River Crew Brewing

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Giving My Sierra Nevada Porter Clone A Proper Name

If you checked out my post about how the River Crew Brewing Company came to be, you’ll see each of the beers we concepted had a unique name and tagline.  The Sierra Nevada Porter Clone I brewed is from a kit, but I feel it needs to be properly “Crewed” since it’s the first beer I brewed under this banner.

So here it is, the official name for my Sierra Nevada Porter Clone:

Timmy’s Polarizing Porter
A pale, broke, skinny-bodied beer this is not.

Timmy's Polarizing Porter

As a reference, here’s me and Timmy:

The Man Behind The Polarizing Porter and Myself

Let me know what you think!!

The Search For My Next Homebrew Recipe

The search for my next homebrew is on.  I’m a bit conflicted, and I’m hoping my friends on the interwebs can help.

At first, I wanted to do a really solid Pale Ale.  I love Sierra Nevada, and I was eying up the clone Midwest Brewing Supply has on their website.  However, the higher the temperature rose, the more my tastes were swayed.

What I’m looking for now is a really solid Summer Ale.  I’ve had a few over the last few weeks: Brooklyn’s Sorachi Ace, Flying Dog’s Tire Bite Golden Ale, River Horse’s Summer Ale, and Stoudt’s Kolsh.  Now I’m hooked.

I’d love to find a recipe for an easy-drinking summer ale.  Something light, crisp and refreshing.  I really loved Flying Dog’s Tire Bite, because it drank really crisp, but left just enough hops to satisfy the hop-head in me.

Keep in mind – I’m still an extract brewer.  I have yet to graduate to the full grain styles some of my homebrew mentors have practiced for many years.  I feel like I’m evolving towards that, but I’m still a year or so away from all-grain brewing.

So I open up my forum (and my brew pot) to you, my homebrew and craft beer friends.  Do you know of any homebrew recipes for a great, easy-drinking Summer Ale?  Let me know in the comment.

You just may be immortalize through a name for my brew.

First Taste Test of the Sierra Nevada Porter Clone FTW!

So you know how I mentioned my posts are riding the chronological short bus? Yeah, they haven’t graduated yet.

A little over a week ago, I got my first taste of my Porter out of the bottle. It spent about a week carbonating in the bottle, so I wanted to see how it was progressing.

I’m happy to say – it’s doing really well! The beer poured darker than I remember. It was a really rich brown, almost black. Its darkness made it tough to see though, but you could tell it wasn’t cloudy, which made me happy. It didn’t have much of a head on it, barely a centimeter or so. I’m not too worried though, as this will change as it spends more time in the bottle.

The carbonation helped bring out some of the aromatics and flavors in my beer. I could really taste the roasted malt and other dark flavors as the tiny bubbles danced across my tongue. It finished perfectly crisp, with an extremely subtle aftertaste that left those a bit of the richness behind.

So – so far, so good! I’m excited to see how this beer changes with another week in the bottle, and can’t wait till it’s finished.

Putting Lids On The Porter

After letting my porter clarify for about 2 weeks or so, I squeezed in some time to bottle it up amongst the chaos that was my Memorial Day weekend.

Now bottle, as most of you home brewers know, bottling is probably the most labor-intensive part of the home brewing process. The actual brewing portion of the process requires more attention from the brewer, but bottling definitely requires more labor. Bottling is the roll-up-your-sleeves and prepare-to-get-soaked step, and sometimes it can get rather ugly (and slippery).

The first step in bottling, just like the other steps in home brewing, was cleaning everything – bottling bucket, siphon, bottles, caps, and other necessities. I mixed up 2 gallons of cleaner in the bottling bucket and got to work.

Everything was going fine, till I realized I had to clean 32 bottles…by hand. Always the most dreaded part of bottling. Since I’m reusing these bottles, and I don’t want the stench of failure from my first home brew infecting this batch, I ran the bottles through the dishwasher on sanitize first with no detergent. I figured this would give me a head-start on cleaning.

I started dunking the bottles one by one into the cleaner, and scrubbing them down inside and out with my bottle brush. This got old after about 5 bottles, but I did get a decent amount of junk out of them. I repeated the same process, replacing the cleaner for sanitizer once all the equipment was clean.  Again, it’s a painstaking process, but it’s absolutely critical to producing a high-quality beer.

