On a hazy, gray and drizzly June 11, the Lady Falcons flocked to The Home Wine, Beer and Cheesemaking Shop in Woodland Hills to brew a Wee Heavy, the strongest of Scottish beers. This is a rich, malty, caramel-forward beer with complex, sip-by-the-fire flavors appropriate for good friends, fine talks and late nights. Our leader was Jenna Bonney. The team included Kyrsten Beidelman, Nancy Gold, Christy Borgman, Jill Updyke, Kerry O'Rear, and me.
Brewing on the Maltose Falcons 50-gallon system is at once comforting for the familiarity yet fraught with responsibility of the excellent outcome.
Nancy Gold prompted us to share our brewing stories as we pulled out the Maris Otter (87%), crystal malt (4%), Scottish carastan (4%), honey malt (2%), melanoiden malt (2%) and chocolate pale malt (1%). Our batch size: 40 gallons. Our lunch: pizza and Big Salad. Provisions and beer were an embarrassment of riches supplied by the team. The most exciting: a blue cheese made by Nancy Gold. Long have I yearned to make cheese, and to my delight, one of the brewers, Kyrsten Beidelman, makes instruction available via Hipcooks Los Angeles. I will be signing up for classes.
One does not simply walk into a Lady Falcons brew day without bling. I was looking for the feel of a vacation and asked Nancy Gold if she could create a set of earrings evocative of the sea from her Ocean Glassworks earring collection. She put them together on the spot!
We emptied and cleaned the mash tun and the Lady Falcons set to boiling the wort. The boil was 90 minutes. At the 60 minute mark, we added 9.1 oz. of Pilgrim hops.
Thanks to Jenna's planning, we each took home five gallons of wort. Lady Face Ale Companie graciously provided fresh Chico strain yeast. To this we added WY1728 Scottish Ale yeast after oxygenating the wort. Original gravity: 1.094. Estimated final gravity: 1.026.
About one week later, my five gallons are fermenting at a cool 56.5 degrees F. Today, I begin the process of slowly raising the temperature to about 70 degrees. My friends and homebrew club members at the Society of Barley Engineers are weighing in on this phase of the fermentation, along with the Lady Falcons. Thank you to Jenna Bonney for an incredible experience, Matt Myerhoff for organizing the brew, Ladyface Ale Companie for sharing fresh yeast, and the the Home Wine, Beer and Cheesemaking Shop for an incredible brew day. And I have a very special set of earrings from Nancy Gold to commemorate the event. And this poster, which appears on our Club wall, sums it up: Alcohol is a Solution . . . to friendship and a maker community.
The short of it: Welcome in spring with a pineapple coconut cider. The essential flavor ingredients: Trader Joe's organic dried pineapple and coconut chips.
For the cider base, I pointed the cart to Trader Joe's refrigerated section and purchased flash-frozen, unfiltered apple juice. Tip: Go for preservative-free apple juice -- no sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate. Your best scenario: orchard-pressed cider, but that's not available right now, and this is my way of getting ready for Spring Break!
I placed one gallon of apple juice in my fermenting bucket (after a thorough cleaning and sanitizing), oxygenated the juice, then pitched WLP028 Edinburgh Ale yeast, along with yeast nutrient.
The person serving me at the homebrew shop five minutes from my house was amused that I was buying the yeast for myself and not a phantom bearded man waiting at home. Next time I will go to my usual place, The Home Wine, Beer and Cheesemaking Shop in Woodland Hills, about 40 minutes from home (during off-traffic hours).
I placed the pineapple and coconut flavor ingredients in a bag and placed the bag into the bucket.
Time to add the lid, complete with thermowell and airlock.
This little baby went into a temp controlled fermentation chamber/AKA refrigerator, discretely located in my Los Angeles apartment closet.
Special thanks to Chris Banker of The Society of Barley Engineers, my homebrew club in Vista, CA, for the yeast suggestion. And I will always be thankful to Thomas Peters at Belching Beaver in Vista for fermentation vessel management tips (computer fan and Eva-Dry). How will the cider turn out? We'll know in about two weeks or so, about one week into spring.
