A Brewer’s Four-Pack

Is it over yet? Winter, I mean? This last day of March it is 45° here on the hill, overcast, but the sap is running the best it has so far. And we are awaiting the arrival of another nor’easter, expecting 5 – 10” of wet snow overnight. No, I didn’t take the month off from brewing, far from it. Today’s brew is actually my fifth of the month, including my annual batch of maple mead. I’ve just been lazy about writing and posting. So here, all at once, are my last four beers brewed.

March 3, 2011 – “Red 57” Irish Ale

Ingredients:

  • 1/8 lb. roasted barley
  • pinch peat-smoked malt
  • 8 lbs. Maris Otter pale malt
  • 1/2 lb. 145°L crystal malt
  • 1/2 lb. malted wheat
  • 1/4 lb. Belgian Special B malt
  • 1 oz. Challenger hop pellets (7% aa)
  • 1/2 oz. First Gold hop pellets (8% aa)
  • 1/2 oz. Bramling Cross hop pellets (5% aa)
  • White Labs Irish Ale yeast (WLP004)
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar for priming

Procedure:

Crush grains. Heat 13 quarts water to 167°F. Mash in grains and hold at 155° for 60 minutes. Heat another 15 quarts water to 170°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collecting 25 quarts sweet wort. Bring to boil. Boil 30 minutes without hops, to develop color and caramel flavors. Add Challenger hops, boil 30 minutes. Add First Gold hops, boil 25 minutes. Add Bramling Cross hops, boil 5 more minutes (total of 60 with hops, 90 overall) and remove from heat. Chill to 80°F, take a hydrometer reading and pour into a sanitized primary fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast, seal and ferment 8 – 10 days at 65°F. Rack to secondary and age 2 – 3 weeks at 50°F. Prime with corn sugar, bottle and condition cool (50°F) for two weeks.

OG: 1057

IBU’s: 41

A little richer and smokier than the usual Irish Red ales (like Smithwick’s), this is a smooth dark amber ale with a lot of complexity and character.

March 10, 2011 – Fischer Amber clone

My neighbor Kevin asked me to develop this recipe for him, so this is an experiment. Fischer is a brewery in Alsace, France. Most of their brews are pretty standard european lagers. Their amber, however, seems to be closer to a British pale ale, so I decided to try this as a hybrid. British malts, German hops, Steam beer yeast, cold conditioning… throw in a reporter and a photographer doing a newpaper story on me, and you never know what will come out of the fermenter!

Ingredients:

  • 9 lbs. Maris Otter pale malt
  • 1 lb. 120°L crystal malt
  • 1/4 lb. malted wheat
  • 1 oz. Spalter hop pellets (5% aa)
  • 1 oz. Tettnanger hop pellets (3.5% aa)
  • 1 oz. Hallertauer hop pellets (3% aa)
  • White Labs San Francisco Lager yeast (WLP810)
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar for priming.

Procedure:

Crush grains. Heat 14 quarts water to 164°F. Mash in grains and hold at 152° for 60 minutes. Heat another 16 quarts water to 170°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collecting 28 quarts sweet wort. Bring to boil. Add Spalter hops, boil 45 minutes. Add Tettnanger hops, boil 5 minutes. Add Hallertauer hops, boil 10 more minutes (total of 60) and remove from heat. Chill to 80°F, take a hydrometer reading and pour into a sanitized primary fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast, seal and ferment 8 – 10 days at 65°F. Rack to secondary and age 4 – 5 weeks at 40°F. Prime with corn sugar, bottle and condition cool (50°F) for six weeks.

OG: 1064

IBU’s: 28

In the end this came out just a little too dark and is probably a little hoppier than the target, but the combination of the sweet British malts and the bright spicy German hops is pretty cool.

For Kevin and others who might wish to try this as an extract-based brew, I would steep the crystal and wheat (as above) in 3 gallons of cold water to start. Bring the water up to 160°F and hold there for 30 minutes. Remove the grains, continue to heat to boiling, adding in 6 lbs. light dry malt extract or 7 lbs. light malt extract syrup. Boiling, hop and fermentation schedules would be the same.

