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Home of the Homebrew

Brewing.jpg  Honey_Strawberry.jpg  honeyandlemon.jpg

So it's hard to claim you're the home of the homebrew if you, you don't homebrew. So once I moved back to Michigan I hit up Siciliano's Market and once again started brewing. No brewshed, no brew sculpture, just my ghetto rig, but it worked. I brewed up my barrel aged stout, and few months later lemon honey wheat, and my strawberry ale. I used grains of paradise, Georgia Sturdier Honey and whatever else I could think up.

Lemon Wheat

5 lbs. American Two Row

5 lbs. Wheat

1 lb. Pilsner

1 lb. Flaked Wheat

½ lb. Cara Pils

½ lb Rice Hulls

American Ale Yeast

All of the grains of paradise I could find

1 oz. Hallertauer (Bittering)

At flame out honey, lemon zest, more hops ; )

O.G 1.044


Strawberry Cream Ale

½ lb Carapils

½ lb. Munch Malt

5.5 lbs Pilsner Malt

½ oz. Willamette (Bittering)

At five minutes before flameout 1 oz. Saaz, and a bunch of Strawberry Puree.

O.G 1.035

Odin would be proud

2012-08-01_22-47-55_258.jpgSo a friend of mine who has recently started brewing and dropped into all-grain after only his first couple of batches brought me two 1.75 liter jugs of mead that his now deceased father brewed in the 1970's. I think he had rolled around the idea of throwing it out, but I assured him that any mead that old should probably be examined first by an expert in aged mead disposal such as myself. After all, in cases such as these the mead should probably be filtered first before just pitching into earths fragile ecosystem. My liver is always willing to offer itself up willing in these important matters. It arrived in used liqueur bottles clearly stowed away for ages in the recesses of a basement. I was honestly a bit timid when I thought about how it might taste. I have had a number of homemade meads best reserved for removing paint from windows.

It poured a dark rich molasses normally only seen in aged spirits, with a boozy nose it was like smelling something that you almost never come across in the beer world short of something Sam Adams has aged in their basement for the past decade. Sweet, with notes of burnt molasses, raisins.. let's just put it this way, it's really freaking complex to the palate, and like anything complex, it manifests different facets as it warms up.

I am not sure what my friends father might have dreamt up as to the eventual place of resting for his mead as he stirred it in the pot. But I am thankful that I could participate in its journey. 

Russian Imperial Stout

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Stout.jpgFebruary 5th I took another crack at my Oatmeal Stout, really a Russian Imperial Stout stylistically speaking. It has been an up and down journey, my first attempt had low mash temps, this round I swung too high the other direction with mash temps hitting the 170's. I re-racked the first week to be hit by fresh cut grass in the profile, 'in' is an understatement, it was the profile. It was horrible, a great stout with something so awful going on. I wanted it to get better with time, but every brewer knows if it starts out funky, well you screwed up. If you can't drink it the first week, you missed the mark, yeah it will get better, but you should have done a better job.  Fortunately yeast, nature's greatest invention, are hardworking little creatures. They're always busy cleaning up your messes, like a mom with a wild two year old.

So I thought perhaps some time in the bottle would do it good. So I waxed em' up to look all classy. Except, I was too cheap to just go buy the wax, so around the house I went rounding up old red, soft wax, fru-fru smelly candles. Oh sometimes the things I do. Now I had bad homebrew waxed with the soft greasy wax that smells like your mom's house. I saved two bottles out for Siciliano's homebrew competition. It was getting a bit better, but it still had that funk going on. Hey at least I would get some feedback.

This weekend was Siciliano's homebrew party, an event that I keep saying that I will attend but have yet to commit to. Next year, next year I will make it. I just know that once I go I will have little choice but to make it a permanent annual event in my calendar. There is a great write-up of it here. It is at the party they announce the homebrewing competition results.  Today I headed out to get my comments sheet.

While nothing in life is quite as valuable as criticism, and I insist that I welcome it arms wide open -  I don't.  Ten minutes into my journey I was already in a bad mood. Someone else, judging MY beer. Hey I liked it, minus that little funk, it is some good stuff, and the funk is almost gone now. But it was coming, in just minutes I would be reading about how it had this funk, that I already knew about, and all that other stuff, who knew what they might say. So I had to have a talk with myself, after all I can't stand people who brew bad beer and they think they are God's gift to brewing. So I straitened myself out, told myself to learn, grow, all that stuff, and what a perfect opportunity to get professional feedback.