HomeBrewTalk has published "Tasting Beer: A Primer to Share with Your Wine-Loving Friends." The accompanying article provides an inside look at being a member of the vibrant and generous homebrew community. See the story.
Neva Parker of White Labs, Ryan Sather of Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits, and a conversation with master brewer Bob Mac Kay led to publishing this article on how wily Yeast is planning world domination, published today on HomeBrewTalk. What are you doing to prepare? Is our fate in the hands of gamers?
I used two brewing techniques for squeezing the most aroma and flavor from the hops of this American pale ale: first wort hopping and late wort hopping. First wort hops were added to the kettle immediately after mashing. The balance of the hops were added at 20, 15, 10, 5, 2, and 0 minutes of a 60-minute boil. The hops: Amarillo, Tomahawk, and Simcoe, supported by a rich, malty backbone featuring Maris Otter and Vienna malts. The use of reverse osmosis (RO) water will help me create a clean, refreshing beer to enjoy on these hot post-summer days.
Small batch brewing provides the opportunity to use your vial or smack pack of yeast to create more than one beverage -- in this case, an ale and a cider. Why not use the small batch opportunity to go with a theme (or craze, if you're especially ardent): Belgian Tripel or Octoberfest or . . . the possibilities are endless. Below is a glimpse of the Glow-Throated Belgian Tripel ale that I made on day one and the Royal SunAngel "Belgian Tripel" hard cider that I made on day three. The ale and cider share Wyeast Trappist High Gravity 3787 yeast, along with table sugar, on the list of ingredients. For the cider, I used Trader Joe's flash pasteurized, unfiltered apple juice (find it in the refrigerated section). For those who asked about my cider ingredients: I plan to add a tincture of hand-picked pink peppercorns, coriander seeds, and cinnamon in secondary fermentation to evoke the aroma and flavor of a Belgian Tripel. The ale will rely solely on the yeast for its spicy, fruity character. It makes me purr to think about doing a side-by-side tasting once I get these babies bottled.
Big ciders beguile you to slow down and reflect upon what's good in your life. When sipping an apple wine such as this one will be, I think of my mother and how much she enjoys her brandy at the end of a harrowing day in the entrepreneurial life she shares with my dad. When I made a Belgian Tripel ale a few days ago, I thought it would be fun to concoct a hard cider with a similar vibe. Thus, Royal SunAngel "Belgian Tripel" was born. I placed this baby in the fermentation chamber and active fermentation kicked in within an hour. Hang onto your hat, Peter -- this is a live one!
I realize only now that the saisons I have been brewing were the gateway to the Glow-Throated Belgian Tripel. My first plan of attack was to do market research -- drinking iconic Tripels brewed by the great and lesser masters. And I did some reading up. The drinking was more fun.
As any Dutiful Daughter of Brewing will tell you, there is a heady excitement around researching, via tasting and other means, the beers you plan to brew. To that end, I was forced by Best Practices to explore the Belgian Tripel, which is scheduled to be brewed this week. Peter and I bellied up to the bar at Wurstküche in Venice, California, for the tasting, and ordered up some heavenly sausages, which we slathered with brown mustard, caramelized onions, and sweet peppers. The double-dipped Belgian fries weren't bad either. Life is rough in Los Angeles, where adventurous eating and drinking habits mean a trip to the gym five days a week. Our tasting included Westmalle Tripel, Gouden Carolus, and Chimay White. We plan a return trip to continue the tasting in earnest; a woman's work is never done, and it doesn't hurt to have a buddy who is happy to compare notes with you.
Brewing beer in one-gallon batches is a blast. I can brew as often as I like and the cleanup takes 10 minutes! What's more, this type of granularity in making beer unleashes my baker's frenzy for precision. I give special thanks to my friends, who answer my seemingly hundreds of questions regarding the particulars of small-batch brewing. For this American brown, I plan to use dried mission figs soaked in Bulleit Bourbon. Whenever I use Bourbon, I think of Gwen Conley of Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey, who is a huge influence in my beer adventures.
Homebrewer and recognized beer judge