Hello there. I did not plan to write this post; it just came to me this bright early morning in my kitchen. I was tooling around & boiling wort to make a starter for an IPA I’m brewing tomorrow. I am making an IPA because I (somewhat arrogantly) want to make something that is better then Bell’s Hopslam. I realize I might have lost some readers right there with that statement. I can just imagine people thinking “Ratchet, you idiot, HopSlam is the bomb! Nothing you could possibly brew would be better then it!” and “Oh hell, there he goes again, what is wrong with this dude?” Well, here is what I am thinking. Yes I have tried Hopslam. I have read and heard about this “wonderful nectar of the gods” from websites, magazines and friends. Every time my favorite beer store, Bruisin’ Ales, gets some in stock it sells out almost immediately. The last time I was in Asheville they sold out of umpteen cases before I could get there. Luckily I have friends (well for now at least, let’s see what happens when they read this post) that share the spoils of their beer purchasing victories. My Knox Beer Crew buddy and manager dude of Bearden Beer Market, Mr. Matty Mac was able to procure a case. He nicely and selfishlessly allowed members of the beer crew to purchase a bottle. Yes, we were all giddy with joy and anticipation. I saved mine until I had the right moment to savor it. The time came and I popped open the bottle and poured it into my favorite glass. I did all the beer geeks things. I held the glass up to the light and gazed at it’s amber color and creamy tan head. I took a big sniff to process it’s piney, resiny hop aroma. Then the moment of truth came, I took a generous sip.
You know when you were a kid and that one Christmas you really wanted that big G.I. Joe Aircraft carrier playset? You asked Santa for it (just to placate your parents, you knew it was just some fat guy in a suit playing the role). You made sure Mom and Dad knew it was on your list, and you told every Grandparent, Aunt and Uncle about it? Then the big day comes, you open your present and you get the Cobra Terror Dome instead? It’s still something really cool that you like, that your going to get a lot of enjoyment out of, but it wasn’t exactly what you wanted and anticipated. You’re grateful to have it though. My Hopslam experience was like that. For me, it just did not live up to the hype. Don’t get me wrong, I like it a lot and if I ever have the opportunity I WILL buy it, but I’ve had other IPAs that I have enjoyed much more. Now, don’t crucify me for my opinion. I realize we all have different taste. It’s a subjective thing. I’ve met people who actually prefer Keystone Light to Hop Project. It’s not my thing and I try not to judge.
Which brings me to the hype aspect. I believe that for the most part, us humans are just instinct driven primates. Back in the day of hunting and gathering we survived by hoarding food for the winter. I think we are hard wired to respond to scarcity. Why do we go to Asheville and drop a small fortune on beer when there are perfectly good choices here in K-town? Because it’s all stuff we can’t get here! There are many studies showing that if you are lead to believe something is rare, hard to aquire or expensive, your enjoyment factor of that particular thing goes up. One study that has been making the rounds is the wine price one. In this study people were told that they were given different wines at different prices. They were told one wine cost more then another. They reported that they liked the higher price wine much more. The trick was that both wines were actually the same one.
All this got me thinking when I started planning my next beer. If I didn’t rate HopSlam a 5 cap on Untappd, could I do better? Could I brew something that I found more enjoyable? I started thinking about what I like in an IPA. I like hops (duh), but not necessarily bitterness, unless that bitterness is perfectly balanced by malt sweetness. I really prefer American Style IPA to English. I am a big fan of West coast style hop flavor and aroma. I also realize that Hopslam bills itself as “Ale brewed with Honey”. Ok, I can do that. I also know that with a name like “HopSlam” it had a big hop bill. Ok, no problem. So, when I sat down to formulate a recipe I knew I wanted something around 70 IBUs, made with honey, massively dry hopped with Simcoe & other West Coast hops and in the 7-9% ABV range. So I put together a recipe. I usually share my recipes, but not this one. I’m going to hold this one close to the chest to see how it turns out. Once it’s ready, I want to do my own taste test experiment with it. I want to have my own personal side by side comparison with HopSlam and a few other IPAs that I like. In the future I will post the recipe and results. Until then, I have this impossible to find, ultra-rare, incredibly hyped beer you just HAVE to try.
