Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mixing Ingredients In A Big Pot | Crystal Rye

About a month ago, I set off to brew my third Flanders Red.  I had a new recipe and couldn't wait to get started.  I've been a dedicated patron of the largest homebrew supply store in the area for 10 solid years.  In that time, I've watched them expand their home brew shop as well as their brewing, and despite my appreciation for the beer they make, have found myself a little disappointed in the selection, knowledge base, business hours and customer service on the homebrew end.  As I started to measure out my Flanders recipe, two of the five malts that I had planned to use were sold out.  Both Special B and Caramunich were out of stock.  I had experienced similar disappointment often in the past, arriving with a recipe in hand, only to find that I can't brew the way I'd planned and changing it on the fly for better or for worse.  I decided to head elsewhere.

The Best Damn Homebrew Shop inside of Krisp Market reminds me of what my old homebrew supply store used to be like.  It's homebrewing done on a smaller scale and without pretense.  Why is pretentiousness a factor?  I've waxed philosophical in the past about homebrewing being more than just mixing ingredients in a big pot.  I still feel like it's a creative outlet akin to art, and that exclusivity and elitism cheapen it in the extreme.  You take simple, fresh ingredients, combine them with intention, control (but ultimately just embrace) the intangibles in fermentation, and end up with a product greater than the sum of its parts on many different levels.  There's no reason why you should have to navigate any false terrain in the process.

The Best Damn Homebrew Shop has a good selection of malts, many that are new to me.  One of the most interesting is Caramel/Crystal Rye.  Rye adds a distinctive spicy, dry flavor to a beer when utilized correctly and with appropriate subtlety.  I'm a huge fan of Alpine's Nelson which makes great use of rye in conjunction with Nelson Sauvin hops, and I've used rye with some success in the past (most recently with Ryenoceros IPA).  Crystal Rye is something I don't have experience with, though.  It's toasted like any other crystal malt and ends up at roughly 100 L. Tasting it in its raw form gives the impression that it will impart the same flavors as its unkilned counterpart but with the additional roundness and intensity of flavor you'd expect in a crystal malt.  The last two beers I've made have used Crystal Rye and I'm excited about the possibilities.  Recipes and descriptions below:

Dotted Line Rye Mild

A recent issue of Zymurgy focused on SMASH beers and included a Rye Mild recipe.  Two weeks ago I decided to brew something similar but substituted Crystal Rye for standard Rye and made some adjustments to yeast and hops to suit my preferences.  The Maris Otter base malt and single bittering Fuggles hop addition are classically British. I pitched WLP039 East Midlands Ale Yeast to maintain the British flavor profile. The result is a 4.8% ABV Rye Mild that's conditioning right now and should be on tap in a few days.

Handsome Grandson Double Rye IPA

Yesterday, I brewed a double rye IPA with Lewy, Eric and my new friend, Bill.  I looked at a lot of different recipes when formulating this beer and decided to stay relatively true to what's worked in the past.  A large amount of American 2-Row provides the bulk of the fermentables with a pound of standard Rye and a half pound of Crystal Rye adding complexity.  Over a pound of the hops I bought a few weeks back find their way into this beer (Chinook, Amarillo, Columbus, Centennial, Cascade), and I'm hoping that they leave some room for the rye to shine in the final product.  I'll be dry hopping it three times before it's done.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Getting Front Row Seats

If you're a fan of live music, then you've likely had this experience:

Your favorite band is coming to town to play a show, and tickets are scarce.  They go on sale on a certain day at a certain time.  You carve out that time in your schedule far in advance, making sure you won't have conflicts that might jeopardize your purchase, and when the tickets go on sale you're online, refreshing the page every few seconds until you're given the chance to buy them.  You don't worry about ticket price.  You're not concerned about convenience fees.  You know that if you miss the opportunity to see the concert, that you'll regret it and that's not acceptable.  In the mad rush to purchase you buy as many tickets as you can, thinking of your friends and knowing that they will certainly buy one from you, essentially spending their money for them without pause.

That same sense of urgency seized me this week as Hops Direct finished pelletizing some of the most sought-after hop varieties and placed them on sale earlier this evening.  I checked their site on Monday and saw that Amarillo, Chinook and Citra hops would be available for purchase on Friday.  There has been talk in the homebrewing community about the difficulty in acquiring certain hop varietals.  Some types are trademarked, and can only be grown in limited quantities.  Many of the most desirable aroma and dual purpose hops used in IPAs are purportedly difficult to find this year for the homebrewer with limited buying power.  I started to get anxious.  When would their website refresh?  Should I stay up until midnight with the expectation that 12:01 would be the start of my chance to purchase these hops?  Lewy and I discussed some strategy, but ultimately braced for disappointment.  Early this morning and then throughout the day, I checked Hops Direct and saw that the new varieties had not been added to their online store.  Away from the computer all afternoon, Lewy sent me updates periodically, telling me that there had been no change.  Suddenly, at ten minutes to 5:00, Lewy sent me a text message:

"Buy, buy!"

I dashed upstairs to the computer. logged on, and made my purchase, a pound each of:


By the time I finished checking out, the Citra and Amarillo were sold out, hundreds of pounds purchased in less than 10 minutes by the brewing public, hungry for alpha and beta acids in their homebrews.  Now it's time to tweak my favorite Double IPA recipe.