Yeast, you can’t make beer without it.

December 8, 2011

As part of my never ending obsession to become the best possible beer brewer I can be, I’ve taken the next step. In the past I have always bought a fresh package of yeast whenever I planned on brewing. Yeast is expensive as far a beer ingredients go. I can get a good powdered yeast such as Safale US-05 or 04 for $3.99 a package at the local hombrew shop. Since it is never good to under pitch the amount needed, I end up buy 3 or 4 packs. The other type of yeast I use is liquid yeast from Wyeast. These are really expensive, around $8 for a “smack pack“. My local homebrew supply shop only keeps three different strains in stock, so when I want a different one, I have to factor in the cost of a cold pack and shipping as well. I usually pitch 2 or 3 packs for my 10 gallon batches. Like I said, can be a bit pricey. My other option for yeast is great, I can always ask the brewmaster, Jennifer for some yeast from Marble City Brewing Company. She dumps more yeast in 1 batch then most homebrewers use in a year. It’s a great strain (California Ale Yeast), however working out the timing to meet her at the brewery can be tricky. So I’ve added another peice of equipment to my collection.
  For a long time, I’ve wanted an Erlenmeyer Flask and a stir plate. Every once in awhile, I pull up my wish list at Rebel Brewer.com and daydream about various ingredients and equipment I want (yes, I know I’m a dork). With the stir plate and flask, I would think how nice it would be to make a large yeast starter so I would only need 1 package of yeast. I knew I’d need the largest started kit they offer, since I brew more then the average 5 gallons at once. Well, my mom recently asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I sent her a link to the Rebel Brewer page. The next thing I know, a box from them shows up on my door step. I have the best mom ever! Not only did she get me this, but she also got me a membership to the American Homebrewer Association. That is something I have wanted for as long as I’ve been brewing! Now that I have my flask and stir plate, I went ahead and ordered 1 package of Rogue’s Pacman yeast strain. I will brew with it, and when I move the beer to the secondary, I will harvest and store the yeast. This part is new to me. It’s something I have never done before, and I’m a little bit nervous about it. I found a ton of information online and plan on using this webpage as my guide. I would like nothing more then to build up a great yeast library, and never have to buy it again.
So yes, I plan on making a batch again this weekend. I haven’t brewed for about a month. That last post where I said I was going to brew this weekend? It didn’t happen. I figured I had more beer then places to store it, I should drink down my stash a little bit first. A few weekend bon-fire parties later and I have space again. I plan on making another Cocoa Stout because my last batch (the one with peppers) is freakin’ amazing.

Alright topic switch. Here is what I currently have on tap and bottled at my house,with my tasting notes.
On tap:

Butternut Squash Ale. This is the 1st batch I made this year, when I was still getting use to my equipment. It is more thick, heavier, spicier and alcoholic then my next 2 batches. I like this the least. My friends who try it says it’s awesome, but I consider this my “learning batch” and I don’t feel like it lives up to my standards. I’ll be glad when this keg is empty. My subsequent batches of this beer however, are incredibly good and have earned me props from some of the most grizzled, cynical and critical beer snob members of the homebrew club.

Cream Soda. Yes I know it’s not a beer, but I included it because I do have it on tap in the fridge. My kid made this. It’s good, he is proud of his creation, and I’m proud of him. He is going to be one hell of a brewer when he grows up.

Woodruff’s New World Porter. NOT a homebrew. The Brewers filled up one of my 5 gallon kegs for me for $40. At that price, how could I NOT have this on tap? When I got my infuser, I ran this thorugh shaved coconut and raw cocao nibs. It was just like drinking an almond joy. Because it was so good, we drank around half the keg over Thanksgiving weekend. I plan on keeping one of Woodruff’s tasty creations in my fridge at all times. When this is empty, I’ll get their IPA next.

It All Went Black, Cascadian Dark Ale. This is the beer I ran a contest to name in my last post. Mark Baggett, one of our local #KnoxBeer tweeps named it. I still got to get him is six pack (Holla Mark!). I like this beer. It does taste more chocolatey then I expected, but then again, I did use 2 pounds of pale chocolate malt in the recipe. I do like it however. Nice and hoppy, very drinkable. If I make this again, I will dial back on the chocolate malts. Homebrewing is nothing if it ain’t a learning experience.

Spicy Cocoa Stout. Saved the best for last. This beer is great! It’s better then great! It’s freakin’ fantastic! This is definitely one of the best beers I have ever brewed. On tap it’s nice and smooth, big cocoa taste at first, then you get the spicy pepper heat on the finish. Pepper and chocolate are perfectly balanced. It warms me up when I drink it, just as I intended with this recipe. This will be my winter seasonal from now on.

Bottle conditioned beers:

Spicy Cocoa Stout, Butternut Squash Ale and Cascadian Dark. The Butternut Squash ale I save to give out for Christmas presents.

Alright, I still want to hear from you if you read my blog. Leave a post below. Maybe we can meet up sometime and you can sample one of my brews.

Cheers,

Ratchet


A note about #StoutDay and the #KnoxBeer @Woodruffbrewing cask of it.

November 3, 2011

Today (November 3rd) is Stout Day which is described in this way: “International Stout Day is a worldwide celebration of the iconic beer style, Stout. Taking place in homes, pubs, breweries and restaurants; it’s all about celebrating the craft beer revolution, relishing in this beloved beer style, sharing your photos, tasting notes and events with the world.” This takes place nearly 3 months after IPA Day. These events are to raise awareness of these certains styles of beer, and are mostly a social media led phenomenon. I slightly conflicted about these “days”. On one hand, I personally don’t need an excuse to drink a good quality craft beer. These special days were mostly created by certain well know beer bloggers and seem to first and foremost be a way for them to extend their brand. On the other hand, it does go a ways to create awareness of different styles of beer. It does give people an excuse to “drink outside of their comfort zones” and try a style that they might normally avoid. If someone who normally drinks Light American Lagers gets turned on to craft beer because of one of these specialty days, then it’s worth it. At the same time it makes me wonder how far naming these special days will go. Do we really need a day for every style of beer? What about Schwarzbier Day or Belgian Tripel Day? One things is for certain, it’s only a matter of time before someone announces another one of these days and the rest of the internet & social media spheres jump on board. Chances are, so will I.

I do want to add that my first craft beer experience was with a stout. I was a young adult (aka a Dumbass) who had just dropped out of college to go traveling with some friends (aka other dumbasses aka dirty hippies). We did shows and gatherings. On the “lots”, other more experiences dumbasses would sell beer. One of the most popular brands at these events (or whatever you want to call them) was “Sammy Oaties”, our nickname for Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout. From my first taste, I was in love. For years afterwards I would only drink dark beers. It wasn’t until I became a homebrewer that I expanded my appreciation of other styles. A good oatmeal stout takes me back, and I still buy myself a “Sammy Oatie” every once in awhile as a treat.

Speaking of Stout Day, my good Friend Dave Ohmer will be tapping a cask of Woodruff’s State Street Stout this eveing at 6pm at Dead End BBQ. This is another addition in his cask conditioned series. I will be there to support my local brewery, and if you are here in Knoxville, why don’t you make an appearance as well?


Update: I took this picture around 6:15 pm. It’s my buddy Dave (the brewer) giving me a fresh pint of cask conditioned stout. Damn it was good!

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