I’m having another small episode of “writer’s block”. Even putting together a coherent post for this website is difficult. However, an even bigger problem I’m having right now is naming my Cascadian Dark Ale. I had a few ideas, but none of them really sounded right to me. Usually I come up with a name when I formulate the recipe. Sometimes I come up with a better one before I make a label. With this beer, I’m coming up blank. My relative loss of my creative energy could be your gain. I’ve decided to have a contest to name this beer. The rules are simple. Just tell me what you’d would name it if you had brewed it. It also has to be a name that no one has used for a beer before. If it’s on Untappd, it’s automatically disqualified.
Here’s what I’m offering the winner: a mixed six pack of my homebrew, & a small part of the label dedicated to any message you want to put on it. Want to promote your website or twitter handle? Fine. Want to be quoted? Great. Want to write a story or post a joke? Ok by me. Keep in mind though that your label is not going to get seen by a lot of people. I don’t sell my beer, but I do occasionally give some away to friends or family. Also the winner needs to meet me somewhere close by in Knoxville. I live in Vestal, I work near downtown. Sorry, but I’m not traveling all the way to Straw Plains or Farragut to deliver the winning 6 pack. I also will not ship it. Must be 21 or older to win. To enter, just post your proposed name in the comments below.
More about this style: Cascadian Dark Ale is also referred to by the oxymoronic “Dark IPA”.
On another note, I’ve been putting my new counter pressure filler to good use. Once I figured it out, it works perfectly. I still have a few bottles from each batch that I am naturally conditioning. For quicker drinking, I can bottle beer only a few days after it’s kegged using this system. It’s much faster then waiting a month for the priming sugar & yeast to carbonate the batch.
I had such a great response to my live blogging of my last brew day, that I thought I’d do it again. I took the day off work. It’s been a slow work week and I am caught up. Thought I’d brew a batch of American Style Dark India Ale aka Dark IPA aka Cascadian Ale. It’s a style I’ve been wanting to brew for awhile. I’ve had many homebrewer’s interpretations of it recently, along with a few commercial examples. I really like it. I formulated this recipe and ordered my hops last week. Of course, after I weighed out my grains and ground them I revisited my worn copy of Brew Your Own magazine that has an article about this style of beer. It’s seems like my recipe has more chocolate malt then others do. So it might turn out to be a “chocolate IPA”, but pale chocolate malt isn’t as roasty as normal chocolate malt. Either way, I’m sure it will be good. I will let you know when I eventually get to drink it. Here’s my recipe for 10 gallons:
Mash w/ 9 gallons of water (hold at 152-154 for 60 minutes)
Sparge with 8 gallons of water at 168 degrees
Boil and follow hop schedule
Yesterday I went and filled my water jugs at Love’s Creek Spring. I also set everything up on my porch so I could get the water going as soon as I woke up. My whole plan is to get done as soon as possible so I can take my son to “Scare in the Square” this evening.
5:40 am: Woke up before my alarm. I should get out of bed & get going.
6:00 am: Started water going, hoping to mash in by 7.
6:10 am: Coffee!
6:54 am: Mashed in. Hit my temperature with no issues.
7:00 am: Started Sparge water going. It’s on low since I have an hour to get it to 168 degrees.
7:08 am: Making breakfast.
7:28 am: Just stirred the mash, 30 minutes left to go until Sparge.
7:34 I’m now measuring my hops. This is my first true all whole hops brew.
7:58 am: Starting my Vorluaf
8:23 am: Sparging
9:03 am: finished Sparging, waiting to achieve boil. Only 20 more degrees to go.
9:10 am: it’s at boil! Adding 1st hop addition
9:25 am: added next hop addition
9:40 am: yet another hop addition. Also working on cleaning out my mash run and sanitizing my carboys & cool down equipment.
10:05 am: last 5 minutes of the boil & last hop addition. Also adding Whirfloc tablets
10:10 am: boil is done. Turned off propane. Took out mesh bags full of hops & let then drain in a strainer. Going to start my whirlpool in a few minutes.
10:20 am: started my whirlpool. Going to do this for 20 minutes so all the trub goes to the center of the brew pot.
10:40 am: on to the cool down. It’s a lot easier to do on a cold rainy day.
11:02 am: cool down done & carboys are full!
11:24 am: starting gravity of the wort is 1.062. Tasty very hoppy, but it balances with maltyness & a hint of chocolate malt. No roast character which is good & within the style for this type of beer. Of course the flavor will change with fermentation. I’ve pitched the yeast & am awaiting the magic of fermentation. It’ll be awhile until I post again, there is a lot of clean up to do.