Finally, after about an hour, I had everything clean, sanitized and ready to bottle.  I started by boiling some malt extract in water.  Adding this to the beer just before it’s bottled causes another fermentation in the bottle, where the beer is naturally carbonated.

Once the priming sugar mixture is good to go, I added it to my bottling bucket.  Having the priming sugar already in the bucket as I siphon the beer over helps mix everything together and lends for an evenly-carbonated beer.  I climbed into my closet to retrieve the beer.  I got it to my kitchen, hoisted it up to the counter, removed the airlock, and got ready to siphon it into the bucket.

But first, the all-important taste test.  I siphoned off about half a pint glass worth of beer and took a deep breath.  I always find this part nerve-wracking, since I want it to be good.  A quick look at the beer showed the extra week clarifying really paid off.  The beer was too dark to see through, but I could definitely tell the clarity was there.  I raised the glass and took a sip, and I’m extremely happy to say the beer’s flavor stayed consistent with the first taste I had: dark, rich and smooth, with almost no hint of yeast.  Woohoo!

Yes, those are red countertops.

Pleased with my product, I started the siphon, which went rather quickly since I had the carboy up rather high (note to self for next time).  I traded the positions of the bottling bucket and the carboy and got ready to bottle.  I took my sanitized bottles, gave them a quick rinse to get rid of any remaining sanitizer, and got to bottling.  I’d stop to cap after getting through about a dozen or so.

In the end, I had a case of 12 ounce and a case of 22 ounce bottles, all filled with a very promising porter.  I’ll have to wait 2.5 weeks for the final product, but all signs are pointing to having a winner on my hands.  It was more than enough to make the final cleaning of all my equipment bearable, even though I did turn my kitchen to a neck-breaking slip-and-slide in the process.

Porter on the Move

If you haven’t noticed by now, my posts have been on the chronological short bus. I started this blog about a week after I initially brewed my beer, and then life kept getting in the way of keeping this up to date.  I promise to do better in the future, and graduate my posts to a regular bus.

About 2 weeks ago, after the botched redecorating attempt, my airlock pretty much stopped popping, signaling fermentation had completed.  It was time to move my beer to the secondary glass carboy.  This is usually the the first taste a brewer gets of his creation, so I was excited to get going.

After cleaning and sanitizing my carboy, auto-siphon, and second airlock, I carefully removed my beer from it’s resting place in my closet and examined.  Because of the ridiculously active fermentation, I had a ton of krausen at the top of my beer.  The beer appeared to be a very dark brown in color.  I could be black, and the light carpet in my bedroom could be giving it an off color.  Either way, I thought this was a good sign – right in line with the style.  A good amount of yeast, protein and other solids had settled at the bottom of the fermenter.

Time to get a better look at my beer.  I took the airlock off the fermenter, and placed the siphon in my beer, with the other end going in my trusty Captain Lawrence pint glass. I got the siphon going, and filled the pint glass about half way.  I held up my creation to examine.  The color was the same inside the fermenter.  Raising the glass up to the light, the beer was cloudy and thick, and I couldn’t really see through it.  Again, all good signs since this is a porter and its due to spend another week or so clarifying.  I held it up to my nose and took a smell.  It was a nice, dark, rich smell, right on par with porters.

Now, the moment of truth.  I raise the glass to my lips and took a sip.  Low and behold, it tasted like beer!  I’m always amazed by this, that I can make a beer and have it taste like beer, and not some sort of back-country moonshine.  The flavor was dark, rich and malty, and the texture was a bit syrupy.  It was extremely smooth, which I think is a combination of the style and the fact the beer isn’t carbonated yet.  Everything seemed to be right on with what it should be.  I did a little happy dance.

I finished siphoning the beer over to the secondary carboy, popped on the airlock, and moved it back into the closet to clarify.  It will be there for a week or 2 as more yeast, protein and other solids settle out of it.  Next it will be ready to bottle, and soon it will be ready to drink.

Keep your fingers crossed – I might have a winner on my hands!

