A Tale of Two Ales

As recreational brewers, we’re a little… lax in our note-taking during the brewing process (right down to forgetting to save our recipes, at times). That means when something goes wrong, it’s a little harder for us to determine exactly what we did to cause the problem.

The latest case in point comes from our two “Lawnmower Ales,” light(er – still around 5% at least… and that estimate further shows that we need to be more diligent with note taking) summer brews that we made a conscious effort to brew on the cheap. Both are composed almost entirely of 2-row and 6-row pale malts, cheap-ish hops, and cheap yeasts. We didn’t go all-out on the cost-saving measures, but each ended up running shy of 20 bucks.

One of the beers came out really cloudy, and with a sour (not a good sour) taste that left us struggling to finish off our 5-gallon keg of it. The other, which I tried for the first time last night – probably more than a month after trying the other one – is more along the lines of what we were going for. The beer is fairly clear, and though the flavor and body are a little on the light side, that’s what we were aiming for.

Without better note taking, it’s going to be impossible for us to nail down what it was that caused the differences between the beers. A few hypotheses, however:

  • Better yeast in batch #2.
  • Cascade hops in batch #1. We’ve had trouble with cascade-hopped batches in the past, both in terms of cloudiness and the sour taste. The Sparty On Tequila Pale is the most prominent example of this – and it had the additional ignominy of being our first batch with numerous bottle-bombs. There could be some technique we’re doing improperly when using Cascades.
  • Contamination. It’s no secret that, to us, the drinking process is just as important as the brewing process – and they often take place simultaneously. Maybe we’ve gotten soft in maintaining sanitary conditions.

We’ve also been having a common off taste in some of our other beers recently – but we can’t pin down the source. Paul hypothesized that it might be warmer fermenting conditions, but I think that’s likely not that case, as ales are intended to ferment in the 70-degree range, where we have them. Without speaking to more experienced brewers (remember – we’ve only been doing this for just over a year), and having them tell us what that flavor is even called, much less what leads to it, we could be in the dark for a while longer.

That reminds me… it’s been far too long since we’ve attended a meeting for the Ann Arbor Brewers’ Guild. Now that the brewing crew is fully healthy, hopefully we can make it to the next meeting.

Recipe: Red’s Rye Clone

[Editor’s note: publishing a bunch of old recipes that, for one reason or another, have yet to see the light of day – t]

This beer is a modified Founder’s Red’s Rye clone.

Grain

  • 9 lbs American 2-row
  • 2 lbs Crystal 60ºL
  • .5 lbs Flaked Rye
  • 1 lb Rye Malt

Hops

  • 1 oz Cascade (3.9% AA) 60 minutes
  • 1 oz Centennial (8.3% AA) 60 minutes
  • 1 oz Amarillo (8.6% AA)  15 minutes
  • 1 oz Cascade (3.9% AA) Dry

Yeast

  • Wyeast 1272 American Ale II

We mashed for a little over an hour right around 165ºF with 4 gal of water. We ran the mash through an additional times to set the grain bed then added 170ºF water to sparge until we got 6.5 gal to start the boil, and finished with about 5.25 gallons.

  • OG: 1.069
  • FG: 1.016
  • ABV: ~6.4 %

Original Gravity Two Year Anniversary

Original Gravity Brewing

Tim and I were  bored last Saturday and decided to check out a brew pub we had never been to before. I couldn’t walk long distances on account of a badly sprained ankle, so it seemed like a great a opportunity to drive out to a brewpub in the surrounding area.

We decided to head two towns over to Milan, MI and check out Original Gravity Brewing Company. It’s just off the road in an unassuming building that used to be an auto garage. The first thing you notice as you walk in is the brewing equipment set in the far corner of the space. Most places separate their brewing area from their dining area, but OG decided to incorporate it with the bar surrounding one side and a low fence surrounding the other. Immediately upon walking in, you get the impression that this place is about beer.

There are quite a few round wooden tables with heavy wooden chairs set in two separate sections, but Tim and I decided to sidle up to the bar. The bar itself is impressive. It is very wide and made out of heavy, dark wood. From the look of the place to the ease and friendliness of the waitstaff you get the feeling the that the place has been around for a long time, yet, as the title of the post may have hinted, OG is just under 2 years old.

Tim and I had both tried some of their beers before (Primordial Porter for Tim, 440 Smoker for me), so we came in with some pretty high expectations. The most memorable beer for me was their Southpaw IPA. Their website describes as being hopped with copious amounts of Cascade and Amarillo hops, which I usually associate with a citrusy, almost grapefruit flavor. The hop taste in this IPA was more resiny and syrupy, which is not to say it was bad. It was a different taste in an IPA than I’d grown accustom to, and the hop taste balanced well with a fairly sweet malt base.

We’ll probably be heading back to OG this Saturday for their 2 year anniversary extravaganza. There are details here, but the highlights include $2 pints until 4pm, BBQ starting at 1pm and, in a collaboration with White Labs, are showcasing the power of yeast. They are taking the same beer recipe and using different varieties of yeast to showcase the flavor profiles of different strains. All 20 beers will be on tap starting at 3pm. If you’re interested in homebrewing and the subtleties therein, this is definitely an event you’ll want to check out.

Recipe: Simple Bitter

[Editor’s Note: We have a bunch of (old) recipes sitting in drafts that haven’t yet been published. For the sake of getting some of them out there, I’ll publish them even though they’re no longer timely -t]

This was an attempt to re-use our yeast from the Sullivan Stout and Return of the Yeast Brown.

Grain

  • 8 lbs Maris Otter
  • 1 lbs American Crystal 60ºL
  • .25 lbs British Chocolate

Hops

  • 1 oz Kent Goldings (4.9% AA) 60 minutes
  • 1 oz Kent Goldings (4.9% AA) 45 minutes
  • 1 oz Fuggle (5.1% AA) 10 minutes

Yeast

We mashed for a little over an hour right around 165ºF with 3 gal of water. We ran the mash through an additional time to set the grain bed then added 170ºF water to sparge until we got ~5 gal to start the boil.

  • OG: 1.048
  • FG: 1.008
  • ABV: ~5.1 %

Summer Beer Festival

I won’t be breaking any new ground here, but it’s certainly worth a reminder: The Michigan Brewer’s Guild Summer Beer Festival takes place July 23rd and 24th in Ypsilanti. The official poster:

Summer Beer Festival Poster

Most of Michigan’s prominent Microbreweries should be in attendance (the usual suspects such as Grizzly Peak, Founder’s, Shorts, and many, many more), providing samples of their flagship beers, as well as some one-time-only special brews.

For those who have never been, it’s a great time. Tickets are $30 (Friday) and $35 (Saturday) if purchased in advance at one of the participating breweries. For more info on the Festival, check out the Michigan Brewer’s Guild site. I’ll post any updates we receive as the date approaches.