10 February 2009

What's This? A Homebrew Post from Perm??

Don't let the e-silence fool you. St. Cecilia brewing has been at work and it's time for some updates.

I. The Big Quad

My Asheville buddy JT Southbound and I have collaborated on a clone brew of proportions that, if not quite epic, are at least horizon-stretching for both of us. I refer to a homebrewing take on the illustriously famed Westvleteren Trappist 12, courtesy of my beloved book Beer Captured

Westvleteren is the smallest of the seven brew-producing Trappist monasteries (Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, de Koningshoeven, Westmalle, Achelse Kluis, Westvleteren), yet produces arguably the most sought-after and highly regarded beer of them all.  They also don't export their product -- it is officially for sale only at two locations, the monastery itself and a small pub across the road.   In my personal cellar, I do proudly claim a single bottle of a Westy yellow-cap (the "12") which I'm hoarding fiercely.

Our homebrew version deviates ever so slightly from the printed recipe, but certainly maintains the spirit and overall effect of the Abbey Quadrupel. It breaks down like this (you can see where we slightly modified the recipe to make it our own):

1 lb Cara-Munich malt (recipe: 18 oz)
1 lb Belgian Biscuit malt (recipe: 8 oz Belgian aromatic; 7 oz Belgian biscuit)
4 oz Special B malt 
4 oz British Chocolate malt (recipe: 2 oz)

3 lb Extra Light DME
1 lb Pilsen XL DME
6.6 lb XL LME (recipe: 10.75 lb XL DME; we had 10.6 total)

1 lb light candi sugar
4 oz turbinado sugar (recipe: 4 oz Amber candi)
6 oz Malto-dextrin

1 oz Organic NZ Hallertau hops (AA 7%): flavor/aroma
1.25 oz Cascade hops (5.9% AA): bittering (recipe: Styrian Goldings)
1 oz Irish moss

White Labs Bastogne Ale yeast

We ended up a bit closer to 6 gallons than 5, which lowered the OG from the projected 1105 down to about 1085.  The final gravity was right where it needed to be, around 1020 or so, so our estimated ABV is more along the lines of 9.1% than the hoped-for 10.6.  Still, formidable and nothing to shake an asperges at.  Plus, more bottles for us.

But I get ahead of myself....we brewed on December 19, then JT transferred it over to secondary on Dec.27.  There it sat and happily did its thing until February 4, when JT pitched a second dose of the same yeast strain (captured at the time of racking) and got it chugging again.  On the 6th, we reconvened, threw in the priming sugar (I believe it was corn sugar), and bottled away, mostly in corked 750 mL Belgian bottles (it only seemed fitting). Each of us made off with half the batch.

Now the great waiting game begins. We agreed to not break any out until we were together again, provisionally looking at mid-March for the first sampling. These bad boys should be good to go until at least 2012, though!  

On my end of things, for St. Cecilia purposes I'm calling it "Notker Balbulus Stammerer Quadrupel Ale"  -- managing to squeeze in another mostly-appropriate double entendre. Notker of St. Gall was a late-9th/early-10th century Benedictine monk and composer/theorist who was known as Balbulus, or the Stammerer. He's also one of the very earliest Western composers for whom we have both a name and surviving music connected with that name (900AD!)  Great name for a strong Quad, if you ask me -- too much of this and you're sure to be stammering!  I also was pleased to find a monastic composer (I know, Benedictine, not Cistercian -- are we going to split hairs here??) for this tribute brew. 

contemplating the proper hop additions?

II. RVW's Down Ampney Coffee Porter

The December brew is, actually, almost all gone!  It was a wonderful success and the fact that there are just a handful of bottles left is testament to that. I will say, a mere ounce of coarse-ground beans added to the wort went a LONG way. I could have done a half ounce and it still would have been plenty coffee for the end result. I'm glad I didn't follow my initial hunch and and more during the secondary. 

III. Pisgah Pale Clone, Take Two

My November batch was to be a rendering of Hops & Vines' Pisgah Pale Ale clone recipe, which (as reported) went strangely south.  I've kept the bottles, and a recent tasting suggested to me that all *might* not be lost, but I'm going to let them sit for a good 6 months before I try any again. Odds are, there's no salvaging.  

I thought this kit had so much potential for greatness, though, I just had to try again. So, in the fermenter now is the seedling of my Swannanoa Appalachian Pale Ale.

It varies most significantly from both the source kit and the November attempt in that I'm using a second-generation batch of the same Bastogne Ale yeast from the Stammerer Quad. This will mark the first time that I've brewed using saved yeast from a previous batch. (If all goes according to plan, I'll use this yeast yet again next month in my projected Saison.) 

So, what we'll have is an American Pale Ale with a decidedly Belgian twist, which I am inclined to think will be nothing short of lovely. 

Here's the bill:

1 lb. Crystal malt (60 L)
1 lb. Munich malt

6 lbs. Gold LME
1 lb. Gold DME

1 oz Chinook hops (bittering)
1 oz Cascade hops (bittering)
1 oz Chinook hops (aroma/flavor)
1 oz Cascade hops (aroma/flavor)

1 tsp Irish Moss

Bastogne Ale Yeast (2nd Generation, harvested from December 19th brewing)

I may or may not dry hop at the end of the process; I'll leave that to my mood come secondary time.  The Original Gravity was 1050, so as long as there's a good yeast feeding frenzy we should be on track for something in the 6% department.
I also did something a bit different this time in that I added more water to the boil -- 3 1/2 gallons, as opposed to my usual 2 or 2 1/2. I'm hoping this will result in a greater depth of character in the end result.

