Aug 25 2010

Kiwi Beer?

Last week at work we ended up with about 50 or so left over kiwis. (It’s for a project we’re working on, don’t ask – besides, we can’t tell yet anyways.) Needless to say, there was a surplus of leftover fruit. So I nabbed a bag and figured I would do what instinctively came first – try to ferment them into alcohol. So I made up a one gallon batch of beer wort (nothing special, just an ale) and added in 10 sliced up kiwis for the last 5 minutes of the boil, just enough time I figure to sterilize them. Then I let them steep for about an hour before removing them. I have no idea how this is going to turn out. I tasted a bit of the wort and it didn’t taste like kiwis, but it did have hints of the sourness. Because of the sugars in the fruit, the expected ABV on this bad boy is 15%. I didn’t have any yeast that could withstand that amount of alcohol at the time, so it should be more around the 12% mark. It’s been a day since I pitched the yeast, and I have to say I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an active fermentation before – bubbles like crazy. Very curious to how this will turn out.

Aug 8 2010

Special Project Series #1: Doritos Style Ale

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a Flash Developer by trade at Firstborn. While working on my last project, I came up with a neat idea. For every project I worked on, I would make a special beer that somehow relates to that project, and upon site launch, the team would celebrate with these unique custom home brews. I recently finished and launched my first project that I decided to do this for. (Actually, it was weeks ago but only recently have we gotten the PR approval to talk about it.)

The first beer in what I am calling the ‘Special Project Series’ was for Doritos. Though the ad agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners, Firstborn created the homepage for, for which I was lead developer on (as well as lead brewer). At first, I had thought about putting actual Doritos into the beer – but that sounds disgusting. I think while cheese and beer pair well together, putting cheese in beer is not a good idea. So instead, I decided to use ingredients that are similar to Doritos.

Since Doritos are corn tortillas, it made sense to add flaked corn into the mash as an adjunct. And since Doritos are deemed a pretty American snack, I also wanted an American barley, so I went with American 6-Row. I also added some Briess Special Roast, which is supposed to impart biscuit and bread-like toasty flavors. For my hops, I went for different hops that had characteristics of Doritos, so I picked ones described as peppery and spicy. The exact hops I chose were Yakima Magnum Pellet Hops (Intensely spicy (black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg), Simcoe Hop Pellets (mahogany/walnut wood aroma), and Argentine Cascade Pellet Hops (spicy, peppery, and herbal lemon grass). Lastly, for choice of yeast I went with Wyeast Belgian Saison, which is used for farmhouse style ales. I also threw in a few peppercorns into the boil.

In the end, it came out pretty damn good. One day after the project launched, I sat down with most of the main team for the project (Jen, our art director, Jason our producer, Francis our Technical Director, and Roushey one of the supporting developers) and we all had a bottle. The beer came out dry, and it did in fact have toasty bread-like flavors. It didn’t seem as spicy as I thought it would, but it was still good. And everyone seemed to really dig it, and that was the most important part. However, picking a beer for Doritos seemed pretty easy. My next/current project, however, might be a little more tricky…

Note: There are some process photos on flickr.

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Jun 14 2010

Homebrew: Smoked Beer (second attempt)

Made another attempt at the smoked beer. I used Golden Promise and Crisp Amber Ale for my grains. I only used a half a cup of the Simpson’s Peated Malt. I chose Argentinian Cascade as my bittering hops, and Chinook and Amarillo for bittering and aroma.  I also used some Irish moss this time as it is supposed to help with clarity. I went with the Scottish Ale yeast, and the expected ABV is 6.0%.

Again, I felt that the smoke flavor and aroma was too strong. I am going to really reduce it next batch – I’m thinking even less than 1/8 of a cup. I guess the flavors imparted by peated malt are really strong.

Jun 14 2010

Homebrew: Catnip Wheat (#3)

I was super excited to try making this beer. I’m not sure where the idea to add catnip to my beer came from, but I think it might have something to do with me trying to figure a way to piss off my cats. Since I knew that catnip could be used to make tea, I figured beer wasn’t too large of a leap. In fact, I found out afterward that this wasn’t a totally original idea. Apparently, monks had once used catnip when the price of hops were too great. I didn’t use catnip in place of hops, but rather in addition.

So here’s what I used for this batch. For grains, I used Bohemian Pilsner Malt and Golden Promise, which I’ve been using for almost every batch now. I also used a little bit of flaked wheat. I learned that when using wheat in the mash, I needed to add some extra water and pay more attention to it, stirring it more often. For hops, I choose Chinook and Amarillo, and of course added in some fresh catnip. I made sure to add the catnip towards the end of the boil, but I think next time I would add half at where I did (the 0:40 mark) and then steep the rest right after the boil. Finally, I used a Belgian Strong Ale yeast. The expected ABV for this beer is 7.5%.

