Monday, March 5, 2012

Experimental Adventures

So, Brandon and I had a long, but productive brew day yesterday and got to experiment a little bit.  Before I get to that, however, a quick update on the status of our business.  Still no location, ugh.  This part has been, by far, the most difficult part of the process to date.  We have a very narrow set of requirements and there are only a certain number of spaces out there (available or not!); making it a needle-in-a-haystack sort of search.  There are obviously a lot of federal, state, county and city regulations to juggle which makes the search just that much more difficult.  We continue to scour all of the commercial listings on our own as well as with the help of our agent.

Now, on to the brew day.  We were brewing a beer that was the idea of my girlfriend, essentially we were trying to recreate the flavor of a salted caramel in a beer.  For those who haven't done much (or any) brewing, there are some grains available that create some of that caramel flavor.  We have all used these in varying amounts in other brews, but this is the first where I really wanted to highlight the caramel flavor instead of using the caramel to support other flavors.

Time for a little Brewing 101!  A quick run-down of the initial steps we go through to make beer.  Beer is basically fermented sugar water with alcohol and carbon dioxide being the by-products of the yeast eating the sugar in said sugar water (yep, we're drinking yeast poop!).  The first step is to get the sugar out of the grain so the yeast will have something to eat.  We do this by soaking the grain in water at a specific temperature, allowing enzymes to convert starches to sugars.  Normally we just throw water in at a specific temperature, let it sit for an hour or hour and a half, then get the water out.  For this, though, I wanted to try something new.

I had been wondering about a mash method called decoction mashing for awhile and, while this is really more of an antiquated mash technique for use with grains that have not been modified with modern malting techniques (as well as other reasons), I thought that the process might help me extract more caramel flavor from the grain.  Essentially, for this method, the beginning is the same except we let it rest at a lower temperature than the "single infusion" method I described above.  After a period of time, a specific amount of grain is pulled out of the main mash and brought to a boil for a little while.  This is then added back to the main mash in order to bring the temp up to the temp we normally aim for with the single infusion.  From there, the rest of the brew day is the same.  This should, in theory, add more of a caramel flavor to the beer, and our first taste of the unfermented, cool wort seemed to bear that out.  I'm really excited about this beer.  If nothing else, it was (and is) a great experiment!  If you are interested in learning more about decoction mashing and seeing a video about it, try this link to Northern Brewer, Brewing TV.  Brandon also took a couple of photos during:

Stirring the Decoction

Decoction Close Up

While brewing we also bottled 3 batches of beer that had been carbonating: Mexican Spring (an Agave Lime Wheat), Sour Power (our version of a Berlinner Weisse) and Rooster Red (Irish Red brewed for the Des Moines Roosters Aussie Rules Football team).  I'm sampling Mexican Spring right now and I really like it.  Brandon's friend and wife tried it the other day as well and could really envision themselves drinking it while floating down the river in a canoe or kayak.  We also tasted 3 others that should be ready relatively soon: A Belgian Quad currently aged about 6 months, Big Nuts (Imperial version of Numb Nut Ale) and Sweet Grits Ale.  All 3 have a lot of potential, but are still a little young and the flavors need to blend a little more.

Mexican Spring

Anyway, I think I have rambled on long enough.  If you made it this far, thanks again!  I need to find a way to make some of these shorter...apparently I'm a little long-winded!  Either way, have a great night and we'll have more news later!