saansaturday: (fornication)
( Friday, 12 February 2010 17:48)
V and I have been doing rather a lot of homebrewing. I've hardly written about it at all, with the exception of a short post about brewing the Backwards Porter. I am going to make an attempt, now, to write about something that is not related to BJJ! (An aside: I find it amusing that my journal usually reflects so directly upon my current obsession. Go back to the beginning and you will find poetry, then recipes, then weightlifting and now BJJ, all with a nice lacing of travel-related posts, mooning over lovers far away, and little slivers of depression, expansiveness and witchcraft). Homebrewing is becoming my secondary obsession currently.

V brewed a bit with a friend back when we were in university but I just started at the end of the summer. Our first beer was a small batch of nut brown ale, cheerful and pleasant and completely gone within a couple of weeks. Next we brewed a sparkling mead with local honey--open fermentation in a big bucket, covered loosely with a plastic drop cloth, in the closet of the temple. We used a recipe from Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers as a guideline. A few ants crawled into the bucket and drowned; when it came time to bottle we filtered them out. I'd never had a sparkling mead before but I declared this mead the best I'd ever had in my life and I still stand by that.

We brewed a herbal ale with damiana and passionflower and called it Double Penetration Ale. It tasted odd and did funny things to my body. Then we brewed a cranberry/chokecherry stout, Asphyxiaphiliac. A lot of people we shared the stout with didn't like it--the sour flavors of the cranberries and chokecherries are pronounced enough that it falls firmly in the category of weird beer. As a weird beer or a stout, I think it is pretty damn good: nice thick mouthfeel, lovely melanoidin roastyness, a refreshing sour note. Pink and red and black. Perhaps a bit unbalanced, with a such a fullness of stout below and that high cranberry note above.

Next came the Backwards Porter, based on the Goat Scrotum Porter in The Complete Joy of Home Brewing. We added a heaping quarter cup of alligator juniper berries gathered in the Manzanitas in NM and at the last minute, after smelling the concoction and deciding it needed chocolate notes, I dumped in the rest of a container of non-alkalized cocoa powder (approx 175g). I'm very glad for my impulsive decision, because I'm loving the chocolate scent and flavor of this beer now. We were worried that the juniper flavor might be too assertive after our early taste tests (we did add more than the recipe called for) but the flavor mellowed considerably in the bottle. The beer has very little head, which I hardly care about in a porter. Thick (though not overly so), chocolaty, somewhat sweet, with a very light astringency from the juniper. Again I think we achieved a lovely mouthfeel. This beer was very well received by everyone we shared it with.

Ah, my beloved ESB. I became hugely enamoured with British ales during the time I spent in England. Americans are great at their assertively hoppy styles but generally fail to achieve the balance of the British bitters. I've tried ESBs from as many local breweries as I could find and been completely dissatisfied. For this beer, we actually just ordered a kit from MoreBeer. We were beyond pleased with the results! The word for this beer (which I named, of course, Extra Special Bitter Like My Heart) is harmonious. It is a bit cloudy (which I don't mind at all) but has a beautiful amber hue. It has a distinctly British hoppy flavor (Northern Brewer bittering hops, British Kent flavoring and aroma hops) well balanced by maltiness. It is best served at a cool room temperature. It has very little head but again, who cares? It smells beautiful, tastes beautiful, looks beautiful...pretty much exactly what I was hoping for. I would brew this one again exactly the same way.

On Wednesday, V got to stay home from work due to snow, so we used the afternoon to brew our Irish dry stout. We used the Guinness clone recipe from Joy of Home Brewing with Wyeast 1882-PC Thames Valley II Yeast.1 We used light malt extract rather than dark (though our dried malt extract was still dark) and used a little bit more than the recipe called for, on a whim. I'm not sure it was the right idea, as when it came time to taste the beer was rather sweet. Hopefully the yeast will eat up the sweetness well and good. We had a few snafus in the brewing process which led to us choosing a 90 minute boil. We cooled the wort, packed in snow, on our deck. When we put the brew into the carboy we got rather a lot of foam, which I guess was a warning sign. Last night we had a blowoff! Meaning that the beer filled the fermentation lock with foam and made a small mess--messes are no problem but this increases the risk of contamination. Boo. This is what we get for brewing an Irish-style beer with a British yeast.

Next we intend to brew a Belgian-style dark strong ale with Belgian Schelde Ale Yeast.2 We're still recipe-hunting for that one.

On our whiteboard we have a list of beers to brew.


  • Mexican lager brewed with agave syrup (and lime &/or chile?) (in the spring)
  • Scotch ale
  • Another stout, basic (sweet) or coffee or chocolate
  • IPA or pale ale
  • Coconut porter
  • Mead: vanilla and berry

Late summer/early autumn:

  • Barleywine
  • Pumpkin ale
  • Belgian-style holiday ale

Weird beers:

  • Kaffir lime leaves + ginger
  • Vegetables from garden?!?!
  • Bitter melon

And finally, once we have a bit more experience...Bock! (Hopefully we can swing a Maibock).

1"This strain was originally sourced from a now defunct brewery on the banks of the river Thames outside of Oxford, England. Thames Valley II produces crisp, dry beers with a rich malt profile and moderate stone fruit esters. This attenuative strain is also highly flocculent resulting in bright beers not requiring filtration. A thorough diacetyl rest is recommended after fermentation is complete." (
2"From the East Flanders - Antwerpen region of Belgium, this unique top fermenting yeast produces complex, classic Belgian aromas and flavors that meld well with premium quality pale and crystal malts. Well rounded and smooth textures are exhibited with a full bodied malty profile and mouthfeel." (


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