The result is that I am extremely happy with this beer. In fact, this is my best one yet. There’s really no taste of catnip, and next time I am going to add a lot more, but at the same time I don’t want that to be the focus of the beer. The wheat actually seems to add some nice weight, especially paired with the Strong Ale yeast (if it’s not apparent yet I do like heavier ABV beers).

May 7 2010

Homebrew: Bel-Gin Strong

Cracked open a bottle of one of my Bel-Gin Strong beers, which was made from a kit from Brooklyn Brew Shop. As I’ve mentioned before, they make really kick ass kits. Not only are the recipes interesting, but they come with high quality ‘real’ ingredients (actual grain, not extracts). Not to mention the instructions are really well written and have nice packaging design.

The Bel-Gin Strong came out really well, I was very happy with it. It has a very heavy mouth feel, and a very intense taste. It’s actually pretty sweet, and the coriander and juniper berries impart a nice flavor. I think I would actually do this kit again, and recommend it to other brewers. I think I might have over carbonated it, as you can see in the picture below there’s quite a head on it. I think I need to go a little easier with the honey from here on out. Luckily I haven’t had any bottle explosions (yet).

Apr 25 2010

Beer #2

For my second beer, I wanted to try something a little different. I wanted to try making a lighter smoked beer, also known as ‘Rauchbier.’ I noticed that Midwest Supplies sold a peated malt, described as: “While the malt is in the kiln, peat moss outside the kiln is gently smoked over slow burning coals, allowing its vapors to drift above the malt.” This sounded intriguing, so I figured I would throw some in.

  • 2 parts Simpson’s Golden Promise
  • 1 part Crisp Amber Malt
  • 1 part Peated Malt
  • Chinook Hops
  • Amarillo Hops
  • Scottish Ale Wyeast W1728

Overall, the beer came out just okay, but better than I was expecting. It a dark amber, slightly cloudy. It also seemed a little off-color, not sure why, maybe it had something to do with the hops. I had an obviously smokey , campfire aroma, mixed in with earthy woody smells. On tasting it, I thought the smokey flavor was a little too powerful. It’s probably good for a smoked beer, but I was trying for something a little less intense. However, underneath the smoke it was a nice, crisp ale. If it weren’t for the smoke, it would be a nice, refreshing brew, and it had a nice hoppy bite to it. The carbonation seemed low, so next time a little more honey before bottling it. I think I will revisit this recipe, both one without any of the peated malt, and one with the amount used either halved or quartered.

Apr 6 2010

Beer #1


First of all, I’m getting my grains, yeast, and hops from Midwest Supplies. The Brooklyn Brew Shop has some of the best kits around, and I’m currently anxiously awaiting an order of Bel-Gin Strong from them, so if you’re new to this (like I am) then you should check them out.

The Recipe

So this is my first beer. I say that in the sense that this is the first beer I’ve brewed that is my own ‘recipe.’ I want to use the term recipe lightly, as I pretty much just picked malts, hops, and yeast that I thought would go good together based on their description. So here’s what I used to make one gallon of my very first beer:

  • Golden Promise (Simpson’s) – 2 lbs
  • Roasted Barley (Simpson’s) – 2 lbs
  • Northdown Pellet Hops ~0.5 oz
  • Belgian Strong Ale Wyeast W1388

The Golden Promise sounded good to me, which is why I decided to use it as a base and starting point for my malt.

Simpsons bring you this barley traditionally grown in Scotland. Golden Promise is very versatile, and may be used in many ales and lagers as it produces a sweet and clean wort. An integral ingredient in Scottish ales and lagers. Great base malt for UK and American IPAs.

I got the roasted barley as I wanted to add some color and chocolate and coffee flavors. I intended to really only use a handful, but ended up using half of the 1 lb bag. The hops also seemed to be a good overall pick, and the Belgian strong yeast was picked for it’s ability to produce higher ABV beers. I’ll admit it, I like a beer with hotness to it that gives you a kick.

The Result

First things first, something crazy happened here. I made exploding beer. The bottles didn’t explode, but every time  I open one of the Grolsch swing tops beer comes spurting out. Most of the bottle ends up as head. I don’t know why, I guess over carbonation maybe from using too much honey before bottling. But once in a glass, it’s delicious.

The color is extremely dark, on a scale of 1-10 it’s defiantly a 10. The head is, as mentioned, very thick from tiny bubbles and is a dark tan. The aroma is actually kind of sweet and fruity, but mostly smells like chocolate. The beer is defiantly hoppy, but the main flavor is coffee. Since when I open the bottles they more or less go volcanic, all the sediment from the bottom gets all kicked up. The result is there is a definite yeasty/woody taste. Despite the semi-sweet aroma, the beer is dry.

So in conclusion, it was a good first beer. Maybe a little too dry for my liking, but it has a good stout taste. Unlike many stouts, it doesn’t have an acidic quality to it. And I like the chocolate-coffee flavor, next time I would ease up on the roasted malt.