March 17, 2011 – Cuppa Joe Golden Ale

My devious nature whispered to me, “How come all the coffee beers are stouts and porters? Couldn’t you just kill for a lighter colored beer with a strong coffee aroma and flavor?” I listened, and this is what I came up with. 

Ingredients:

  • 8 lbs. Maris Otter pale malt
  • 1/2 lb. cara-pils malt
  • 1 lb. malted wheat
  • 1/2 lb. coarsely ground coffee beans
  • 1/2 oz. Northern Brewer hop pellets (10.6% aa)
  • 1/2 oz. Sterling hop pellets (7% aa)
  • White Labs California Ale yeast (WLP001)
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar for priming 
  • 2 oz. Flavorganics® Organic Coffee Extract

Procedure:

Crush grains. Heat 14 quarts water to 164°F. Mash in grains and coffee beans and hold at 150° for 60 minutes. Heat another 15 quarts water to 170°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collecting 26 quarts sweet wort. Bring to boil. Add Northern Brewer hops, boil 45 minutes. Add Sterling hops, boil 15 minutes (total of 60) and remove from heat. Chill to 80°F, take a hydrometer reading and pour into a sanitized primary fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast, seal and ferment 8 – 10 days at 65°F. Rack to secondary and age 2 – 3 weeks at 50°F. Prime with corn sugar, add coffee extract, bottle and condition cool (50°F) for two weeks.

OG: 1060

IBU’s: 27

Nice deep golden color, a hint of coffee in the nose and some nice coffee notes hidden among the malt sweetness and hop bitterness. I think next time I’d add more crushed coffee beans to the mash, as they really didn’t darken the brew much.

March 31, 2011 – Maple Märzen

I almost always brew at least a couple batches with maple – mashing with the sap, adding syrup to the kettle, sometimes both. Since I do make my own syrup, I have access to all the fresh sap I need for a couple of weeks. I start by concentrating the sap some (I’ll boil 6 gallons down to 3 for my mash liquor, generally), which adds a hint of smoky/woody sweetness to the wort. This brew is a more or less traditional Märzenbier – brewed (just barely!) in March and lagered in bulk all summer, I will unveil this beer in the fall, when our local brewers’ group has an Oktoberfest tasting planned.

Ingredients:

  • 8.5 lbs. Weyermann’s Bohemian Pilsner malt
  • 6 oz. cara-pils malt
  • 4 oz. 120°L crystal malt
  • 6 oz. 60°L crystal malt
  • 4 oz. melanoidin malt
  • 1 pt, grade B maple syrup
  • 1 oz. Tettnanger hop pellet pellets (3.5%)
  • 1 oz. Styrian Goldings hop pellets (4.5%)
  • 1 oz. Saaz hop pellets (4% aa)
  • White Labs Octoberfest Lager yeast (WLP820)
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar (for priming)

Procedure:

Crush grains. Heat 14 quarts semi-concentrated maple sap to 168°F. Mash in grains and hold at 154° for 90 minutes. Heat 15 quarts water to 170°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collecting 27 quarts sweet wort. Add syrup to kettle. Bring to boil. Boil 45 minutes without hops, to develop color and caramel flavors. Add Tettnanger hops, boil 15 minutes. Add Styrian Goldings hops, boil 15 minutes. Add Saaz hops, boil 15 more minutes (total of 45 with hops, 90 overall) and remove from heat. Chill to 80°F, take a hydrometer reading and pour into a sanitized primary fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast, seal and ferment 8 – 10 days at 65°F. Rack to secondary and age 3 – 4 months at 40°F. Prime with corn sugar, bottle and condition cool (50°F) for four weeks.

OG: 1080

IBU’s: 30

If you don’t have access to fresh sap but want to try something like this brew, you can always add some real syrup to the mash water – probably a pint will do the trick. I’m sure there’s a way to figure it out but the math is beyond me… And yes, this is a LOT bigger than the usual Festbier, the high gravity is a product of the sap and syrup!

