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Lots of homebrew fun this evening while I watched Monday Night Football.

I racked my spiced pumpkin oatmeal ale to secondary after a very vigorous and thorough primary. I used a healthy 1000 ml starter, and it fermented out pretty quickly, just about three days before it dropped to 1.012. Smelled awesome coming out of the fermenter, a subtle cinnamon, clove and nutmeg spicyness. And it tasted nice and caramel sweet. Really looking forward to it around Halloween.

I also racked my double IPA to secondary, and dry hopped with a half ounce of Simcoe and a few ounces of Willamette. Never tried this combo, and am curious to see how it comes through in the finished product. I’m hoping for a nice punch of pine from the Simcoe, hopefully balanced by the earthy woodiness of the Willamette.

The fermentation on this one, however, is what has me somewhat baffled. I brewed this about a month ago, and after fermentation began within 12 hours of pitching the yeast starter, it really never stopped…just a steady, even fermentation for a few weeks at about 68 degrees. While a relatively big beer at 1.080 OG, I’ve never personally seen an ale ferment this long (even my Let Me Out Imperial Stout finished earlier), and it had me a little concerned something was off in some way. I took a gravity reading the other day once it appeared the bubbles in the air lock were significantly slowing (once every five minutes or so), and it was close to the target FG of 1.015, so I let it sit for another couple days to clean up any remaining diacetyl that might be hanging around. Tasted about right coming out of primary, so I’m hopeful I’m just overly paranoid and things turn out well.

In total, I have five beers at various stages of fermentation, with my lambic experiment leading the way at a few months in the carboy. For that one, I’ll likely rack onto fruit early next year, letting the brettanomyces that’s already in there kickstart another fermentation. There’s a very thin white film of bubbles at the top of the beer, which I’m assuming is the krausen line, given how slow brett fermentation typically takes.

Next on the home brewing agenda is either a nice oatmeal stout, or possibly a coconut milk stout, inspired by Town Hall’s version I enjoyed just a few weeks ago on cask (and coincidentally Best Beer of the Fest at last weekend’s Autumn Brew Review).

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I love the smell of fermenting beer in the morning.

Long holiday weekends call for ambitious brewing plans.

It’s been quite a while since I was out in the garage brewing, so I decided on Saturday to go with an India Brown Ale, which is more or less just a slight grain variation on the last IPA I brewed, adding some chocolate malt, roasted barley and biscuit malt into the mix. I know, I know…I’ve been talking a big game recently about how eager I was to brew up a Victory Wild Devil clone using brett, but I made a game-time decision to go with this one. But don’t worry, you’ll hear more about brett in just a minute…

The color after the boil came out just right, Newcastle-ish. But this had a a hell of alot more hops, as in about 6 ounces worth in the boil (for a 5 gallon batch — take that Miller Lite). I plan to dry hop with a couple more ounces to give it that beautiful IPA aroma, balanced (hopefully) by a nice biscuit and toffee maltiness. Very excited for this one.

After I got done cleaning up after the brew day, I sat down to relax and enjoy a beer, and out of nowhere was hit with the brewing bug again. I thought I’d gotten it out of my system for a while, but I was fortunately mistaken. I figured I’d take advantage of the energy burst, so on the spot I decided I would brew a lambic the following day, which is a style I’ve never done before. I did some research and reading, and formulated what seemed to be a pretty standard all-grain recipe…half malted and flaked wheat with the other half pilsner malt. One ounce of Saaz in the beginning of the boil.

The real trick with lambics, of course, is the fermentation. So in primary I went with a standard Belgian abbey strain from Wyeast, and in secondary I’ll add a big helping of brettanomyces to give it that funky “wild” quality, along with some bacteria including pediococcus and lactobacillus. I may also drop in some oak chips to impart a little barrel-aged characteristic. After 6 months or so, once the brett has had time to do its magic, I’ll add my fruit (haven’t decided what to go with yet, maybe cherry or peach). I was shooting for a target OG of 1.050, but ended up coming in a little short at 1.036. I’m not worried about it, since the fruit will help add quite a bit more sugar in secondary fermentation. I won’t be bottling this for some time to come, and won’t even taste it until about a year from now.     

Recipes below, both for 5 gallon batches. Oh, and a short video update on my mini hop yard at the bottom.

The Captain’s India Brown Ale

Mash at 152 for 60 minutes
Target OG 1.066

8 lb. Golden Promise
1.5 lb. Caramunich I
1 lb. Biscuit malt
10 oz. Crystal 60L
8 oz. Chocolate malt
2 oz. Roasted barley

1 oz. Warrior (in boil at 60 min.)
1 oz. Magnum (in boil at 60 min.)
0.3 oz. Amarillo (in boil at 20 min.)
0.3 oz. Simcoe (in boil at 20 min.)
0.3 oz. Amarillo (in boil at 15 min.)
0.3 oz. Simcoe (in boil at 15 min.)
0.3 oz. Amarillo (in boil at 10 min.)
0.3 oz. Simcoe (in boil at 10 min.)
0.3 oz. Amarillo (in boil at 5 min.)
0.3 oz. Simcoe (in boil at 5 min.)
0.3 oz. Amarillo (in boil at flame out)
0.3 oz. Simcoe (in boil at flame out)
2 oz. Simcoe (dry hop)
1 oz. Amarillo (dry hop)

Wyeast 1335 British Ale II

The Captain’s Lambic (Fruit TBD)

Mash at 152 for 60 minutes
Target OG 1.050

4.5 lb. Pilsner malt
3.5 lb. Malted wheat
1 lb. Flaked wheat

1 oz. aged Saaz* (in boil at 60 min.)

Wyeast 1762 Belgian Abbey II (primary)

After 2-3 weeks, rack to secondary and pitch Wyeast 5526 Brettanomyces Lambicus to introduce souring characteristic
Let age in secondary at least 6 months, then rack beer onto 6-8 lb. of tart fruit (sour cherry, peach, raspberry, etc.)
Let age another 6 months, then bottle

* You can artificially age the hops by throwing them in the oven for a few hours at a low temp, about 200 degrees F, until the pungent aroma is muted. Not as good as using old, cheesy hops, but it works.