Brewing for the Holidays, Part II

Holiday Brewing, Part II

Following up the brewing of our first 2011 holiday ale a week prior, this past weekend, we fired up the propane burner and set off on knocking out our second batch for the season. To compliment our spiced English ale, we thought we’d come out swinging with an imperial stout. My thinking was to lull our friends and colleagues in with a decent session beer and then hit them over the head with a high alcohol and strong hop presence stout (think along the lines of GDBC’s Yeti series or Firestone’s Parabola). A perfect accompaniment to a cold, dreary winter day. Unfortunately, as a result of some bad math and pulling a bit too much from the mash tun during our sparge and we’re left with a run of the mill stout.

I’ll quell my disappointment until I sample the resulting brew, but my heart was set on hitting another home run as we did with our second batch of our Vanilla Porter. Brewed for Design & Image’s 40th anniversary party last week, 24 bombers of our best brew to date* were given away to a lucky few at the soirée.

Vanilla Porter brewed for Design & Image

And so this may indeed be the last brew update of 2011. While we didn’t get as many brews in as we did in 2010, our quality has far surpassed what we doing a year prior. With my 30th, the holidays, and a few back to back home Bronco games fast approaching, our free time for the remainder of the year is dwindling. Combine that with our misstep that was this past weekend’s brew, resulting in a decision to go back to the drawing board in regards to our setup and process, and this stout may have been the last beer brewed of 2011**. My goal for 2012 is to become far more efficient in our process as well as increasing our brewing capacity so that we can be doing at least 10 gallon batches from here on out.

*As well as our highest alcohol by volume brew. While our main objective has never been to get the most alcohol out of a batch of beer, creating a 9.5% ABV brew on our own is an accomplishment we’re proud of as home-brewers. Nearly 2 years into the hobby, we’re still refining our craft, but to hit our numbers and the mark on any beer is something that makes me smile. To do so for such an important event allowed me to breathe a sigh of relief (we’ve fucked up “occasion” beers in the past) while feeling rather content with what we produced.

**We are going to bust out a cider this upcoming weekend which will be kegged and enjoyed by those with access to our tap room.

Drink up.

Brewing for the Holidays

Holiday Beer Brewing

As the days get shorter and the holidays near, per tradition, we spent Saturday brewing the first of two beers we’ll be giving away during the season. A cool gray day was the perfect accompaniment to the brewing of our first attempt at a Christmas beer. The beer we brewed is an English ale, dark amber in hue and spiced with orange peals, cinnamon, all-spice, vanilla and wildflower honey. As I write this she’s actively fermenting away at 68°F. Next Sunday we’ll brew our second offering which will be an imperial stout with a nice hop bite.

Drink up.

Homegrown Cascade Hop Harvest 2011

Miss Erin With Cascade Hops

On one of the first days where the hints of autumn could be felt in the air and seen in the color of the daylight, it was only fitting that we spent the first day of the holiday weekend brewing up our first harvest ale. Sometime in the midst of this past spring we nurtured to health our first hop plant rhizome which exceed our expectations in terms of size (in the ballpark of 15 feet) and output (almost 5oz) for it’s first year as part of our brewery. While grain and water mingled in our mash-tun and Led Zeppelin II played in the background, we climbed ladder and fence to harvest what this season had bestowed for our soon to be ale. With hands sticky from the fresh lupulin, we pitched all of our Cascade hops into the latter stages of our boil. If all goes according to plan, we’ll be drinking a rich deep mahogany colored ale with an inviting hop aroma and a toasty malt backbone as summer fades in the rearview mirror.

Harvesting Cascade Hops

Regardless of yield, it was extremely satisfying to brew a beer with hops that we grew and harvested minutes before adding them directly to our boiling wort, especially when we didn’t expect the plant to produce in it’s first year. Hopefully next year our first plant will do even better and we’ll be as lucky with yet to be born siblings as we expand our personal hop farm.

Drink up.