Beer for Keeping

There are many beers brewed in France, overshadowed of course by the many great French wines. Most of the French breweries make products that are more or less German (in Alsace, especially) or Belgian (in Flandres); there are Celtic beers produced in Brittany, and standard European-style pilsners in the Paris region. Only Bière de Garde, produced mainly in the Artois and Picardie regions, often with barley grown in Champagne, is considered a truly French style.

Ah, but what is a Bière de Garde? And how is it different from the Saison-style produced not far away in Flandres? And how do you pronounce it? Last question first – in French, an i followed by another vowel becomes a consonant y. And the accent grave on an e in the middle of the word is pronounced “eh”… so its “byair”, one syllable, more or less.

How does it differ from a Saison? Bigger, maltier, less tart, often with a little oxydized “cellar character”, earthy and rough. Traditionally, BdG were brewed along the same timeline as a Märzen or Oktoberfest – brewed late in the winter (March) and put away to store cool during the summer months when brewing was not possible. “Garde”, from the verb “garder”, to keep, indicates it was meant to be stored long-term. So it had to be higher in alcohol than the ordinary table beers. They were traditionally brewed as an ale, although with the advent of modern lagering techniques, some breweries switched to a bottom-fermenting yeast; some even use a technique similar to a Steam beer, using a lager yeast at a warmer ale-friendly temperature.

What should you expect a Bière de Garde to taste like? The commercial examples are all over the map – ranging from a pale gold to a deep reddish amber in color, they also range from 5% abv to upwards of 9%. Most emphasize maltiness (cookies and biscuits are frequently mentioned in comparison) and hops generally only serve to balance the malt. Yeast character is prevalent, leaving many examples fruity and estery. Bières de Garde tend to be very complex, with layers of flavor that change and swirl as the beer warms.

Le Bossu, Bière de Garde Blonde

5 gallons, all-grain

Ingredients:

  • 5 lbs. Weyermann Abbey malt
  • 3 lbs. Weyermann Bohemian Pilsner malt
  • 1 lb. Cara-Belge malt
  • 1/2 lb. Belgian Biscuit malt
  • 1/2 lb malted wheat
  • 2 oz. whole Strisselspalt hops (at 3% aa)
  • White Labs French Ale yeast (WLP072)
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar (for priming)

Procedure: Crack malts. Heat 13 quarts water to 168°F. Mash in grains, hold at 155°F for 90 minutes. Heat another 15 quarts water to 170°F, begin runoff and sparge. Collect 27 quarts sweet wort. Bring to boil, add 1 oz. Strisselpalt hops. Boil 30 minutes, add 1 oz. Strisselspalt hops. Boil 30 more minutes (60 total), remove from heat. Remove hops and chill wort to 80°F. Take a hydrometer reading, pour into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast, seal and ferment warm (68°F) for 6 to 8 days. Rack to secondary, condition cool (50°F) for two to three weeks. Prime and bottle, age two to three months cooler (45°F).

OG: 1060

IBU’s: 22

Note on the name: Le Bossu is the title of one of my favorite French novels of swashbuckling and derring-do, by Paul Féval,the story of a discredited Musketeer who resorts to disguises and cunning to outwit a powerful corrupt nobleman. The 1997 film adaptation, starring Daniel Auteuil, is called “En Garde”.

Note on malts & hops & yeast: I hope that the mix of Belgian and Bavarian malts will approximate the straight French grain bill one would normally find in this beer! The hops are the only variety native to France (developed from Bavarian Spalt), grown in Alsace. Most Bières de Garde would use local hops, as well as German, Czech and Styrian aroma hops. The yeast is, according to rumors, the strain used by Brasserie Duyck, brewers of Jenlain.

Note on this brew: I brewed a darker Bière de Garde some months ago, and have not been very happy with it. This brew will hopefully make up for what the prior one lacks.

Note on style: For those interested in tasting a commercial example of this style, I reccommend the following (if you can find them!): Jenlain, Ch’ti (by Castelain), St. Arnoldus (also by Castelain), Trois Monts (brewed by St. Sylvestre), Vieille Garde (brewed by Monceau St. Waast) and La Choulette.