08 February 2009

Our Founding Fathers, the Separatists

And now, an important note on our American history, from thestraightdope.com:

Dear Cecil:

Is it true the
Mayflower landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620 because the ship ran out of beer? I have been told that barrels of beer were the most voluminous and important item in the hold because water couldn't stay drinkable on a ship for that long.

— James C., Massachusetts

You heard right, more or less: The Mayflower colonists decided to settle at Plymouth because they were running low on beer. In an age when so many have lost their moral compass, it's comforting to know that people in the old days had their priorities straight.

Pretty much everything you think you know about the Pilgrims is wrong (including their being called Pilgrims--that term didn't catch on until centuries later), so it's not surprising the beer angle slipped under the radar. Here's the story, assembled with the help of my doughty research assistant Bibliophage:

On November 9, 1620 [November 19 by modern reckoning], after 64 days at sea, the Mayflower sighted Cape Cod. You may inquire: What sort of idiot would sail across the north Atlantic at the height of storm season? The voyagers probably asked themselves the same question. They'd initially left Southampton, England, in August, but one of their two ships, the Speedwell, sprang a leak. Repair attempts failed, and by the time the travelers had consolidated themselves on the Mayflower, a month had passed. Then they spent an extra couple weeks under sail due to bad weather, arriving just in time for winter. That was problem one.

Problem two was that Cape Cod was not where the colonists were supposed to be. Their patent from the Virginia Company of London authorized them to establish a plantation between 38 and 41 degrees north latitude; the tip of Cape Cod was just north of 42 degrees. The group dutifully attempted to sail south, but shoals and contrary winds kiboshed that idea. Some now spoke of splitting up. Contrary to what we imagine, the colonists weren't united by religion. Of the 102 passengers, around 40 were Separatists (i.e., separated from the Church of England), a like number were regular folks recruited by the London merchants who underwrote the expedition, and the balance were hired men, servants, and so on. Finding themselves at odds in a legal no-man's-land, the colonists drafted the Mayflower Compact. The 41 who signed it on November 11 included no women but were otherwise pretty cool, consisting of Seps and non-Seps, masters and servants, all bound by the realization that has animated every republic since: If we don't stick together we're wolf chow.

The question remained exactly where the colonists should set up shop. Looking at the map now, you'd think a little bird would have twittered: Boston! You can found Boston! Apparently not. The choice came down to someplace called Anguum (probably near the present town of Ipswich), or else what the ship's navigator called "Thievish Harbor," in the direction of what's now known as Plymouth Bay. The latter being closer, the colonists headed there and found the location promising, in part because the land had been cleared earlier by Native American farmers who then conveniently died due to European-borne pestilence. The voyagers weren't disposed to be fussy: "We could not now take time for further search or consideration, our victuals being much spent, especially our beer, and it being now the 19th of December" (Mourt's Relation, 1622, commonly attributed to colonists William Bradford and Edward Winslow). Plymouth it was.

Beer was a dietary mainstay in those days. Chances are the beverage in question was "ship's beer," a not-very-alcoholic concoction that, along with the even weaker "small beer," was drunk in formidable quantities during the colonial era (upwards of a quart per day seems to have been a typical ration). Undoubtedly an advantage was that, unlike more perishable foodstuffs, ship's beer would keep during long voyages and, having been boiled, was likely purer than ordinary water.

The colonists used up their beer by Christmas. At first the ship's captain gave them a little out of the crew's supply, but when sickness, possibly scurvy, began felling the travelers (about half died that first winter), things got ugly. "As this calamity fell among the passengers that were to be left here to plant, and were hasted ashore and made to drink water that the seamen might have the more beer, and one in his sickness desiring but a small can of beer, it was answered that if he were their own father he should have none" (Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation, circa 1650). The captain relented when his own men began getting sick too, evidently not wanting it to be known to history that, in addition to being late, lost, etc, he was the SOB who hogged the beer.

Source: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2625/did-the-pilgrims-land-on-plymouth-rock-because-they-ran-out-of-beer, accessed 2/8/09.

07 February 2009

Thinking local

What is Brooklyn Local 1?

Let us begin with the caption on the bottle:
In Williamsburg, Brooklyn, we forge barley malt and hops from Germany, aromatic raw sugar from Mauritius, and yeast from Belgium into Brooklyn Local 1. Behind the golden color, find a dynamic complex of flavors, Belgian flair, Brooklyn fortitude, and a dusting of yeast after 100% bottle re-fermentation. Enjoy it locally or globally, as an aperitif or with your favorite dishes.
Now, a quotation from The New York Times:
Steve Hindy, the president and cofounder of the brewery, said he and the brewmaster, Garrett Oliver, “had always been fascinated by Belgian-style beers and knew we could produce them here” — here being North 11th Street, within sight of the Williamsburg waterfront. In the eight-week process, the ale comes out of fermentation tanks flat and is allowed to ferment again in the bottle.1
And what of the result? Read on, brothers-in-beer.

It comes out of the bottle golden, almost exactly apricot-colored, with terrific carbonation, and pours up a bodacious head.

The nose is very yeasty and hits all the right notes for a saison (even if I am drinking it in February and not at the late summer harvest, as is customary).

In the mouth, it's malty and dry, with citrus (orange) notes, honey, some spices. When cool, it has a nice long finish. Nothing surprising, if you know your Belgians, but a very solid composition within the style.

It is also 9% ABV and comes in a 750 mL bottle, so if you're not careful it will take you to school.

Stay tuned: Brooklyn Local 2 comes out this month.

1. http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/11/03/a-trademark-dispute-brewed-in-a-bottle/