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American Wheat Wine

Last fall I bought two 15 gallon fresh dumped whiskey barrels from a local distillery.   I brewed a huge Wee Heavy for the Rye Barrel and a re-brew of the first beer I ever homebrewed – an Imperial Stout.   After this I refilled one with cider and one with oatmeal stout.  After that sadly I was too busy to refill and both ended up in my garage with holding solution for almost a year.   Terrible.

This fall I finally had time to brew big batches to fill both of them back up.   I wanted to speed things up this time, so rather than having multiple brew days for a single batch, I decided to augment my mash with DME, allowing me to brew up 15 gallons of beer at a respectable 1.10+ OG.    At the Bell’s Homebrew pick-up I won a door prize, an hefeweizen extract kit.   I’m not much for hefeweizen.  But, it had a ton of wheat DME in it, so it seemed like the perfect excuse to brew up a big old American Wheat Wine.

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Beeritos – How 4lbs of Doritos ended up in my mash.

So the inspiration for this beer came from the Experimental Brewing podcast and an interview they did with Bainbridge Brewing.  Locally there is a ‘StrangeBrews’ festival which local breweries try to one up each other with wacky beers.   Among the strange beers they’ve made for the festival included one called ‘Beeritos’ which was brewed with 30% cool ranch Doritos.   Essentially it’s a cream ale where all the corn comes from Doritos.

There was enough information in the podcast to easily formulate a clone recipe.   I counted the Doritoes as ‘flaked corn’ in beersmith and scaled up until they accounted for 30% of the mash.  The rest of the beer is apparently 100% 2-row according to the brewer, which fits the profile for a cream ale.   For an original gravity of a typical cream ale (1.048) that means you need about 4 party size bags (15.7 oz) of Cool Ranch Doritos.

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Hipster Ale

“This is a beer that gives more and more as it warms, I’m giving top marks.  The warm malt flavors balanced gorgeously with the secret ingredients.  Maybe a bit more hibiscus? Otherwise awesome.” – Michigan Iron Brewer Judge

The “mystery” ingredient is dried hibiscus flowers and ginger.  I can’t say I came up with this combination for a beer, it was forced on me at the Michigan Iron Brewer competition this summer.  Turned out to be a great beer and got high marks from the judges.  The one similar comment from the feedback was that the hibiscus was a bit muted compared to the ginger.  I really enjoyed the beer though, so I started planning to re-brew it and decided to give it a shot again when Bell’s Annual Homebrew Competition came around a few months later.  (more…)

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Chasing infection – The 100% disposable fermentor

Over the past year I’ve had great success adopting Fermware’s lined plastic buckets system for easing cleaning and ensuring that the fermentation environment is always sanitary.   It’s served me well and really cut a ton of time on clean-up out. Plus I love the peace of mind of working primarily with plastic buckets rather than potentially dangerous glass carboys.  However, this past fall I fermented some unpasteurized cider in some of my buckets and I believe at this point I have a wild yeast that’s migrated into a few of my bucket lids.   This to several batches that used these lids becoming inadvertently infected.   Because the infection seemed so inconsistent it was tough to track down, but I think at this point it’s isolated to the lids. (more…)

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Peach Cobbler Holiday Ale

Over the course of the past 6 months this beer went from disappointing to a fairly fun holiday beer.   Originally it was conceived by my wife as part of a double batch of wheat beer.  Having never brewed a wheat beer we set out with a fairly simple base recipe to brew a double batch which we would then split and each handle differently in secondary.   My half was to become something along the lines of a Sam Adam’s Cherry Wheat (didn’t work out, it’s way over cherry and still in the carboy) and she set out to make a Lavender Peach Ale.   Neither half worked out as expected, I think in part because the base beer wasn’t strong enough to hold up against the aggressive fruit additions we chose.

This along with a recent stout recipe we brewed have proven to be valuable lessons in how blending additional flavors after fermentation can turn a mediocre beer that missed the mark into something truly special.   I’ve personally enjoyed this process a great deal recently since I want work further with creating blended sour beers and this gives me what I feel is a bit of practice exercising a similar skill. (more…)