Improvising in the Brew House…

Brewing, when you do it as often as I do and for as long as I have, becomes a ritual. I have my set Brew Day, Thursday, and I plan around it as if it were a sacred holiday. The days leading up to Brew Day have their parts in the ritual as well. On Tuesday, I check the recipe and make sure I have all the ingredients in hand, and make sure all the equipment is clean and ready to use. On Wednesday, at work, I buy any necessary missing ingredients and then, once home, prep the yeast and weigh and measure the grains. I even fill the kettle with the necessary mash water and set it on the stove. In that way, at first light on Thursday morning, I can stumble downstairs and turn on the stove while I grope for coffee and turn on the computer and modem. By the time I’m awake, it’s almost time to mash in.

Well, as Robert Burns once wrote, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley…” I won’t go into the details, but the last week or so have been overwhelming in terms of obligations, distractions and general stuff. And so I forgot to check the recipe on Tuesday. And found Wednesday night, much to my surprise, that I didn’t have the right grains, the right yeast or the right hops in the house to brew what I had planned to brew, a Cherry Wheat ale.

Well, after my initial shock and my first impulse to take the week off from brewing (I hear you out there – gasp! no! not that!), I inventoried what I did have and managed to tweak next week’s recipe slightly and that’s what I’m brewing today instead. A glimpse of the future? A revisitation of the past? Both – join me as I brew a clone of my favorite French beer…

Addled-Scott (clone of Adelscot, Schiltigeim, France)
5 gallons, all-grain

Ingredients:

  • 9 lbs. lager malt
  • 14 oz. peated malt
  • 12 oz. Special B malt
  • 7 oz. cara-amber malt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 5.4 AAU’s Northern Brewer hop pellets (1/2 oz. @10.8% aa)
  • 10 AAU’s Spalt hop pellets (2 oz. @5% aa)
  • White Labs Irish Ale Yeast (WLP004)
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar for priming

Procedure:
Grind grains. Heat 14 quarts of water to 166°F, mash in grains and hold at 155°F for 90 minutes. Heat 14 more quarts of water to 170°F, begin runoff and sparge, collecting 26 quarts of sweet wort. Add brown sugar. Heat to boiling, add Northern Brewer hops, boil 30 minutes. Add 1 oz. Spalt hops, boil another 15 minutes. Add 1 oz. Spalt hops, boil 45 more minutes (90 total), remove from heat. Chill to 80°F, take hydrometer reading and pour into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast. Seal and ferment at 62 – 64°F for 7 – 10 days, rack to secondary. Age cooler (55- 58°F) for 10 – 14 days. Prime with corn sugar and bottle, condition 10 – 14 days.

OG: 1075
IBU’s: 65.5

Notes on brewing: My original recipe had 120°L crystal instead of the Special B, and Munich malt instead of the cara-amber – but guess what? I didn’t have any of either in the house… Additionally, I wasn’t particularly confident in the viability of the Irish ale yeast I had – it was a saved slurry from a previous brew that had been in the yeast fridge for about 4 months – so I also added a packet of Nottingham dry ale yeast.

Notes on the beer and the style: Adelscot, originally brewed by Adelshoffen in the 1980’s, may be the first modern beer deliberately brewed with peated malt flavor. The brewery is now a subsidiary of Fischer in Alsace, who have also introduced a black version, Adelscot Noire. This beer was a revelation for me when I first lived in France as a college student. Called “the beer brewed with whiskey malt”, it’s a sweetish smoky beer, bright amber/orange in color with a real peaty nose. I had never tasted anything like it and fell in love. I wasn’t much of a Scotch drinker then, either, but I think this beer was a factor in pushing me in the direction of single malts. It’s been a few years now since I’ve had the real thing – it’s hard to find in the states – but I have brewed my own clone a couple of times. My version is a little smokier than the original.

If you like the image of the beer coaster above, check out this website I found.