The State of my Homebrew: June 2011

I started homebrewing again last June after a two-year hiatus.  I was lucky to inherit a friend’s brewing equipment (thanks, Bill!) and I’m fortunate to have a shared backyard and basement and awesome neighbors here in Brooklyn.  I’m attracted to homebrewing for a few reasons – it’s a lot of fun, it lets me use some of the science I learned back in undergrad & grad school and I can make weird/unusual/challenging beers.  Brewing is really a wonderful combination of science and creativity.  I truly love all beer – there’s nothing like a crisp pilsner in the summer or a lush coffee porter in the winter but I’m most excited by the weird.  All those crazy Short’s beers, that Mamma Mia pizza beer, and pretty much any beer made with basil or lavender (the Bruery’s Trade Winds and Empire’s White Aphro come to mind).  And then there’s the sours and the smokes – my two favorite styles right now.  So that’s mostly what I brew.  I’m fascinated with the wild bugs and unusual styles – and smoke, I’m all about the smoke right now.  I’m going to try and include my homebrewing adventures more often on the blog but here’s a snapshot of my cellar on May 22, 2011 to get started:

IMG_2191Back row, left to right:

  • Belgian Golden Strong (on floor) – recipe – Half of a 5-gallon batch that went berserk.  Went to 10.2% in the first 2 weeks of fermentation.  Yep, it was a little warm and I nicknamed it “Big Banana”.  I bottled half and dosed the rest with dregs from 2 bottles of Orval.  The banana character has eased off and it’s probably ready to bottle.
  • Belgian Blonde fermented with 1388 & mixed dregs starter (3 gallon) – recipe – my first time making a starter from dregs (collected at a BBQ given by Patrick Donagher).  I need to taste this one again but it’s probably going to be blended at some point.
  • Low-ABV wheat to blend with smoked sour
  • Smoked ale made w/house-smoked malt – Brewed for the 2011 National Homebrewers Conference – currently in a keg at Stone Brewery in Escondido awaiting my arrival in San Diego on Wednesday.  The NYCHG/WHO shipped out 21 kegs to pour at NHC!  I’m doing a poster presentation on the Let’s Get Smoked! session and made this beer to serve alongside.  Man, I hope it’s good.  First beer brewed with house-smoked malt.
  • Second running beer brewed with Ron Carlson with Bruery Hottenroth dregs added – need to check on this one.
  • Smoked beer brewed with Chris Cuzme for NHC – Also in Escondido.  Brewed to pour at Club Night at NHC 2011.
  • Smoked sour – recipe – a smoked wheat I brewed to throw on my Berliner Weisse cake.  Intended to be a strong lichtenhainer.  And it pretty much is – very sour, decently smoky.  To be blended with hopes of 10 gallons of a lichtenhainer-style beer.

Front row, left to right:

  • non-hopped ginger ale from Strong Waters book (1 gallon) – story – I’ve been a slacker in not bottling this one.  Might not be good – will taste soon.
  • Spinach wine (1 gallon) – story – this tastes surprisingly good.  It’s a little sweet and I need to toss in some more champagne yeast.
  • Belgian amber with wild yeast from backyard raspberries in secondary (1 gallon) – recipe – might be a drain pour, need to taste again
  • Belgian amber with Jolly Pumpkin La Roja dregs in secondary (3 gallon) – recipe – pretty good but might need to be blended to be its best.
  • Belgian amber with kombucha scoby added in secondary (1 gallon) – recipe – might be a drain pour, need to taste again
  • Belgian amber with fresh guava added in secondary (1 gallon) – recipe – might be a drain pour, need to taste again
  • Belgian Blonde fermented with 1388 & a Jolly Pumpkin Luciernaga dregs starter – recipe – the other half of the Belgian Blonde from above.  I added Organic dried apricots and a cup of Red Jacket Orchards Apricot Stomp in February.  Currently delicious except (and this is a big except) for the diacetyl in the nose.  Guessing it’s from Pedio and hoping that Brett will clean it up.  Need to re-taste and decide if I want to add fresh Brett.
  • Belgian Blonde fermented with a mixed Captain Lawrence dregs starter – I bottled the other half which I had fermented with Ithaca Brute & Russian River Salvation dreg starter.  This was the first batch I fermented entirely with starters from dregs (collected at Warren Becker’s Funky Belgian tasting last summer).  I added jarred Polish sour cherries (drained) and 1 cup of Red Jacket Orchards Cherry Stomp in February.  Same tasting notes as the beer above – freaking good except the diacetyl nose.
  • Generic pale to blend with something (probably one of the Blonde 1388s but I need to taste them again to be sure)
  • Peppercorn saison brewed with Ron Carlson that funked – recipe – yep, supposed to be a clean peppercorn saison but went awry.  In a good way – this one tastes really interesting and I love it.  Bottled last weekend – will taste in a week or two.


  • Gose-ish – this one went awry as well.  I totally undershot gravity (argh) and ended up with much more salt & coriander than was probably drinkable.  So I added some LME, which completely screwed up the color (it was the loveliest straw color) but saved it.  It wasn’t sour but developed a lacto pellicle (at least that’s what I’m guessing it is) sometime in mid May and is currently enjoying the warmer climes of my apartment.  Need to taste again soon but this might turn into a very nice beer.  Drinkable, at the very least.
  • So, that’s it for right now.  I’m a pretty lasse faire brewer but I’m having a lot of fun and making some very tasty beers.  I’m off to LA tonight to sail around Catalina Island for three days aboard the Resolute.  Then to San Diego for NHC – I’m so excited!!!!  I’m going to try to blog from there but am not sure how much time (& motivation depending on how much beer I drink).  More when I return for sure.  Cheers!


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