11:54 am: not even close to being done with brew day clean up, but must take a break. Hard work.
1:00 pm: Guess what? Still not done with clean up. I’m tired.
What a weekend! I’m finally back in Knoxville, relaxing at my friend’s work & using the wifi. I’m also drinking my growler of Highland Brewing Company’s Clawhammer Oktoberfest. I brought all my empty growlers to Kingsport with the grand idea that I would fill them with tasty beers from all over. However, the reality is that I was so busy working my booth, I didn’t have time to get my growlers filled. I barely had time to eat or visit with other brewers. I was able to come back with only 2 growlers. The other one has Heinzelmännchen’s Root Beer for my son.
Alright, here’s how the whole weekend went down. Friday I got off work early. My bosses was kind enough to lend me her pickup truck that has a camper top for me to be able to haul my kegs along with the Woodruff Brewing Company’s kegs, ice tub, c02 and tap box. I not only had my homebrew, but I was officially representing Woodruff as well. After I loaded my stuff, I went down to the loading dock behind Downtown Grill and Brewery and met with Dave (one of the brewers) and loaded up a half barrell of Alt and a half barrell of Kolsch. A half barrell is is standard size keg for those of you not down with brewer lingo. Dave very professionally tied the kegs down with a ratchet strap. He did a much better job than my laughablle half assed attempts with bungie cords. Then again, he’s a pro who knows what he’s doing because part of his job is delivering kegs. After everything was secured, I headed up north towards Kingsport. Roughly 2 hours later I was there. I checked in to my dirty but cheap Motel 8 and then headed down to the site. I unloaded the kegs and equipment and made sure the beer was iced down. Then I went back to the hotel to unwind for a bit. I visited a local gas station/ convenience store for snacks, chilled a bit then headed back down to the site for a little brewer only pre-party. I saw some old friends, ate some food, listened to some bluegrass and met some really cool people.
I really enjoyed meeting and speaking with Dieter Kuhn and Sheryl Rudd of Heinzelmännchen Brewery out of Sylvia, North Carolina. They’re we incredibly nice and generous, having donated a keg of their “Chocolate Covered Gnome” to the pre-party. Chocolate Covered Gnome is a strong 8% abv porter made with cocoa powder. I was blown away by how delicious it was, and had to know everything I could about how it was brewed. I spoke with Sheryl first and asked her why they used cocoa powder instead of cocoa nibs. I really wanted to know “how did they keep the cocoa powder from settling out during the fermenting process?” She introduced me to her husband Dieter and we spoke about beer and his secret for getting the chocolate flavor in it. I learned much, but I am sworn to secrecy. I could tell you how he does it, but then I’d have to kill you (I can’t do that, I need every reader I can get!) I can tell you that I now know not to use cocoa nibs in my beer. It turns out that the cocoa butter fats turn rancid within a couple of weeks. This explains why I thought the chocolate imperial stout I made early this year was infected. It was just the fats going rancid and not an infection at all. Thanks for the advice Sheryl and Dieter. Visiting your brewery just made the top of my must do list.
On Friday night we also had a half barrell of Highland Brewing Company’s Clawhammer Oktoberfest on tap. That was when I was able to fill my growler that I am currently enjoying. I love Highland’s brews. I remember back in the day when we couldn’t get them her in Knoxville, I’d take orders from friends and make a drive to Asheville just to stock up. Anyway, I filled my growler and stopped drinking for the couple of hours it took me to sober up enough to drive the short 1 & 1/2 mile to the hotel. I didn’t really sleep well due to a combination of an uncomfortable bed and hotel situation.