I arrived, meandered into Siciliano's, and in my usual state of ignorance asked Steve about the grains for baking, I don't have enough hobbies and bread is so close to brewing I really must learn to bake, so I needed some grain. I was not sure what grain, or what I was doing, or what I needed. He helped me out, showed me the 'book' on the grains which was right in front of my eyes but had completely missed in my generally confused state. He asked me if I wanted my sheet, sure why not. Here it was, in just seconds  official results were going to be upon me. He in his usual spirit of helpfulness and kindness stated that I had done quite well. How nice, at least the news was being delivered by a kind soul.

There is was, I had - thanks to all those hardworking little yeast - won gold and even made it to the best of show round. I was pretty shocked, pleased, and all that talking to I had just had with myself went out the door. Just more fodder for the misplaced ego. So there I was with my one dollar of flour mumbling about how I hated to put a dollar on my card, I should at least buy something. Steve said 'don't worry about it' because he's Steve and Sicilianos is more than just a store. But if you are still reading you are probably tired of my rambling and would prefer that I extol the virtues of the most wonderful homebrew store and its owner in another blog post. Of course I couldn't leave without picking up Founders latest release of Old Curmudgeon, because even gold medal homebrewers pale in the face of the greatest brewery on earth.


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Raise_Your_Pints.jpgReflection.jpgBrad sent me an amazing Mississippi homebrew today. Dark like an abyss, with dark candied caramelized sugars coming through in the nose. This amazingly deep rich brew is a very big beer, close to Sam Adams Triple Bock or Bells 9,000. Raisin notes and malt sweetness dominate.

For the first few years of homebrewing I never really sampled any amazing homebrew, decent, drinkable, but not over the top excellent. In the past year or two I have had a number of homebrews that exceed or meet some of the best commercial craft beers available, this is one of them.

Hopefully at some point due to the work of Raise Your Pints the state of Mississippi will get their head out of their tail and legalize homebrewing. It seems a little like refusing to legalize lawn mowing if you ask me.

Snifter Glasses

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Tasting.jpgGlass.JPGMy snifters are in for my Winter Stout Tasting. This is my second order from Discount Mugs, they threw in an extra 40% shipment of glasses which was pretty cool. I had ordered from them this summer and the quality of some of the glasses was not what I had expected, they refunded me completely for them. In both cases the art dept did a great job, and the print quality was excellent. I intend to use them for all my future glass orders. They have the best prices, offer a quality product, and accurately predict your arrival date.

So when I finally get the stout tasting scheduled we'll have some decent snifters to remember it by. After some reading I have decided to make better use of my cellar. So far I have been storing my bike in the cellar, and my beer behind my bar. That arrangement has now been rectified. Why buy an expensive cooler when mother nature will take care of the temperature control for you?


Petition to Legalize small-scale home distillation

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Your politics is your business. However, if you homebrew this is something you should consider signing. If it wasn't for people doing this in 1978 it would be 5 Years, $5,000 for homebrewing. Petition the Obama Administration to Legalize small-scale home distillation

Not convinced it's a good idea? Read my post Free Spirits in America, and watch this video. Yes there is a small bit of intelligence required to distill, and yes, there is a risk of fire if done over an open flame by a fool. But remember that this is American were fools are allowed to:

  • Operate motor vehicles (yes I agree, stupid people should be banned from the road. Call your senator and get em' off the road).
  • Operate a chain saw.
  • Operate an acetylene torch.
  • Use Knifes.
  • Own semi-automatic firearms.
  • Use a lawn mower.
  • Walk on ice.
  • The list goes on.

But if someone stupid wants to walk on ice, a five year prison sentence is a little harsh. Also keep in mind that legalizing is not the same as complete deregulation. But it would open doors for craft distillers in the making.

Update: There is a decent conversation going on over on about this. My response to the prohibition era fear mongering that goes on during these discussions is the following.

  1. Distilling is legal for your tractor, just not for you. So all the bit about fire, while it is a danger is a moot point. Its not the reason its illegal.

