Friday, April 30, 2010

Brookline Hopfen Weisse: large format bottling

Man...there's something about popping the cork on a large format just tells you and everyone with you that 'today is a special will ensue'.

I've squirreled away a few of these thick walled bad boys (a handful of magnums, one 4.5L and one 9L (!!!) knowing I wanted to eventually fill it up with my own beer, and cram a cork back inside the neck. There's discussion in the wine world that the larger format bottles are more 'age-able' and lead to a more complex and refined quaff. Perhaps it has something to do with the reduced oxygen available in the headspace/liquid ratio. Or maybe its due to the larger volume leading to a larger number and volume of flavor compound to compound interactions.

Or maybe its just because huge bottles are 100% hilariously awesome.
(yes, this is the 9L bottle of St. Feuillen tripel that the lovely wife surprised me with for Christmas a couple years back).

So, eventually I knew one day I'd dig out one of these funny bottles and fill 'er up.

Trouble was... I don't have a stand-corker that could accommodate the skyscraping height...the Colonna capper/corker that I normally use to cork and cage champagne and belgian bottles maxes out on a magnum bottle height, so after scratching that idea off the list, I was left to try to rig something with the wine kit included double lever corker.

This corker is designed for 1. wine corks (not larger diameter Belgian corks) and 2. inserting the cork flush with the top of the neck of wine bottles.

The corker has only been pressed in to service once before, and the price tag isn't staggering if it were to get injured in any wrong tool for the job attempt. So, I figured I'd do a dry run with a Belgian cork in a regular champagne bottle to see if I could overcome problem #1.

Luckily, I quickly discovered that the reducer orifice in the corker can still accomodate the larger diameter Belgian corks. I promptly removed it with a corkscrew and wondered how (if) I could mimic the same half-way-in/half-way-out insertion that I rigged with the Colonna. Feeling emboldened by my initial success, I grabbed another cork, made a quick dip in one-step sanitizer (provides just enough lubrication to help ease it through that almost too small reducer), and depressed the levers until I had plunged the cork down with the levers just slightly less than parallel to the counter. I held it up the whole apparatus to the light, and could see about 3/4 of an inch of cork in the neck.

OK...what do I do now? I would have to then interrupt the mechansim of the levers and their leverage point, but still allow the plunger to continue, otherwise the cork would just continue to get driven in to the neck, and I'd have no real way of pulling it back out, save for a CO2-seal-destroying corkscrew. I pulled the levers back a bit, and braced my left hand just under the corker's orifice chamber, right where it meets the bottle, which in effect falsely extended the neck of the bottle. Holding on tight to the bottle with my pinky and ring finger, I pushed down on the plunger directly, and with a little wiggling, the cork slipped through the remainder of the orifice, and I had that half-in/half-out cork I was looking for.

Good thing I held on to the oversized cage that came with the bottle...the regular cage wire is probably about 3 inches too short. I'm sure I could cut and twist in another length of wire, but this sure looks cleaner.

Oh, for the bottle nerds out there (oh, I'm on the only one? I don't think so.)'s a chart of the proper names for the larger format bottles, including its correlation to the standard 750ml bottle. reference

(there are others, here's the exhaustive list from wikipedia, including the source of the bottle names)

You can just tell...there will be fun had when this bottle of Brookline hopfen weisse gets popped.
(...and no, this isn't camera trickery...the hopfen weisse is right next to that bottle of cantillon to its left).

Quad rescue attempt: gratuitous funk pics

After the WLP655 didn't seem to do much beyond an initial restart on what appeared to be a sacch type of krausen, I pitched ~600ml of stepped up mixed dregs starter (including oro de calabaza, fantome printemps and consecration) in to the quad rescue ~22 days ago.

This is what I'm looking at today, including one very strange slimy (pedio?) bubble that has taller-than-it-is-wide straight sides.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Modern Homebrew + French Oak TV: Brewing with Extract

And here's the followup segment to the shopping trip at Modern.

I go through an intro/extract homebrew segment on the BATV show 'French Oak TV'. Hopefully it helps to show how easy it is to make great craft beer at home, and inspires some aspiring brewers to take the leap and pay a visit to Modern Homebrew Emporium in Cambridge. If you see Randy there, tell him French Oak sent you!

As its been quite a while since I've brewed with extract, I'm very much looking forward to trying the hefe with Ray, the show's producer. It really is a great way to start out, and an extract brewday is great timesaver (~2.5hrs vs. all grain ~6hrs). Various styles really lend themselves to extract (stouts, ESB, the various wheat beers), so either drop me a message or a quick chat at the homebrew shop will be sure to put you on your way to making your first batch of craft beer, right in your own kitchen.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Cantillon: le temps ne respecte pas ce qui se fait sans lui

My work takes me to the Netherlands (and the UK) fairly regularly, but the schedule is often so stuffed that, at the end of a jet lagged, bleary eyed day, I consider myself to be quite lucky if I can land at a hotel restaurant that has a Trappist beer or a Duvel available.