Saturday morning I was up bright and early. I ate the free continental breakfast at the hotel and headed to set up my booth. I had to get kegs tapped, the tap box and carbonation levels just right, the Woodruff banner hung and everything else (merch, tools, etc) in place. The event opened early at 11 am for VIPs. Homebrews poured during that time were collected to be judged and everyone had a ballot where they could vote on their favorites. My Butternut Squash Ale was a hit with many people coming back for seconds, thirds and even fourths! I came up with a new thing to tell people about it. I’d ask if they liked pumpkin ales. If they said yes, I’d tell them it was the same beer different squash. The 11am to 1 pm when it was just VIPs was great, the lines weren’t to big and luckily I had a couple of lovely volunteers to help me pour beer. At 1 pm they opened the gates to the general public and things got hectic. I was trying to pour beer while hooking up an infuser while trying to get food while trying to find beer to drink that wasn’t at my tent. Phew! I really could have used more help. During this portion of the festival, I felt like I was completely overworked. There were a couple of moments when I felt like just walking away and letting people serve themselves. I was able to get a few volunteers, and a little bit of a break. During that time I went and hung out with Don from Knox Beer Snobs, Jennifer and Adam of Marble City Brewery. I also made sure to get beer from Underground Brewing Company, the homebrewers of Legit Brew. I made sure to go say hi to the legendary Oscar Wong of Highland Brewing. I also met Jon of Tattood Brew (who is now on our links section). I had really hoped to spend time at the Beer University part of Oktoberfest. There were some great classes that I had wanted to attend, but it just didn’t work out that way. Hopefully I’ll have a little more help and will be able to next time.
Speaking of beer university, I ended up doing a quick talk about beer infusions. I had set up the infuser at the booth running Woodruff’s Kolsh which is named Downtown Blonde, through fresh cut strawberries. It was a hit and we call it “Strawberry Blonde”. For the Beer University, the idea was that we’d have a keg set up and then we were going to run it through fresh hops and let people taste the difference. That did not happen. Instead I had to wing it. I was a little buzzed at that point. A friend of mine video recorded it for me as seen below.
When the festival was officially over, the biergarden part stayed open for the volunteers to enjoy beer as a reward for all their work. We poured as much as we could, sold the rest of the Downtown Grill & Brewery glasses. I ended up trading a glass to a guy for the shirt off his back just because I could, and my drunk ass thought it was funny.
At the end of it all I made sure everything was packed up in the truck. I then walked a block over to Stir Fry Cafe to hang out with some people I had met during the festival. I ate some really good spicy tuna rools and drank water to sober up for the drive back to the hotel.
My overall impression that this was a really great inaugural event. This is Aaaron and crew’s first time putting on a beer festival like this. There were a few rookie mistakes made, but that is to be expected. Those minor issues were addressed and will not happen next time. Speaking of next time, check out Thirsty Orange Brew Extravaganza. This is is still in the planning stages, but believe me, you will not want to miss this in the spring.
Enjoy my pictures below, leave a comment about Oktoberfest. I will try to post again soon, but now my focus in on the upcoming Asheville Oktoberfest taking place on Saturday October 8th.
Hello my 1 or 2 readers. You still checking out my blog? Good, because this time I have a special VIDEO blog for you. I filmed myself every step of the way when it comes to making my delicious Butternut Squash Ale. This is a behind the scenes look at my brew day.
Ingredients for 10 gallons
12 lbs butternut squash (processed weight)
18 pounds pale ale malt
1 lb carapils malt
2 lb Vienna malt
1 lb 75L dark crystal grain
2 lb light Munich malt
2.5 oz williamette whole leaf hops (60 minute boil)
1 .2 oz of williamette whole leaf hops (last 15 minutes)
1 oz saaz hop pellets (last 5 minutes)
2 cup brown sugar
1 lb flaked oatmeal
2/3 lb Ginger root peeled & chunked (1/2 at 6o minutes boil, 1/2 at 15 minutes)
2 Whirlfloc Tablets (last 15 minutes of boil)
2 1/3 tsp nutmeg
4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp crushed coriander seed
1 tsp yeast nutrient
4 packages of Whitbread dry yeast
Peel butternut squash & bake it until caramelized on the outside
Mash crushed grains at 152 degrees for 60 minutes in 8 gallons of water (put Flaked oats in a mesh bag)
Sparge with 7 gallons 170 water. Add squash, gypsum, 2.5 oz
of Williamette hops & 1/2 the ginger. IMPORTANT: Squash and Ginger Must be in fine mesh bags, or clogging will occur.
Bring to a boil for 40 minutes. Add the brown sugar, whirlfloc Tablets, coriander seed, 1 oz of Saaz hops & rest of ginger boil 20 minutes. At 5 minutes add remaining 1 oz of saaz & 1 tsp of yeast nutrient & remaining spices. Cool rapidly to 70 degrees pitch yeast. After a 2 weeks rack to secondary.