By in Beer Reviews 1

Beer Review – 1787 Abbey Single Ale – New Jersey Beer Company

Fellow #BrewYorker Matt Steinberg, owner and founder of the New Jersey Beer Company, is finally releasing the fruits of his year-and-a-half long labor of beer-love to the public. A few select events and very lucky bars throughout NY and NJ have gotten their hands on casks of Matt’s brews. Needless to say, I was extremely jealous of the fortunate few who got to sample the very first sips of this highly-anticipated brew.

So when Matt slipped me a Tweet saying a bar less than a mile from my house had got their hot little hands on a gravity cask of his 1787 Abbey Single Ale, I was counting the minutes to 5 o’clock to sprint downtown and add my name to that exclusive list.

NJ Beer Co’s Abbey Single is a shining example of the best of the craft beer movement. You can taste the care and thoughtful crafting Matt put into this beer – from the subtle smell of clove, spice and yeast on the nose, through to the tad bit of hops you almost have to search for to find at the end.

The nose is very subtle, with only hints of what I mention above. About a finger of light, white head sat on top of it. The first sip starts out sweet on the front of the tongue, just before the clove and spice from the yeast take over. They linger for a little while, then giving way to that slight hops bitterness just before the finish. This beer finishes as clean as the nose, with a little spice on the aftertaste.

Overall, this beer is amazingly refreshing and dangerously sessionable. I had it on an 80 degree afternoon, and could see myself enjoying it long into the night. The cask conditioning really made this beer, and Matt’s decision to make the beer this way really shows his knowledge and love of brewing. He’s definitely got the craft brew spirit flowing in his veins and from his taps.

While this beer isn’t the Applebees of beer, it should appeal to a lot of non-craft beer drinkers with it’s refreshing flavor and great drinkability. I’m looking forward to trying more of Matt’s offerings.

Painting With Beer…Involuntarily

Not only did my yeast throw a party in the fermentor, they decided to do a little redecorating.  I guess the party thought the walls in my closet were a little too bland and decided to take matters into their own hands.

I came home from work to find that not only had the krausen bubbled into my airlock, it had popped the airlock clean off of the fermentor.  This resulted in my fermentor sitting in a healthy heap of krausen, with a little bit of spatter on the wall.

Needless to say, I panicked.  I quickly grabbed my second airlock, rushed it into some sanitized water, and popped it on the fermentor.  The airlock almost immediately started popping about twice a second, so I knew my fermentation was still good and active.

I commenced clean up of the botched painting experiment, wiping down and underneath the fermentor, and the little bit on the walls.  That’s when I realized I positioned the fermentor directly underneath my suits.  I’m happy to say my dressy threads were spared, and I will not be creating a new fashion trend of beer painted suits.

I did some research on the popping off of airlocks, and luckily, it isn’t as bad as I thought.  The general consensus is as long as the yeast continued producing gas at the rate at a high-enough rate, it’d keep out any contaminants and the beer would be fine.  Since the airlock immediately started popping at a fast rate when I replaced it, I knew the beer was still good to go.

So no harm, no foul.  I’m going to need a bouncer for the next yeast party.

(Note to self: buy a blow-off tube.)

By in Beer Reviews 0

What I Drank This Weekend – May 15-16

Every weekend, I delight my desire for different by trying a few beers I’ve never had before.  I’m hardly ever drinking the same thing twice.  I usually just walk into the liquor store, wander back to the beer section, and take more time than any human should to make my selection.  Thanks to a little inspiration from #BrewYork, I’m going to post my thoughts on these beers.

This weekend, I had 3 new ones ahead of me:

Allagash CurieuxAllagash Curieux
I actually had this one chilling in my fridge for a few weeks when I picked it up from Ninety 9 Bottles down the road.  I was saving it for a special occasion, and what more special of an occasion is there than Friday night.  Warned by how highly carbonated this beer could be, I poured it slowly into a wine glass, which I thought was fitting after popping the cork on this beer.  It poured a light, cloudy honey color, with a light white foam lacing on top.  From what I heard about this beer, I thought the nose would be overwhelming, and I was surprised to find it wasn’t.

I definitely got the bourbon on the nose, coupled with a strong alcohol presence.  The first sip followed the nose, with lots of bourbon and alcohol, but not overwhelming with either.  After a few more sips, I got more of the tripel ale flavor, which really helped balance things out.  As the beer warmed up, I got a decidedly sweeter flavor, almost like honey from this beer.  Needless to say, I really enjoyed this beer, as the tripel and the bourbon barrel aging really came together for a nice brew.  Definitely the only beer I could handle in one night though, as the 11% caught up with me towards the end.

Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout
This was based on another recommendation from Ninety 9 Bottles.  Lagunitas always puts out quality beer, so I was definitely looking forward to this one.  This beer poured a deep, dark brown into my pint glass with a nice head that retained for awhile.  The nose of this beer was all about the coffee – but a sweeter coffee, kind of like the way I drink mine (lots of sugar).

On my first sip, I got a lot of the coffee flavor and acidity upfront, mellowed out at the very end by the stout smoothness.  I’m glad they chose a stout and not a ale style for the coffee addition, because that much bitterness may have rotten my teeth on the spot.  The stout smoothness and roasted malts made themselves more prominent as the beer warmed up.  I enjoyed this beer, and I could see it being a great mid-day brew if you’re looking to have just one.

New England Brewing Company Elm City LagerNew England Brewing Company Elm City Lager
Since I moved to CT, I’ve been trying to get into the local beers in the area.  I’ve gotten to know Captain Lawrence brews pretty well, and the New England Brewing Company (NEBC) is next on my list.  It’s too bad they aren’t in South Norwalk anymore, because walking to a brewery could be a joyous and dangerous thing.

NEBC is an early adopter of one of the latest trends in Craft Beer – canning.  I can’t help but be on board given their rationale: they want to provide maximum protection for their beer from the harmful UV rays.  Tugs at my home-brewing heart strings.

I cracked one of these open on Saturday night, paired with some homemade Chipotle Roasted Pepper Chili. I need to write down this recipe, because this chili came out damn good, and I can’t want to make it again.  Needless to say, my tastebuds were pretty shot when I was drinking this beer, so I can’t get into the subtleties of this beer.  I did notice that it wasn’t a traditional lager, but a pilsner style, so the malt flavor was much lighter, and gave the hops a bit of a boost on the backend.  (I might need to re-word the last part of that sentence.)  This beer is extremely drinkable – very crisp and refreshing.  It’d make a great 6 pack to drink while sitting out on the deck listening to the game on a warm summer night.

Yeast Gone Wild – with 100% Less Boobs!

The yeast decided to throw a party in my fermentor.  And from the looks of it, this party is off the chain!  This is definitely the most active fermentation I’ve had to date.  My 3-piece airlock is popping twice every 2 seconds.  All this in less and 8 hours since I pitched the yeast.

I’m glad this fermentation is so lively.  It means when I pitched the yeast, it was really healthy and ready to get started on producing a high-quality beer.  It also means I reduced my risk of infection, since the wort will be active and not sitting around.  I’ve had previous trouble during the stage – ala my first brew of burnt-rubber ale.

I’m really excited this brew is off to a great start, even if my invitation to the yeast party was lost in the mail.

*Note – I’m about a week ahead of my posts in the brewing process.  This actually happened last Monday, but I wanted to get a post up about it.

Sierra Nevada Porter Clone

I’m back at it – back in the brewing saddle. I forgot how much fun brewing is. For Christmas, Kim (my girlfriend) bought me a Sierra Nevada Porter Clone kit from a local home brew place, Maltose Express. Although, the porter style was actually a mistake. I told her I wanted to brew a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale clone, and she went in and grabbed the first kit she saw that said Sierra Nevada. No worries though – I’ve had their porter before, and it’s one of the best out there. I’m eager to get started!

This will definitely be a learning process for me. This is my first time brewing a kit from Maltose. I’ve learned most home brewing stores have their own philosophies and ways of brewing. Each one has their own tricks and twists on how to brew, so I’ll keep an eye out for Maltose’s take on how to brew.

Even before I start the ever-so-fun process of cleaning and sanitizing 6 months of sedation from my equipment, I smack into my first different – literally. Maltose is big believes in the new Wyeast Activator “Smack Packs.” Basically, its pitchable yeast in a sealed plastic container, kind of like the new tuna pouches. Inside the bag are the most important part of brewing, the yeast, along with a sealed nutrient pack. About 2 hours before you’re ready to pitch the yeast, you take this package out of the fridge and smack it to break the sealed nutrient and release it to the eager-to-eat yeast. This wakes the yeast up and gets them multiplying even before you pitch them, minimizing time to full fermentation. It’s basically a built in yeast starter, and I got mine going early on.