The last trip had me situated in the sleepy Dutch town of Heerlen, at the old Kasteel Terworm. Rebuilt several times, this castle is replete with turrets and old growth wooden beams and, of course, a moat. This castle had some local Dutch beers...the hands-down favorite that our group went back to again and again was lovingly coined the 'hamster beer'.

Availability of hotel rooms is tight this time of year as it is a tourist season in the Netherlands, with plenty of horticulturally inclined Europeans seeking out (and finding) visions of the painted fields of Lisse and the Keukenhof.
Due to the ash cloud drifting from Bjork on over to most of northern Europe, we had plenty of time to check out the muscari, daffodils, and loads of other flowers that have been known to spawn a certain bulb-inducedmania, but I had priorities. We checked out from the castle, as they weren't able to put us up for another night, and we first made rental car tracks to Brussels, a mere 125km from Heerlen, to visit Brasserie Cantillon, which is just outside of the center of the city. I had inadvertently assumed that Cantillon would be situated in a quaint little Belgian outpost of a farming town, where the ample benevolent wild microbes flourished for centuries.
Nope. Its in the middle of the city. be fair, it is a city that is virtually engulfed by very close proximity farm after farm after farm. Centuries old agrarian roots are still planted firmly so the flora aloft in the Brussels air is aplenty, with only a likely minor impact from the industrial revolution. From the looks of it, some of the same equipment that was around at the beginning of this revolution was still employed at Cantillon. I was at peace as I set my own hands on the huge gear driven mash/lauter tun, koelschip, and other hand-hammered pipes and machinery.

Jean van Roy invited me and my colleague to a self guided tour, which allowed full access to every last area in the place. Certainly a tour that would induce fainting episodes in OSHA and other american minded food inspectors. So, just the way I like 'em.

Wandering through the time-tested brewery, with all of its rounded, worn edges and hand hammered equipment, hand hewn floors, and...well, pretty much everything, an immediate appreciation pervades. You just get it...a simple innate understanding of just how important what is being crafted here in a family owned, wholly earned pillar in brewing's history.

When I asked Jean van Roy about his perception of american attempts at using spontaneous fermentation, his eyes widened, and rather than expressing concern or looking threatened by oversea mimics, he rattled off his favorite american examples (ie. Russian River, Jolly Pumpkin, etc.) and gave an 'we all rise with the tide' sort of assessment of the growing awareness and appreciation for the beer.
But, romance aside, to be sure, this is still the place that has consistently turned out world class beers that are (close to) perfection in a bottle, and it's a wonderful thing that the world is experiencing a revival in the appreciation of these soulful, artisan beers. This revival ensures Cantillon's continued existence and availability, while at the same time, inspiring others to delve in to the as yet unexplored flora growing in our patches of earth and wafting through the local air, just waiting to ferment something that will, in the coming years, continue to make van Roy's eyes widen.

time does not respect what is done without him

PS. make sure you don't leave anything of value visible on your seats when you are in a city.
any city.
even if it is in the middle of the day.
and there are plenty of friendly Belgian people walking all around.

A broken window on your rental car and a stolen laptop might (almost) ruin your visit to Cantillon.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Modern Homebrew + French Oak TV

Modern Homebrew: Supplies. Fun. Advice. from French Oak TV on Vimeo.


Type: Extract

Date: 3/4/2010

Batch Size: 5.00 gal

Brewer: JC
Boil Size: 5.72 gal Asst Brewer:
Boil Time: 60 min Equipment: My Equipment
Taste Rating(out of 50): 35.0 Brewhouse Efficiency: -
Taste Notes:


Amount Item Type % or IBU
6 lbs Wheat Liquid Extract (8.0 SRM) Extract 92.31 %
8.0 oz Wheat Malt, Ger (2.0 SRM) Grain 7.69 %
1.00 oz Tettnang [4.70 %] (60 min) Hops 18.0 IBU
1.00 oz Hallertauer [3.30 %] (10 min) Hops 4.6 IBU

Beer Profile

Est Original Gravity: 1.044 SG

Measured Original Gravity: 1.010 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.011 SG Measured Final Gravity: 1.005 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 4.19 % Actual Alcohol by Vol: 0.65 %
Bitterness: 22.6 IBU Calories: 43 cal/pint
Est Color: 7.1 SRM Color:

Mash Profile

Mash Name: None Total Grain Weight: 10.00 lb
Sparge Water: - Grain Temperature: -
Sparge Temperature: - TunTemperature: -
Adjust Temp for Equipment: FALSE Mash PH: -

Steep grains as desired (30-60 minutes)