On another note, I am SUPER EXCITED about the KINGSPORT OKTOBERFEST this Saturday!!! I’m like a kid on Christmas, I can’t wait! I’ll be in charge of setting up the randal (that’s an infuser, for all those not down with the beer lingo) on to various microbrews around the festival. We’ll be infusing a porter with coca nibs (raw chocolate), a kolsh with fresh strawberrys and other yummy beers with other yummy stuff. If you want to know when and where each infusion will take place, make sure to follow both myself ( @RatchetBrews ) and @KPTOktoberfest on twitter. We’ll announce each one there. Plus I’m sure the tweets will get more entertaining as the day progresses and more beer is drank.
I went jogging this morning and was listening to the Brewing Network’s Sunday Session podcast on my iPhone. Let me just say that the cast of the Sunday Session show all sound like total home brewing shock jock dorks. I listen because even though they are idiots, every once in awhile they’ll drop some homebrewing knowledge. Once of the main idiots was talking about how he doesn’t formulate his own recipes. Something about how it was too hard and that there are plenty of tried and true homebrew recipes out there that are formulated by world class brewers. I think it’s just because he’s probably too dumb (ha ha, just kidding, don’t hate me) to come up with his own. However, it did get me thinking about beer recipe formulation.
Like most homebrewers that I know, I started out by brewing “kit” beers. I’d go down to the local homebrew shop, decide what I wanted to brew, and pick out an ingredient kit. A typical ingredient kit contains everything you need to brew beer. In it you will find a can or two of malt extract, hops, priming sugar and maybe a mesh bag and some specialty grains for steeping. They also contain an instruction sheet. It’s pretty simple and straight foward. I became comfortable with brewing beer in this fashion, some of them pretty damn tasty. After awhile, I took the next step and followed some of the recipes from Charlie Papazian’s the Complete Joy Of Home Brewing. I remember fondly making my first batches of Rocky Racoon’s Crystal Honey Lager and his Holiday Cheer recipe. When I took the leap to all grain brewing. I would order the all grain version of recipe kits online. Basically the same thing but with cracked grains instead of malt extract. I would also look up recipes online for certain beers. If there is a commercial beer you love, chances are you can find a “clone” recipe on the internet or in one of the many books published on the subject.
I still use other brewer’s recipes from time to time. If there is a style I haven’t made before, I find myself looking at several recipes to get an idea of what to do. I use them as a template, and make my own changes. A perfect example of this is my fall seasonal, Butternut Squash Ale. Last fall I wanted to brew a spiced pumpkin ale. I looked online and found several recipes. Then I started thinking about the abundance of butternut squash I had grown in my backyard. I wondered if I could adapt a pumpkin ale recipe. After more online research, I decided to go for it.
The last several beers I’ve brewed are recipes I formulated on my own. Coming up with a recipe is a tricky thing. You got to have the right balance of malt, hops, yeast and adjucts for whatever style that you are brewing. It’s a balancing act. I spend a bit of time thinking of the right ingredients. Last weekend, I was walking around the Market Square Farmer’s Market daydreaming about ingredients for a chocolate pepper stout that I want to brew for the winter. I went ahead I got some peppers from one of my farmer buddies. I’m still thinking of the right hops to use, how to make the stout sweet, roasty and smooth while and combining it just right with the heat and flavor of the peppers. I have a recipe written donw, and think that I’ll more then likely continue to make changes right up to brew day.
I think it’s the natural progression of a good homebrewer to formulate his or her own recipes. It’s a great way to learn what works and what doesn’t. Yes mistakes are easy to make and will be made, but as long as you follow the first rule of homebrewing (relax and have a home brew) you’ll be fine. Below is my “work in progress” recipe for chocolate pepper stout.
Chocolate Pepper Imperial Stout (10 gallon batch)
10 pounds pale ale malt
12 pounds Marris Otter
2 pound pale chocolate malt
1 pound wheat malt
1 ½ pound of lactose
2 pounds of dark crystal malt
2 pounds cara pils
3/4th pound roasted barley
½ pound black patent malt
1 pound of cocoa nibs
2 ounces nugget hops (boil)
2 ounces williamette (boil)
2 ounces of Goldings hops (finishing)
8-10 tennessee cherry chilis (last 20 minutes of boil)
6 big red and smoked jalapenos (at flame out, and left in primary)