Softland Aleworks

Big Beers Brewed in a Tiny House

Month: August, 2012

August Update

Things have been pretty busy in our brewing world:  

We brewed an Oud Bruin a number of months ago, which is in secondary and souring nicely.  I had some issues with the ECY yeast getting stuck around the 1.040’s, but this was totally my fault, as I let the yeast sit in the fridge for far too long before using it.  I decided to pitch a starter of Wyeast Abbey II that I had lying around, in hopes of finishing out the rest of fermentation. After a long, slow primary, it has finally dropped down to where it needs to be.  Now to let the bugs do their work for another year or so, and maybe add a bit of oak for the last month, then bottle it up.  Sour beers are a lot of commitment, but (I imagine) when they finally turn out, the work produces a truly special beer.  And if they don’t, you can always give them another year or two!


We also did a Barleywine earlier in the summer, which sat on oak for about a month, has since been bottled, and is conditioning.  Unfortunately, we had two bottle bombs a week ago and so I rushed to get the rest of the batch into the fridge to prevent any more.  I am not sure what caused this to happen — inconsistent priming sugar distribution? an infection in those bottles?  I opened another bottle after chilling it for a few days, and it tasted fine amazing.  It may be the best beer I have made so far.  The oak is just where I want it, and I am anticipating those dark fruit notes from the malt developing as it ages.  I am planning this to be an annual brew, and will hang on to a number of bottles of each “vintage” to compare in coming years (assuming they don’t blow up first!).

All Grain Gear

We have a batch of Northern Brewer’s Dead Ringer IPA that we ordered during their IPA day sale, which we are getting ready to dry hop.  The real news, however, is that we have officially made the jump to AG!  After slowly accumulating the extra gear, we brewed our first batch last night — a Special Bitter that we did Brew-in-a-Bag style.  After some initial assembly frustrations, we had a great summer evening brew session, hitting our numbers, and getting about 73% efficiency — not bad!  I did make the rookie mistake of walking away during the mash and letting the temp fall to around 145F (from 152F), but I am not overly concerned.  It will take a few batches to dial in this new system, but it was a great first brew!

The recipe we brewed was based on Jamil Zainasheff’s from Brewing Classic Styles, with some deviation based on available ingredients and personal taste:

8 lbs Maris Otter
5 oz Crystal 120L
3 oz Crystal 90L
4 oz Special Roast

1 oz EKG (60)
0.5 oz Fuggles (60)
0.5 oz EKG (20)
0.5 oz EKG (1)

WLP023 – Burton Ale

Coming up, we will be brewing a Dogfish Head Punkin’ Ale clone, doing some tasting notes on the Gluten-Free brew we did a while back, and other assorted shenanigans.  Stay tuned!


Belgian Table Beer

It should come as no surprise to hear that I adore Belgian ales.  I love the depth of flavor, the spicy clove, the estery yeast character, the diversity among the styles, and (last, but not least) the fact that these yeast strains excel at high temperatures.  So far we’ve brewed ten beers since first getting our beginner’s kit in early 2012. Four of those have been Belgians.

The inspiration for this, my first stab at an original recipe, was two-fold. Upon reading Phil Markowski’s Farmhouse Ales, I was taken with the idea of a beer that had every bit as much character as some of the classic saisons, but with about half (or less) the ABV — a more traditional take on the classic style. I was envisioning something that you could serve with just about any meal — a table beer — that would be exceedingly quaffable.  The second inspiration came in the form of Jester King’s Le Petit Prince, which provided me with a concrete example.  I knew that the challenge would be to create a beer with enough of a flavor profile that it wouldn’t be boring or taste watered down, but that would remain crisp, refreshing, and not too boozy.  Le Petit Prince describes this to a tee.

This recipe was left intentionally simple and indeed borrows a bit from the Jester King recipe: 6# Extra Pale LME; 1# Flaked Wheat; 8oz. Caramunich; 1.5oz EKG (60); 1oz Styrian Goldings (60); .25oz EKG (15); .25oz EKG (5); Wyeast 3711.

OG: 1.042
FG:  1.004
ABV: 4.9%

Appearance: A lovely hazy orange color, with a nice head on it.

Smell: The aroma hop addition was not enough to do anything — I just had a little extra hops sitting around and figured, “Why not?” In hindsight I should have just done a .5oz flavor addition.  Nonetheless, on the nose, I get a lot of Belgian esters — just what you would expect!

Taste: The simplicity of this recipe was intended to really showcase the yeast — I wanted to see what the 3711 could do (besides attenuate like crazy).  The bitterness is just where I want it; as to flavor, however, there is really a minimal profile, the yeast is definitely the dominant player.  I am tempted in future incarnations to add some spices or more/different hops for flavor; however, my real intention with this beer was to make a “small,” refreshing Belgian — I think things could very quickly spiral out of control, leaving me with a big saison on my hands. But, then again, there are worse problems.

Notes: I was initially a bit disappointed with this recipe, not because anything was “off” (it would be hard to screw this one up), but just because I was nonplussed by it. It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t good. It was just a petit beer. However, I think that has more to do with my recent tendencies towards big, bold styles.  I have been drinking this beer for about 6 weeks now, and I have to admit, it has grown on me tremendously. Perhaps it has come into its own; or, then again, perhaps my pallet has just come around.

Lastly, a note regarding brewing with flaked wheat: Something that I did not know at the time, but I have since learned is that flaked wheat must be mashed with base malt in order for the enzymatic conversion to take place. So my use of the ingredient in this case was null. However, this knowledge (useful though it is) is somewhat moot, as (I am very excited to say) we are making the jump to all grain brewing (via Brew-in-a-Bag) this month!