Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fruit Beer (Kiwi-Strawberry)

I'm not one to hide things, so I'll just say it: for the Queen of Beer competition, I'm going to send in a kiwi-strawberry wheat beer (extract).

Courtesy of
I'm still not confident enough to brew an all-grain but I think this will be my last extract. I have equipment I can borrow from my buddy, Tom (who just won First Place in the Krolsch division at the L.A. County Fair homebrew competition, woot! woot!) but, to be honest, borrowing stuff sucks. In the words of Veruca Salt, "I want [brewing equipment] NOW!" Fine, I'll wait.

Anyhoo, my other brewing buddy, Teela Smith (who one Second Place in the 2009 Queen of Beer Fruit group with her Sassy Strawberry, woot! woot!), is brewing two spectacular beers as well, but I'm not giving away her secret here.

I decided to go with fruit because I've never attempted it before. The only things I'm worried about are dryness and a tart taste (from the kiwi). Will the fruit dry out the beer? Will the pound of kiwis I'm using in the secondary be too much? That's the fun part of brewing - you just don't know. You can make a guesstimate as to the flavor and body, but you just really never know unless you've perfected it which, of course, I haven't.

Fortunately, Tom, at Stein Fillers in Lakewood, Calif., helped me out a bit and handed me a great wheat kit along with some invaluable help. Thanks, Tom!

Here's the recipe:

Malt: 6 lbs. wheat malt extract
Grain: 1 lb. Crystal malt
Hops: .5 oz. Centennial
Yeast: Safale US-05 ale yeast (dry)
Fruit: 3 lbs. Fresh strawberries, 1 lb. fresh kiwis

I'm going to experiment a bit with the fruit and add the strawberries in the primary after four days, letting it sit for three days; then add the kiwis in the secondary for four days before bottling. We'll see what happens!

I'll go into fruit beers a little later, but for now, I'm off to brew!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

International IPA Day - What is It?

For those of you who love beer enough to follow Tweeters who love beer too … and Tweet about nothing BUT beer (such as me), you already know today is IPA Day. Where did this “day” come from? What is the insane obsession with IPAs? What the hell is an IPA?

Don't worry; calm down. I'm hear to explain all of the above.

First of all, shockingly enough, this is International IPA Day. What? You mean there are those who live outside of the U.S.? People exist and drink beer in other countries? Yes, Americans, they do. Tie up your tennis shoes and pull down your belly-showin' tank-top while in France, please. Basically, it's just like every other day for us boozers, but today we have a goal.

Let's start with those who have no idea what an IPA is. Don't feel bad; how could you know? It's three simple letters scrunched together (usually with a # in front of it), so what's the big deal?

Here's the big deal: IPA stands for Inda Pale Ale. No, that's not a euphemism for an Indian who's so drunk he's turned pale. It's a type of beer. Actually, it's a “style” of beer. Basically, back in the olden days (around the 17the century), beer that was brewed with a pale malt was called a “pale ale.” A fairly good amount of hops were put in these beers to keep them from spoiling on the long trip over to India, and when East India Company started taking them to India, India Pale Ale just stuck. Let's not get into specifically why the British were sending beer to India, but let's just say the British were like “and what? And what?” to Indians. This was around the 1830s that IPA earned it's infamous name.

Nowadays, IPA is a pretty standard beer. However, an American IPA isn't the same as a British IPA. How dare you even assume that! IPAs in the U.K. are usually regular session beers, meaning standard, low-alcohol ales (yet no less delicious).

IPAs in the U.S. are brewed with what we've decided are our standard hops, either mixed up together or with a single hop. They're generally of the same standard variety, such as the classic Cascade, Centennial, and Nugget, to name a few.

Now we're getting into the nitty gritty of the IPA. Here you have your standard British and American IPAs, but what happens when you throw a darker malt in the mix yet use the same hop variety? You get what's called an American-style black IPA.

What do you get when you brew an IPA that has a really high alcohol content (above 7%) and throw some seriously hoppy hops in there, including some dry-hopped variations of brew? (Dry-hopped beer is when you place a hop bag full of dry, uncooked hops into the beer while it's fermenting or after it's done fermenting, in order to bring out some serious hoppy aromas.) You get a beer called a double IPA. And let me tell you, that is some goooooooood beer. Ever heard of Pliny the Elder? No? Go get one – stat! I believe it is the finest double IPA ever created, and a lot of people will agree with me on that one. It's brewed by Russian River Brewing Co. and it needs to be on your beer-bucket list and in your mouf right this second.

