Does anything say Winter is Over like strawberries? This fruit is a challenge and does not play nice with every beer style, as I have learned from personal experience. When Peter's eyes went round with delight upon being served this beer, I knew I had something going. The first thing you notice is the large, creamy head atop a beer that is the color of a red grapefruit. When you lift the glass, the nose is all strawberry fields. It's tasting bright right now, and the natural tartness of the fruit puts a smile on my face. I'll bring this one to my mother -- she's sure to like it. Is this beer a quick summer fling -- do I have to give my bottles away as quickly as possible before the flavor fades? Right now, it's an aroma bomb. By the way, you might notice my photos have graduated from rural outdoorsy shots to a studio feel -- a reflection of my move from the wilds of Vista, California to Los Angeles. Some say L.A. can be a bit wild too, but where are the coyotes?
The weather report said rain, but I decided to take my chances. Normally I wear shorts and a T-shirt on brew day, as is the prerogative of any self-respecting San Diegan, but today it was pants and a sweatshirt. I'm planning to make several versions of this sessionable beer with the elusive goal of perfection. Some days, especially the chilly ones, I find myself craving dark beer, so I'm happy to get this brown into the cellar. In a fit of optimism, I set out the computer on the porch, as usual, to make copious notes into my brewing software throughout the day. By cleanup time, the brewing equipment and the electronics remained unscathed, and I sent thanks to the brewing goddess, Ninkasi.
"I'm warning you," said the butcher at Tiptop Meats in Vista, "these baby backs are meaty." With mouth watering, I drove home post haste and proceeded to prepare the family meal of baby back ribs with Little Hermit Stout barbecue sauce. An hour later, I looked out out over the street below like a proprietary hawk, and who should drive by slowly -- very slowly, as though waiting to be discovered? Dad and Mom. I ran out to the front porch and beckoned them in. Between you and me, I had meant to invite them a couple of days ago for tonight's dinner but got caught up in the week's drama -- you don't need to know more (unless you invite me over for a beer). Let's just say the ribs with stout sauce, taters and corn on the cob were eaten -- no leftovers.
I'm going to admit it: This brew was challenging from the yeast starter to the brew day to packaging. I call this saison My Runt. Yet, to my utter surprise, the result reveals the heavenly latitude afforded to all homebrewers by the beer goddess Ninkasi. This outcome gives me hope for the potential of Runts everywhere to dominate the world, given time. Blossomcrown has a firm, frothy white head and a glowing orange hue. This beer is a showcase for the Citra hop, with a refreshing, palate-puckering citrusy flavor, balanced by the generous yeasty goodness of Wyeast 3711 French saison yeast. One day, I suppose I will make an undrinkable beer. But not today. I love this beer, My Blossomcrown Citra Saison.
To master temperature control, the Thermapen by ThermoWorks is the most reliable thermometer I've found on the market. This brewhouse tool provides three-second readings, high accuracy and is water resistant. I also use the Thermapen for baking and cooking. If you're looking for a gift for your favorite homebrewer, this is it.
When brewing beer, there is a phenomenon known as a "hot break." During the first few minutes of the boil, foam forms on the surface of the wort in the pot -- and suddenly erupts over the side, if you miss lowering the heat by a few seconds.
A black-chinned hummingbird was my constant companion on this brew day. He took up residence on the front porch brewhouse and was welcome company. Blossomcrown Citra Saison explores the goodness of the Citra hop, prized for its intense citrus and tropical tones. I plan to add a tincture of dried culinary lavender from my backyard at packaging. Wyeast 3711 French Saison is the yeast of choice. With the camera in hand to document the development of the saison, I also captured the brewhouse office, where the specifics of each beer are noted and SOPs are updated. The Jambox is just the ticket for mood music . . . was it my imagination or was the hummingbird was singing along with Stevie Ray Vaughan? Only the hummingbird knows for sure, but I can tell you, he was a talker.
A consultation with Gary Inouye at the Vista Farmers Market, Rodney Kawano Farms, led to the purchase of 22 pounds of primo strawberries. I will use the strawberries for my peanut butter and jelly American brown ale and a wheat beer to be brewed next week. Expert opinions on the use of fruit in beer was proffered by my friends at QUAFF as well as by Chris Barry at Mother Earth. Juli Goldenberg of QUAFF was especially generous with her advice. It took me from seven to eleven o'clock last night to clean, trim, chop and bag the berries, which are now safely tucked away in the freezer. For old school fun, Peter and I had The X Files running. It was the episode where Agent Dana Scully wants to communicate with her deceased father with the help of a man on death row who claims to be a channel. Classic. I want to believe these will be the best beers ever to come out of this Vista, CA brewhouse.
Say hello to my little friend, a spare drill that my father pulled from his garage. I bought the impressive bit to drill a hole in the top of my fermenting bucket so I could install a Thermowell. Now I know exactly what is happening with temperatures during fermentation, thanks to a suggestion from Thomas Peters, Head Brewer at Belching Beaver Brewery. Thanks to Matt Babineau of the Society of Barley Engineers for sharing information on how to accomplish the project. Thanks again, Dad, for the vintage drill.
Ever had a peanut butter and jelly American brown ale? This is it. The use of peanut butter is a tip of the hat to Mother Earth's Sin Tax, the beer that opened my eyes to craft brewing. Here's to having fun with ingredients -- cheers.
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