After the cleaning and sanitizing is complete, I notice my next twist. In my first 2 recipes, I added a full 3 gallons of water to the brewpot, and steeped the grains in the water until it reached 150 degrees. This recipe calls for me to steep the grains in 1 gallon of 150 degree water for 50 minutes. It’s not a huge change, but it was a bit of a challenge.

So I decided to try a combination of both ways. I loaded my crystal, chocolate and black malt into a muslin bag, popped it into 1 gallon of water in my brew pot, and brought the temperature to 150 degrees. Keeping the temperature at a constant 150 for 30 minutes was tough. When I got the temp to 150, I put the lid on the brewpot, kept the thermometer in, and turned the burner on my stove off. When it dipped below 150, I removed the lid and turned the burner back on. I played this game a few times during the 30 minute steeping. I contemplated putting the brewpot in the oven at 150 with the lid on so I didn’t have to keep playing this yo-yo game with the temperature. I may do it next time, but this system seems to be working for now.

After 30 minutes of steeping, I sparged (rinsed) the grains with a half gallon of 150 water, which I kept in a sanitized pot in the oven. I thought that was rather clever 🙂

Here’s where I made a mini-mistake. After removing the muslin bag and rinsing the grain, I immediately started adding the light dry malt extract (DME) to the pot. I had trouble keeping it from clumping together, and I was only able to pour a little at a time. I checked the recipe and found I was supposed to boil the grain water before adding the DME. Oops. I was a bit pissed at myself for overlooking this, but I only added a little bit of the DME, so it’s all good.

I boiled the grain water after some fighting with my stove (damn burn didn’t want to stay on), and added the rest of the DME (which barely clumped, so I was able to add it much quicker) along with the malto dextrin, malt extract syrup, and nugget and centennial hops, both in hop bags. I brought everything to a nice, hot rolling boil based on advice from Joe Postma, a great homebrewer and fountain of brewing knowledge. I was worrying about clarity of my beer, and he told me this would go a long way to help make it crystal clear.

I boiled everything for 45 minutes, avoiding a few boilovers in the process. At that time, I popped in cascade hops and some Irish moss to add a nice, subtle hop flavor and some clarity to the brew. After 15 more minutes, I removed the brewpot from the burner to complete the boil.

Now came the ever-so-important process of getting the wort from boiling to 70 degrees as quickly as possible. I contemplated buying a wort chiller based on advice from Joe, but I decided against it. Because I’m still brewing with extract, I can add cold water to the concentrated wort to get the temperature down quickly, as opposed to all grain, full 5 gallon brewing, where you add no water to the wort. I filled my sink with cold water, ice cubes, and ice packs, and put the brewpot in for 20 minutes. I got the temperature down pretty quickly.

Next I put my trusty filter funnel in the mouth of my glass 6.5 gallon fermenter. I carefully poured the wort through the filter into the fermenter. It took a pours because the filter kept clogging. which means it’s doing it’s job well. After all the wort was in, I added cold water until I hit my 5 gallon water line. This put the temperature at right around 72 degrees – perfect yeast-pitching temperature for this beer.

I turned back to get my already-smacked yeast pack, and oh boy did the package expand! It was just about to pop, which means I have some very active and eager yeast on my hands. I sanitized the outside of the packet, tore it open, pitched in the yeast, and popped on my 3 piece airlock filled halfway with water.

My apartment is nice and big, but it’s lacking in the closet department. The best place to store my brew while it’s fermenting and clarifying is in the closest in my bedroom, which just so happens to be clear on the other side of my apartment. I now have the lovely task of waddling 5 gallons of beer to my bedroom…and it’s about 11pm at night. Lovely. Luckily at this stage, getting oxygen to the yeast is a good thing, so all the splashing around inside the fermenter the beer did was a good thing.

And that’s where it currently sits, tucked in the back of my closet, next to my suits and my Dharma costume from Halloween. Minimal fermentation began before I went to bed, with the airlock popping about once a minute or so. The full-on fermentation should begin in a few hours.

Be sure to check back to see how this brew progresses. I’m also in the process of thinking of a name for this one. Stay tuned!

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