Ancient Brews, Huzzah!

Back in 2005 Discover ran an article about Dogfish Head’s attempt to recreate a 9,000 year old Chinese brew. There’s a reason they’re my favorite brewery. They’re re-releasing it to the unwashed masses in June or July (so I can finally get a taste of it) and have several other interesting brews planned, including sahti. Impressions of the stone age concoction, which Dogfish calls Chateau Jiahu, sound wonderful. Quoth the Beer Babe:

“What’s great about this drink is, in addition to being historically reproduced from molecular evidence (a history geek’s dream brew) it is sweetened with honey, grapes and has a lovely warm taste which resembles wine, or mead. It’s pretty cloudy and smells like sweet grapes, with an amber color and some carbonation that isn’t overwhelming but reminds you that it isn’t wine. I think this would be a good candidate for aging, and I am hankering to have this on a moonlit summer night for some reason.”

It’s a great time to be a drinker.

Adventures in Cidering

I’ll admit it, I’m on a cider kick. It’s just that time of year. Example given: tonight’s experiment. While hiking last week, we found a wild apple tree, full of small, exceedingly tart apples, almost perfectly ripe, and I happened to have a backpack. Serendipitously,  today I found a nice juice extractor for $8 at a thrift store, and thus began my attempt at a wild fermentation. I didn’t have enough apples to make a full gallon of juice (far from it), so I mixed the juice I pulled out with some Simply Apple juice from the local grocery store. Now, we wait. I figure I have a 50% chance at this working, and from what I’ve heard, natural cider fermentations, when they work, give some of the best tasting hard ciders possible. I’m willing to risk vinegar for such a prize.

That being said, I’m risking it because I have 5 gallons of cider bubbling away in primary at the moment. For those of you who don’t want to risk a natural fermentation, let me direct you to two heroes, valiantly experimenting with different combinations of yeasts and sugars in cider.

Link the first. Link the second.

The first link is why I’m using Lavlin 1118 on my current big batch of cider, and the second one… I just envy. If my basement looks like that in five years, I’ll be a happy man.

And Tonight’s Experiment…

My brain really wasn’t up to programming today, so I went to Fautz’s and bartered for another carboy (and got an old SPARCstation IPX from his collection, somehow), then tried my hand at a rice wine.  Not sake, but an interesting looking recipe from The Joy of Home Winemaking.  The whole section on grain wines holds a strange fascination for me, and in two weeks when I rack this one, I’ll be making a wheat wine as well. Anyway, after the rice wine was put into primary and I was racking some of the other brews that are in the works, I remembered an idea I had read the previous night, in a forum thread about making hard cider.

The basic idea was that you could simply dump your apple juice and other fermentables onto the yeast left over from a previous batch of beer.  Having four gallons of the Christmas Cyser that needed racking, this seemed the perfect time to test the method out, and one-up it.  Not only was the yeast used to reproducing like mad in apple juice, but the spices were still in the bottom, and so would impart some of the cyser flavor to the new brew.  After a quick $10 visit to the grocery store, I added 3 gallons of unfiltered apple juice and 3 cups brown sugar to the remnants of the cyser,  coming out to a healthy 1.065 original gravity. Hopefully it takes on the character of the original, as it looks like a quick and easy way to make ‘seconds’ of more complex brews.  We’ll see how it all turns out in a few months.

Traveling brewparty for the win!

Sorry, once again it’s been too long since we’ve posted anything.  The current plan for the intrepid Flagon Slayers is still the traveling party, brewing together a minimum of every two weeks.  Ross and I are trying hand at growing our own hops this year, as well: Fuggles and Cascade for me, and Wilamette, Cascade, and Tettnag for Ross.  Additionally, we’re attempting fruit gardening for more wine and melomel fodder, and I’ll even be making a lavender wine.  Homebrewing is amazing in that almost anything can become delicious boozeahol.  For inspiration, check Jack Keller’s wine recipes.  There’s a man to be proud of.

Brewing this often really adds up.  What we’ve got in carboys this week:

TheRussian has the experimental Atomic Porter (1.090 OG), black cherry wine, raspberry champagne, pomegranate mead,  Ripper Jack (High abv / high ginger applejack), Nepali Spiced Tea Mead, some sort of peachy white melomel that I made when I was drunk, and Thundertrain (I swear it’s not a bum wine…)

Chris is rocking out lately, with his now legendary Baconated Porter (it literally has a pound of bacon), raspberry melomel, a traditional plain mead, piesporter, a nut brown, and, in a first for our group, sake!

Ross is coming on strong with a nut brown, a crazy high hop IPA, and a volcanic (yes, it erupted) strawberry mead.  We just need to convince him to get more carboys, and it’s ON.

Finally, Fautz can’t brew.

I’ll be putting some of the more interesting recipes up after finals, but in the meantime, if there’s anything that looks interesting, leave a comment and we’ll try to post it.  That’s all for now, and may the party continue…

Fun with Pumpkins

Well, Halloween’s coming up, and I haven’t updated in quite some time, for the simple reason that we haven’t been up to brewing anything lately.  There are two links that really need to be passed on, though, both involving pumpkins.  The first is actually brewing related: an interesting flickr photo stream about brewing in a pumpkin. The second is just plain cool, for those who are electrically inclined: Evil Mad Scientist’s Snap-O-Lantern. Very nice!

The Device

Stumbled across a link to a self-described, all-in-one beer brewing machine today on Gizmodo called simply The Device. The Device includes CO2-pressurized hoses that move the liquid through each stage of the brewing process and temperature control to regulate the fermentation vessel. Keep checking back for more information about Flagon Slayer’s own, Linux controlled, fermentation temperature regulator.

I heart Bender and St. Bart

First and foremost, if you haven’t been to, you must. Simon is my new hero for building a real live Bender Fermenter. Words can not express.

I’ve been looking into growing my own hops, and it looks surprisingly cheap / easy / fun. Farms will ship you hop rhizomes for $3-$5, depending on the variety, so when they come back in stock early spring I’ll be picking some up. Odd to think about planning which hops you’ll need for brewing a beer a year or two from now, but I like the idea. It gives it a sort of permanence as well as adds pure homebrew points.

This Friday, as I’m sure you all know, is St. Bartholomew’s day, the patron saint of beekeeping, and in Cornwall the Blessing of the Mead is still celebrated every 24th of August. As such, I’ve decided on a Flagon Slayer party, where we’ll be showing Jeremy how to brew by making a Pomegranate Red Mead of my own devising, as well as sampling ample amounts, of course. A bottle of mead or some decent home/microbrew gets you in, and if you read this, you’ve probably already been invited.

Finally, since Kyle asked so nicely, I’m posting the recipe for Sima, a quick brewing Finnish lemon alcopop. It’s delicious, and costs about $2 / gallon to make.