Mash Notes: -

Carbonation and Storage

Carbonation Type: Corn Sugar Volumes of CO2: 2.9
Pressure/Weight: 5.1 oz Carbonation Used: -
Keg/Bottling Temperature: 60.0 F Age for: 28.0 days
Storage Temperature: 52.0 F

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Brookline Hopfen Weisse

Early dismissal from work yesterday, so I got to move up the brewing schedule 1/2 day. I wanted to brew up something using the collected Weihenestephan yeast cake from an extract hefeweizen batch I bottled earlier in the week, in association with new homebrewing episode from French Oak TV a few weeks back. Looking at my huge stash of grain and hops, I wanted to brew something on the bigger side of the OG scale, in order to burn through some ingredients.
I recently had a fantastic collaboration brew between Brooklyn Brewery and the German brewery, Schneider called Hopfen-Weisse, and something in a reasonably close approximation of that just seemed like an obvious choice.

After a bit of research, the relatively high OG grain bill is intended to be very simple ~mix of large proportion of wheat and pils malts (I used Franco-Belges, each at 1.8L), in addition to a bit of sucrose to prevent the finished beer from becoming too cloying, and to serve as a foil for the
wonderful aromatics and flavors from the Weihenestephan yeast and American hops.
Brookline Hopfen-Weisse

Type: All Grain

Date: 4/2/2010

Batch Size: 7.00 gal

Brewer: JC
Boil Size: 8.43 gal Asst Brewer:
Boil Time: 90 min Equipment: My Equipment
Taste Rating(out of 50): 35.0 Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00
Taste Notes:


Amount Item Type % or IBU
10 lbs 8.0 oz French Wheat Malt (1.8 SRM) Grain 50.00 %
8 lbs French Pilsner (1.8 SRM) Grain 38.10 %
1 lbs Cara-Pils/Dextrine (2.0 SRM) Grain 4.76 %
1.50 oz Citra [12.00 %] (Dry Hop 10 days) Hops -
1.50 oz Amarillo Gold [9.10 %] (Dry Hop 10 days) Hops -
2.00 oz Columbus (Tomahawk) [14.00 %] (60 min) Hops 60.8 IBU
1.00 oz Amarillo Gold [9.10 %] (40 min) Hops 17.3 IBU
1.50 oz Amarillo Gold [9.10 %] (10 min) Hops 10.7 IBU
1.50 oz Columbus (Tomahawk) [14.00 %] (10 min) Hops 16.5 IBU
1.00 oz Citra [12.00 %] (0 min) Hops -
1.50 oz Columbus (Tomahawk) [14.00 %] (0 min) Hops -
1.00 oz Amarillo Gold [9.10 %] (0 min) Hops -
1 lbs 8.0 oz Sugar, Table (Sucrose) (1.0 SRM) Sugar 7.14 %
1 Pkgs Weihenstephan Weizen (Wyeast Labs #3068) Yeast-Wheat

Beer Profile

Est Original Gravity: 1.077 SG

Measured Original Gravity: 1.010 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.018 SG Measured Final Gravity: 1.005 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 7.69 % Actual Alcohol by Vol: 0.65 %
Bitterness: 105.3 IBU Calories: 43 cal/pint
Est Color: 4.7 SRM Color:

Mash Profile

Mash Name: Single Infusion, Light Body Total Grain Weight: 19.50 lb
Sparge Water: 0.78 gal Grain Temperature: 72.0 F
Sparge Temperature: 168.0 F TunTemperature: 72.0 F
Adjust Temp for Equipment: FALSE Mash PH: 5.4 PH

Single Infusion, Light Body
Step Time Name Description Step Temp
75 min Mash In Add 24.38 qt of water at 161.4 F 150.0 F
10 min Mash Out Add 15.60 qt of water at 200.2 F 168.0 F

My intentions...smooth and silky wheat malt, bready pils. Hops: Pine, grapefruit, dank, tropical fruit. Yeast: powerful banana and clove aromatics. This leaves me quite hopeful for an intriguingly flavorful new summertime favorite, from the local Brookline brewery, care of the some of the most interesting ingredients the collective brewing world has to offer. And not quite Reihheitsgebot adherent. I can hardly wait to see the first pour; the head formation should be monumental. My Bodum knock-off tall pilsner glasses should make for an ethereal vessel for this modern hybrid beer.

24hrs-popped the lid on the bucker sign of a krausen forming. Very surprised, given the 500ml of thick, fresh slurry pitched. Grabbed the sachet of Nottingham from the fridge as a fail safe, there was going to be another 24hours before I would get an adequate pitch of replacement bavarian wheat yeast.

4/9/10- Realized I forgot to add the 1.5lbs of sucrose to the beer! Boiled in equivalent amount of water, cooled, added to fermenter. Fermenter smells amazing of fresh wheat malt and layered hops, but clearly lacking the characteristic banana and clove aromatics.
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