Friday, December 28, 2012

Cranberry Wine

I'm slowly making the move to greater than 1 gallon batches of beer.  The biggest expense in doing this is upgrading my brewing pots and mash tun.  Since I'm still buying furniture for my new apartment, I can't really justify those expenses yet.  However, fermenters are pretty inexpensive, and that's all you need to make wine.

I've made a few batches of wine in the past that have worked out pretty well.  Peaches made some of the best wine I've had.  Their flavor held up amazingly without the aid of sugar.  Blackberries made pretty good wine, but I had to add some sugar and preservatives (called back-sweetening).

Around this time of year cranberry sauce is pretty inexpensive, much more affordable than whole cranberries (at least down in Texas).  My idea was to use cranberry juice and cranberry sauce to make up the must.  It's always a good idea to use as much pure juice as you can.  The artificial flavors of "fake" juice will impact how the final product tastes, and a lot of fruit tastes different after fermentation.  The classic Cranberry cocktail juice is basically cranberry flavored sugar water.  Since I'm already not able to use raw fruit, I wanted to stay as close to real ingredients as I could.  I wasn't able to find 100% cranberry juice.  The juice I ended up using was a blend of 4 juices (cranberry, grape, apple, and pear) with cranberry as the main component and flavor.  The juice had a SG of around 1.040.  I was shooting for a strong wine, but the sugar content of the cranberry juice and sauce was much less than I was expecting.  Since I was expecting to have more sugar from the juice/sauce, I didn't stock up my pantry before blending the must.  I had 2 pounds of white table sugar and 1 pound of brown sugar that I added to raise the gravity to 1.080.  It means the wine will only be about 10-11%. Not quite the 14-15% I was shooting for.

I have no idea how cranberries are going to taste post-fermentation, but that's what experiments are for.

Cranberry Table Wine
//6 gallon batch


9.5 bottles 100% Juice Cranberry Juice (1/2 used for starter)
10 cans whole berry cranberry jelly
2 lbs white sugar
1 lb brown sugar

6 tsp Fermax yeast nutrient
3 tsp pectic enzyme (may need more to compensate for the jelly)
6 Campden tablets, crushed (to sanitize the must before pitching yeast)

1L starter of Lalvin 71B-1122 (white, red, rose wines yeast)
With no airlock activity after 24 hours, I panicked
Sprinkled 1 packet Lalvin EC-1118 (champagne, all purpose)
OG 1.080

Blended Dec 1st
I wish I used more cranberry sauce, since it added less sugar than expected

First Tasting
Rack to secondary Dec 17th
Color is orange/pink, surprising since the juice and sauce was more maroon/burgundy
Very tart, will probably need to backsweeten this one.
Usually I'm trying to guess the final taste of my young wines through the alcohol heat, but there was none this time.

I had about a half gallon of wine and a half gallon of lees leftover after transfer.  (Lees are the wine equivalent of trub, the yeast and fruit parts leftover after racking.)  I put these leftovers into jugs to freeze and melt out some of the sugar and alcohol.  Maybe that can boost the weak body of the wine. I may end up freezing more and making a port/sherry.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Small Batch Barleywine

Before I moved, I stumbled upon a Stone Brewing tasting at my local liquor store. Since trying this year's Old Guardian Barleywine, I've been itching to try my hand at one.  It was easily one of the best complex beers I've had in a long time.  The caramel and honey sweetness was right up front, and even though it was 11% ABV there was no alcohol "heat".
I really like the idea of having a yearly brew that is tweaked each year. Anchor brewing does this with their Christmas Ale.  The Mad Fermentationist brews a dark Saison each year.  James and Steve over at Basic Brewing used to make a yearly 1 gallon (or less) barleywine and started a vertical tasting of each year's brew, although the last few years they have diverged from that.  I'm not sure if this will become my once-a-year brew yet.  It seems awfully tasty to only have 7-8 bottles a year.  Or only 1 bottle a year if I save it for vertical tastings...

