This is on the frankenstein net book running xubuntu w/o a working keyboard or trackpad..
From The Happy Newt

This was the first run of the new MLT. I really like it except for how big it is.. guess I didn't think it through. oh well. 10gal batches sound better anyway.

From The Happy Newt

And the manifold - the two ends on the right are crimped closed. Jigsaw slits in the bottom. The only soldered piece is the the first 90 from the 1/2" connection.
From The Happy Newt

Bulkhead from bargain fittings and valve from hardware store. dont remember if this was the cooler kit or the keg kit as I originally got for my other MLT. Regardless it works well with one washer

From The Happy Newt

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tasting Newt Hearted 1.0

From The Happy Newt

Eye: Orange straw, considerable chill haze, nice head that leaves lacing with moderate longevity.

Nose: Juniper, rosemary, grapefruit, bread, very little yeast character but some alcohol as it approaches room temp.

Mouth: Big chewy body, low-medium carbonation w/ full on pour. Hop character similar to nose but muted behind a wall of bread and toast. Medium bitterness that is both balanced and drawn out by malt/body. Body confuses perception of definite dryness. The 'feel' of smoke on exhale that I get from Widmer's Hefe - I don't know how to describe it more accurately. Malt flavor is definitely the dominate character.

Brain: I love it. I really haven't had an American Pale Ale that I'd have over this. Certainly not as hoppy as was intended. This malt bill could handle much much more. I would like to do this again with all Vienna as base malt instead of split with american 2-row. And with a lager yeast as a cal common or just with tons of noble hops and a Bavarian/Czech yeast. If I were to alter it to match my original intent I would scale back the grist proportionally to get 3-3.5% abv and double the flavor and aroma hops.

A few bottles got left in a car that got too hot and the yeast dumped their diacetyl. It was then a piney piece of buttered toast and not that great but not horrible. May be worth remembering for a butter beer clone..

Here are the comments from the first taster.. this will contrast nicely with my glowing happy review.

Appearence: Cloudy, tiger-orange, little head.
Sniff: My sniffer is off today, don't smell much. Generally , not sterile, smell/lack of smell.
Taste: Bitter like a grapefruit, especially when cold. The citrus lingers for awhile then turns very bitter, more peel than fruit.
Generally: bright and newty! B+
Note: I'm eating dried currents at the same time. Takes out all the flavor. 
Mouthfeel: Covers this inside of my mouth like butter. 
Extranote: I took FishOil supplement before drinking. My burps are not fishy. Miracle. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Happy Newt Brews Its First House Bitter

"In search of the great malty mouthful our merry aquatic acquaintance takes us.. across the pond."

I love English beers:  the wonderful caramel malt flavors, the biscuitiness, and that peculiar yeast character that is prominent during a casual swig but illusive upon close inspection. They are balanced, flavorful, and just plain nice. Though I don't see myself remaking the same recipe batch after batch, the thought of simple yet flavorful 'house beer' sounds appealing - especially one that I could use to continually track my progress as a brewer. An ESB seems to fit the bill perfectly.  When I began formulating my recipe for 'The Happy Newt" (the namesake of the homebrew 'pub' and this blog) I turned first to clones of Fuller's ESB - my favorite beer.

As it turns out Fuller's ESB and London Pride are partigyled from the same grist. The first runnings of a 95% pale ale malt 5% Crystal 75L grist go to making ESB with the later runnings going to London Pride. In general, the defining character for ESBs (and most English ales) is balance. I wanted to go a bit bigger and broader on malt character than Fuller's but still remain fairly balanced. I bumped the Crystal percentage to 10% and split that between Crisp 45L and 120L. I aimed for the BU:GU ratio (bittering units : gravity units) to be around .80 but probably hit slightly under. I also wanted a bit more hop aroma but being weary of dry hopping after my first experiment, I went with a flame-out addition instead. I chose to ferment with Wyeast 1968 London ESB as it supposedly is the the Fuller's strain. The brown sugar was a result of panic and not originally intended. I may secondary around a gallon over carmelized raisins and/or molasses. Time will tell!

It was a truly dreadful brew day with many lessons learned. I'll leave the details to your imagination.

  1. Don't listen to meteorologists - palm readers are more accurate.
  2. Don't panic. I think the homebrewing community already has a mantra for this. Apparently I didn't absorb the full message of RDWHAHB.
  3. Brewing in the dark isn't fun.
  4. A recipe is only a plan. 
  5. Watch/track/calculate boil off.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

An account of brews past

The first batch I brewed was the Emma's Ale kit from Northern Brewer. For some reason (probably advertising) I opted for Wyeast 1945 Neobritannia instead of the recommended Wyeast 1275 Thames Valley Ale.

For a learning batch it went well enough. Though I did get the fermentation temps down eventually, the temp was too high when I pitched and in the following 12+ hours. The 'efficiency' of the steep was lacking also and left the final beer with less than the expected specialty grain character. The end result was very 'beer' tasting with a few strange alcohol and/or ester flavors that were new to me. A few bottles seemed better for whatever reason and were similar in many ways to Hobgoblin.

Here she is fermenting:

And here is the log entry:

The second batch, Icewind Ale MkI, used the yeast cake from NCC-0001. The recipe was the root of mediocrity for this one. The idea was a juniper amber ale. Ended up similar to Bell's amber but more fruity and a sticky hop bitterness. Not much juniper to it after it had been bottled awhile. The fermentation temp was much more controlled than Emma's and drastically changed the yeast flavor profile in the finished beer. However, those flavors were still not that great.

The bottle I drank fairly warm while snorkeling Cypress Creek was mighty fine. Could have been the atmosphere..

Friday, January 27, 2012

First all grain batch: Newt Hearted IPA

My first two batches stretched into styles I was not very familiar with so for this batch I wanted to go simple and conventional --> IPA. Being familiar with the style will hopefully give me a better view of the efficacy of my process and a clearer picture of what to improve.

While I do occasionally enjoy the grapefruit/mango bombs (i.e. Good People IPA) or twig licks (Saranac IPA), the straight forward simplicity of Bell's Two Hearted (and every other Bell's ale) never fails to please. Newt Hearted is based loosely on an average of clone recipes found across several forums.

I've never fully understood the need for an IPA to be 7-8% abv so my main goal was to drop it to around 5% without loosing balance or body and perhaps bump up the malt flavor.

I ordered from Brewmaster's Warehouse and the recipes I ordered came nicely packaged and crushed. The name changed later with a flash inspiration.
From The Happy Newt
From The Happy Newt

Tasting notes and process comments to follow.