  2. Nothing comes out the still, that didn't go in. If your homebrew was safe to drink going in, its safe coming out. Yes it is more concentrated and if done poorly might give you a headache.

The reason it's illegal is the same reason we have a three tier system in so many states, the same reason you can't legally homebrew in MS. See my blog post link above.

Oatmeal Cluster Stout

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Today I bottled up some of the Oatmeal Cluster Stout I brewed in September. Notes of toffee, chocolate, coffee, bourbon and vanilla create a pleasing aroma. My mash temps were a little low, creating some lack of body, but all, in all, this is a very pleasing brew. I had struggled to carbonate it. It sat for weeks with ten to twenty pounds of pressure on it, and remained flat. I let it age a few more weeks and then today I shook the daylights out of it and turned up the pressure. It's now carbonated. I am still not sure just what the issue was. My best guess it that a coffee bean was stuck in the line, affecting the carbonation as it dispensed. I only used three beans, but it seemed to add plenty of coffee character to five gallons. On the flipside I used six to eight fresh bourbon vanilla beans and I only have a slight vanilla flavor. Vanilla flavor is greatly dependent on the other flavor aspects of the ale. My cream ale only required three beans for a week in secondary to create a huge vanilla flavor. One thing about vanilla is that it quickly fades as the days pass.

I want to make another attempt at this brew being a bit more careful with my mash temps and sparging. I might also save some out that has no bourbon, coffee, oak, or vanilla to be able to compare the two.


19 Lbs American Two Row Malt

2.5 Lbs Munich Malt

1.00 Lb Carmel/Crystal Malt (120 L)

½ Lb Carmel/Crystal Malt (40 L)

½ Lb Chocolate Malt

1 Lb Oatmeal

½  Lb. Black Patent Malt (Debittered)

¼ Lb Roasted Barley

3 oz Cascade (2 leaf, 1 pellets)

2 oz  Willamette (Finishing)

1 Teaspoon Yeast Nutrient

1 Teaspoon Irish Moss

Cultured American Ale Yeast

Seven Vanilla Beans, Oak Chips, and Coffee beans in spirits pitched into secondary.

Makers Mark Bourbon at Kegging

10 O'Clock IPA

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10_OClockIPA.JPGOn July 20th, at 10 PM I finished my first attempt at all grain brewing. It came out with a Piney arouma, good mouthful, and nice hop character. My mash temps were a little low so it lacks a little of the body I would have liked it to have. I had expected a really big IPA and was a bit disappointed when I poured the first draft. But all in all it's really pretty decent for my first shot at it. Unfortunately I lost my notes, I still have the recipe I grabbed off of Homebrew Talk, but I had played with the grain bill a bit, and can't remember what I did. Here is the recipe I started with:

Batch Size (Gallons): 5
Original Gravity: 1.055
11.5 lbs Pale Malt (2row)
1 Lbs Crystal 10L
1 Lbs Munich Malt
1oz Chinook - Bittering
1oz Cascade - Finishing
1oz Centennial Dry Hopping

Wells Banana Bread Beer

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Banana.JPGLately I have had some great brews that were just exactly what the label said, Southern Tier Creme Brulee Stout for one. Talk about an amazing desert ale. I have never had such a desert like ale ever before, it's just perfect. Wells Banana Bread Ale is another. It too, is an incredible ale that tastes exactly like banana bread. Brewed with real bananas, this brass to gold ale with minimal head is a great summer, or fall ale. The aroma is 100% bananas!

In other news we won the kegerator contest over at Siciliano's. Thanks to Russ, George, and Steve for all their incredible work on the kegerator, thanks to everyone for all the votes, thanks to Kati and Chris for setting up the contest and thanks to Steve Siciliano for the gift card. It was spent on ingredients for a Vanilla Bourbon Stout, I will let you know in February how it came out.

To the other contestants, drop me a line sometime and we'll share a pint on me.

Beer Glasses are in for the 2011 Hombrew & BBQ Party

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Beer_Glass.jpgMy beer glasses are in for this years Homebrew and Barbecue Party July 9th. Thanks to John Heimark of Spokane Washington for producing the graphic image for the pint glasses and banner. You can now follow on twitter for updates like this one.


The Brewmaster


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