Freezer pr0n

Freezer pr0n

As seems to be the constant since starting brewing, my weekends have become consumed by beer.

Saturday I attended a party put on by one of the homebrewers I know in Japan. There were only six homebrewers there (plus friends and partners) but amongst us six was the winner of the Japanese homebrewer of the year (or “Grand champion sumo wrestler” as Excite translated his title) and a guy who worked in one of Japan’s craft breweries until it closed last year.

I took along three of my beers for them to try and get feedback on.

The first was my All Fuggles Bitter, the only beer than I’m proud of. Unfortunately it was cracked open after drinking a seriously hoppy IPA (similar to my Unpredicatble PA) and consumption of an awesome chili (which I completely failed to get the recipe for), so the only comments I received were “I can’t taste anything”. Bitter – real bitter, not Best or ESB – is light and consumed at room temperature and as such just couldn’t compete with those flavours. It was stupid to crack it open then. I was gutted at the reaction.

The second was Flasher. General opinion wasn’t that Simcoe is overpowering, but that fermenting at room temperature (mid 20’s) with the yeast I’m using (UK S-04) is causing the overly fruity flavour. The guys suggested better controlling fermentation temperature and/or switching to US-05.

The third beer I didn’t even open. Fuggles was supposed to show people I could make a decent beer, and it failed. Flasher clearly wasn’t up to standard, as I’m not even happy with it. And the last time I met those guys and let them taste my first three beers, they obviously were not good (being my first three beers ever). I just felt too ashamed to bring out another and subject them to my sub-standard crap, especially when there was such other great beer on offer. When no-one was looking I surreptitiously took the bottles of my third beer out of the freezer and packed them away in my bag (so no-one would drink them accidently).

It’s clear to me now that I need to focus my attentions on temperature and yeast. I need to keep a constant fermentation temperature in the right range and I need to work out which yeasts are good for me. What’s the point of my having spent a fortune on a hops, grain, a kegerator, kegs, and all that jazz if I’m not able to achieve perfection? Yeah, I like (some of) my beers but there’s only so much of watching other people desperately wishing they hadn’t poured my beer that I can take.

On the positive side, this is the kind of thing that drives me on. I’m the worst critic of myself, and despite being in this game for less than three months, I’m judging myself by the best of the best in Japan. It’s through watching and learning from masters that you succeed, so this can only help me, even though it is painful.

Sunday was bottling, kegging, and dry hopping day.

Mid way through fermentation, Orange Wheat tasted little of coriander or orange, but yesterday it tasted very strongly of orange – almost to the “feck me” level. So I decided to rack it to a keg, leaving behind all the orange peel and coriander in the process. I then boiled a teabag of 20g of cracked coriander seeds with 200ml of water, and after a few minutes boiling, added the water and teabag to the keg. That should balance out the orange taste.

Lagunitas IPA and Unpredictable JPA, I bottled 6 x 330ml of each and then dry hopped. Lagunitas OG 1.079, FG 1.017; Unpredictable OG 1.053, FG 1.009.

Lagunitas was to be dry hopped with 10.5g each of Centennial and Cascade for 3 US G. I had 2.1G left after bottling so scaled down 10.5 / 3 * 2.1 to give roughly 7g each.

JPA was due to be dry hopped with 5.5g each of Amarillo and Centennial. I screwed up and ended up dry hopping with 3g each of Cascade, Centennial, and Amarillo. Since all three hops were used for flavouring and aroma, I don’t think it’s a major disaster. Again, I had less than the full 3G left so didn’t use as much as the 11g suggested for 3G.

Conventional wisdom of homebrewers states that you should dry hop for 1-2 weeks – but I’ve recently found out that some commercial brewers, including Lagunitas, dry hop only for 4 days. I’m convinced that Flasher tasted better after half a week dry hopping than the full week, so I’ll be monitoring this dry hopping closely, probably bottling most after 4 days and a few after 5-6 days. When it’s finished, I’ll have versions of Lagunitas and JPA with and without dry hopping – it will be a great way to taste and smell the difference dry hopping makes.

Speaking of hop experiments, the Anchor Liberty Ale Educational Clone is almost done and it has a pretty strong Cascade taste, despite only having a 60m bittering addition. It just goes to show that not everything you read (I’m thinking of “doesn’t matter which hop you use for bittering since the original flavour of the hop ia almost lost” type comments) should be believed verbatim. Anchor should be done fermentation in the next few days – again I’ll be bottling some and dry hopping the rest. It tastes good so far.

Right now I’m thinking about how I’m going to achieve consistent fermentation temperatures. I know I can use my fridge to ferment at lager temperatures of 9 degrees, but that will only allow me to ferment one lager, and wont work for ales. I’m strongly considering buying the freezer I saw at the party at the weekend (currently on special at Labi) and a temperature controller and throwing it in the space the ironing board currently occupies. Total cost to wallet: 40,000 yen. Enhancement to beer making skills: priceless.

Advertisements