Now that we know what an IPA is, what is International IPA Day? Actually, it's technically #IPADay. Well, today was the very first IPA Day. Yep, the very first! This is a day you drink your daily bread on Earth as it is in heaven … with a Sierra Nevada or Dogfish Head IPA.

According to (I refuse to pretend I actually know who started this, so NBC gets the blame if I'm wrong!), the day was officially started by @TheBeerWench (Ashley V. Routson), and Ryan A. Ross, the guy who started Chardonnay and Cabernet Day (brilliant, by the way). Basically, the IPA is pretty much the most widely available beer in America, and kind of a standard as far as our craft-beer scene goes, so why not create a day for it?

I don't know what the original idea behind it was, but I'm going to take a wild guess and assume it's to introduce friends and neighbors to really good craft beer, regardless of what country it originated in. That is reason enough.

What am I drinking on International IPA Day? A Widmer Brothers Hefeweizen. I'm cheap and won't buy more beer if I already have some. And what?! And what?!

Image courtesy of “Lupulin Libations” @

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Perfect Day to Brew (Saison and Belgian Tripel)

Could today have been anymore perfect? In my world, no, I don't believe it could have been. I left good ole armpit Bakersfield at 7 a.m. and pulled into Long Beach about 8:45...already perfect. This is normally a two- to three-hour drive. Did I mention there's a nice marine layer and it's a cool 65 degrees outside? Oooooh yah ... perfect.

Our brewing session was to start at 9 a.m. and who had his backyard all set and ready to go? That's right, Josh. Another perfect moment. Here was the setup:

As the sun peeped above the rooftops, Josh and Tom started that old ritual of sanitizing and boiling water. They're brewing a saison and a tripel for an upcoming extract competition. Here are the recipes:


Muntons extra-light DME
Clear Belgian Candi Sugar

Styrian Goldings
German Hallertau Hersbrucker

Sweet Orange Peel

Belgian Abby Ale

Wheat LME
Munich malt
Rye malt

Candy Sugar (clear)


Belgian Saison Blend

Let's go into these beers a bit.


Saisons are also known as "farmhouse saisons." Why? Because they were originally brewed in farmhouses in Wallonia, Belgium (French-speaking Belgium) during harvest season. Saison means "season" in French, p.s. It's generally a low-ABV pale ale.

Today, saisons are brewed everywhere and usually have a higher ABV than their ancestors, anywhere from 5% to 8%.

So why is it called "season?" Because the original brewers had to brew during fall or winter in order to keep the ale from spoiling when stored. The threat of water-borne illness to farm hands was avoided by giving them this low-alcohol beer. They used to be REALLY hopped in order to act as a preservative, and hops also has antiseptic properties. Hence the reason they were often dry-hopped and still are.

According to the "BJCP Style Guidelines," saisons are to be "high in fruitniness with low to moderate hop aroma and moderate to no herbs, spice and alcohol aroma." On color: "Often a distinctive pale orange but may be golden or amber." On flavor: "Combination of fruity and spicy flavors supported by a soft malt character, a low to moderate alcohol presence and tart sourness ...

"... Hop flavor is low to moderate, and is generally spicy or earthy in character."

Saison = Delicious

Basically, a tripel is a strong pale ale. Remember my definition of Trappist ales? Well, the tripel is known to have been brewed by the Trappist brewery, Westmalle, in 1956 (For more info, go here.)

The name refers to the strength of the beer or the original gravity. ABV for these brews are 3 percent, 6 percent and 9 percent. In other words, according to the great Michael Jackson, beer king, the term tripel is "usually applied to the strongest beer of the house." I concur.

According to the "BJCP Style Guide," a Belgian tripel's aroma is "complex with moderate to significant spiciness, moderate fruity esters and low alcohol and hop aromas." On appearance: "Deep yellow to deep gold in color. Good clarity." On flavor: "Marriage of spicy, fruity and alcohol flavors supported by a soft malt character ... Esters are reminiscent of citrus fruit, such as orange or sometimes lemon."

Belgian tripel = Amazing

Check out our wonderful day in pictures!

The tripel, doing its thang...

...and the saison, workin' it.

If you know Roxy, you know why she's licking her chops!

Something you don't see in Long Beach everyday - clean, sanitary water.

Yours truly - fools in back.

This clarifier doesn't look very clarifying, but I promise, it is!

Birds-eye view of the freshly poured tripel.
Nah, it's cool guys, I'll just use my mouth.

A frighteningly low 1.094

Tom, doin' it the right way. :)

Check out that form! No, it's not cottatge cheese.

The saison's original gravity was 1.084 ... oooooh yah!