This is a very "homebrewer" recipe.  I wanted to add a variety of complexities, so I threw in a little bit of everything.  Next time, I may try a single malt barleywine.  I was also trying to use up some of my stock of malts.  I really pushed the limits of my 2 gallon mash tun for this brew. I had a little more than 5 pounds of grain.  I usually shoot for a liquor/grain ratio of 2 quarts per pound.  Using basic math, that's more than 2 gallons of water needed, so I cut back a bit.  I collected a little less than 2 gallons of wort after a 60 minute mash at 150°F.

After tasting the hydrometer sample of the finished product, I am very excited about this beer.  I saved some for my girlfriend to taste the next day, and even though it wasn't carbonated or chilled, she was under the impression it was a finished product that she really liked.

Blockpoint 2012 Barleywine
//A "blockpoint" is what they call an update to a program

Grain Bill
4lbs            American 2-row
        9oz     Maris Otter
        2 oz    Crystal 60°L
        1.5oz  Special B
          .5oz  Chocolate Malt
        4oz     Aromatic Malt

Target temperature 148°F
Starting temperature 150°F
Sparge temp 170°F
-Collected just under 2 gallons of total wort
Preboil gravity 1.057 (bigger than some of my regular brews!)

Boil (60 minutes)
15g Columbus (15.5% AA) @ 60 minutes
13g Columbus (15.5% AA) @ 15 minutes
15g Cascade (6.4%AA) @ 1 minute

~3/4 packet Safale US05
Aerated by shaking vigerously
OG 1.100
FG 1.020
ABV: 10.7%

4 weeks in primary fermenter
Priming sugar: 17g honey dissolved in 1 cup of water and boiled
Yielded 7 bottles

Monday, December 3, 2012

Cider Season

Living in Texas, we don't really have a lot of apple orchards like up north.  There are a few, I got peaches for my Peach Wine at Henrietta Creek, and they also grow apples.  But, none of them grow hard cider apples.  Usually these apples are more tannic, and terrible for eating plain.  Rather than going to buy fresh apples, making a press, pressing the apples into cider myself, and ending up with sub-par cider I just go to Walmart and get gallons of unpasteurized, unfiltered cider for $4.50.  It's a cheaper route at probably the same result.

Last year I made several batches. The first one developed an unpleasant sour/bitter taste after a couple months. I think this goes back to the source apples not being good for hard cider.  During batch-priming, I added a packet of Splenda for every 2 bottles. This unfermentable sweetness balanced out the bitterness well into the summer.  You can make still or carbonated versions, but carbonated it was a very refreshing drink in the middle of the Texas summer.

I also took a couple of gallons and froze it in some gallon jugs.  When inverted in a funnel over a jug, the alcohol and sugar will melt out faster than the water. It makes a drink called Ice Cider or Applejack.  Cider-makers in the northeast used to use this technique to take cider to market.  They could carry less weight and water it down before they sold it.  Unlike my regular cider, I leave my Applejack still.  It feels more like a Brandy. Basic Brewing has a great video podcast on the process.

This year, I'm trying something new that I'm calling Caramel Cider.  I boiled about a gallon and a quarter of store bought cider for an hour.  It reduced to around 2/3 of a gallon.  I always get wrapped up in how simple cider is, and after 6 batches I have never remembered to take a starting gravity reading.  The unboiled version usually gets down to 1.000.  I'm hoping the caramelization from the boil will create some unfermentable sugars so that I don't have to add Splenda again. You can see the color difference in the picture.

First Winter Cider 2012

3/4 gallon of Musselman's Cider
1/2 vial White Labs California Ale Yeast (WLP001)

Caramel Cider 

1.25 gallons Musselman's Cider
Boiled 1 hour, final volume approximately 2/3 gallon
1/2 vial White Labs California Ale Yeast (WLP001)

Brewed 11-14-12
Did not take original gravity readings
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