Showing posts with label Biere d'epices. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Biere d'epices. Show all posts

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Very Beery Weekend

If you follow my Twitter feed, you will know that the weekend just gone was full of brewing and bottling my homebrew.

Mrs Velkyal's uncle has again asked me for some of my beers for his clients. Every year he makes a gift basket for them with organic and homemade foodstuffs. Last year I provided Machair Mor, an export stout with a hefty dose of chocolate malt, and Biere d'épices, an amber ale spiced with clove, cinnamon, ginger and dried sweet orange peel, hopped with French Strisselspalt and fermented with a Belgian Abbey yeast strain. This year I am providing more of the Machair Mor, but switching out the Biere d'épices for a new beer called Winter Gold, which is kind of my take on Fuller's magnificent 1845, but with a hop dose which would put it in the same ball park as Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome Ale.

On Saturday morning I brewed the first batch of Machair Mor and but for having to change the recipe slightly at the last minute - I forgot to buy the dark brown sugar I use and so had to dig around the cupboard and thankfully there was enough turbinado sugar to do the trick - everything went swimmingly. I ended up with a batch of 1.056 (14 Plato) of pitch black wort, which the Nottingham yeast I used munched on with much delight, when I checked the cellar this morning the krausen had all but died down. I am expecting about 5.9% abv for this one, and if it tastes as good as the gravity sample then Mrs V's uncle's clients are in for a treat.

I wasn't planning to bottle the first batch of Winter Gold until yesterday, but while changing the blow off tube to an airlock on Saturday morning, I managed to push the bung into the beer. Well, sort of. The airlock sat on the neck of the carboy, with the bung dangling above the beer, so it only went into the beer itself just before I starting siphoning the beer into the bottling bucket. Hopefully nothing drastic has happened, but retrieving the bung from the empty carboy was far easier than I anticipated. Winter Gold started off at 1.062 (15.5 Plato) and finished at 1.010 (2.5 Plato), giving it a very respectable 6.9% abv, which should go nicely with the 38 IBUs of First Gold and Fuggles, the gravity sample certainly suggests it will be a nice beer.

Having walked the dog at the crack of dawn as usual, I brewed again yesterday morning, this time as part of a project for the Charlottesville Area Masters of Real Ale. We are starting an internal Iron Brewer, where those in the club that wish to do so will brew any beer style they want, but must use 3 ingredients chosen in advance. The plan is to present the beers at our November meeting, and our 3 must use ingredients were chocolate malt, raw blue agave syrup and Palisade hops. My plan was to make a brown ale, my plan went wrong. I say "wrong" but nothing went awry with the actually brewing process, it was more a case of not putting the right chocolate malt into Beer Calculus. I put just generic "American Chocolate" in the calculator, which has a Lovibond rating of about 125 but used Simpson's Chocolate Malt, with a rating of about 420. So my brown ale became a porter, a very dark porter at that. The actual recipe was:
  • 81% Vienna Malt
  • 10% Chocolate Malt
  • 9% Raw Blue Agave Syrup
  • 19.5 IBU of 7.8% Palisade for 60 minutes
  • 19.5 IBU of 7.8% Palisade for 15 minutes
  • 1 IBU of 7.8% Palisade for 1 minute
  • 1 packet Safale US-05
All that gave me an original gravity of 1.048 (12 Plato), and the yeast was happily doing it's thing within a couple of hours.

A busy but satisfying weekend was rounded off last night with drinking a fair amount of homebrewed cider at a fellow CAMRA member's party and hearing plenty of positive feedback about the brews that I bought to the party.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Planning Ahead

I sometimes think that homebrewing is an exercise in being one step ahead of the seasons. As such, I am already in the planning phase for my winter beers.

I love winter with a passion, I sometimes think I have SAD in reverse, the darker and colder it gets, the happier I become. With Mrs Velkyal soon to start work again after the summer, she teaches 3-6 year old children, my thoughts turn to beers to brew for the long dark nights, hopefully dark, cold and snowy - I love snow. Random side story, almost every year in Prague it would snow on my birthday.

Anyway, to some of my homebrew plans for winter and Yuletide. As I have done for the last 2 years, I plan to brew my chocolate Export Stout and spiced Belgian Amber Ale. Both those recipes are pretty well established in how I like them, so I doubt I will be tweaking too much, though I do plan to make 2 batches of each.

Although not a beer for the coming winter, I will brewing the third rendition of my Samoset Vintage Ale, which I brew in November for the Thanksgiving of the following year. Now that I have a little mash tun, this year's version will include Biscuit and Victory malt on top of a Golden Promise base, with extract making up the difference, and hopping with First Gold.

I am also planning to brew a couple of clone recipes, in particular the Fuller's London Porter from a recent Brew Your Own magazine, for which I am playing with the idea of pulling out the little polypin to try and condition it almost a la cask. Staying with the Fuller's theme, I want to create something akin to 1845, which is still one of my favourite beers on the planet.

As ever then, lots of plans, ideas and thoughts, what will you be brewing with winter in mind?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Due South...again

Tomorrow, as I am sure you know, is Thanksgiving over here. As such, Mrs Velkyal and I drove from Charlottesville to Chimney Rock, North Carolina yesterday. Admittedly we have since driven on Columbia, South Carolina, but stopping in Chimney Rock was mainly to see Mrs V's uncle and partner as well as to deliver 48 bottles of homebrew.

Said uncle has a cleaning business and likes to give his clients a Christmas hamper of hand produced goods each year. This year he asked if I could give him some bottles of my Machair Mor Chocolate Export Stout and Biere d'épices which he had enjoyed last year. Naturally I obliged and all the beer was safely delivered last night, with a couple of bottles extra for sampling to make sure everything worked out well. Suffice to say that I am not taking any of my beer back to Virginia on Sunday!

Anyway, family duties call. So happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Almost every homebrewer I know gives the beer he, or she, makes a name, and I was thinking the other day about the things that inspire the names we give our beer and brewing operations. For example, I refer to my brewing as "Green Dragon Brewing", going back to the original name after a brief flirtation with Pivovar Brewing, which is almost a tautology when translated from Czech. Brewery Brewing? Nah, sounds a bit naff really. The name Green Dragon Brewing was chosen because in the film version of Lord of the Rings, Pippin and Merri sing a song about beer, which contains the line "the only brew for the brave and true, comes from the Green Dragon".

With the beers I brew, the names often reflect the ingredients, or what I am trying to achieve in making the beer - of course it is easy to say that I am just trying to achieve making a good beer, but there are often reasons that underpin the recipe creation process. Take for example my India Black Ale that I bottled last week, called Red Coat India Black Ale. The thinking behind the the beer is that India Black Ale, or Black IPA if you must, is nothing more than porter using different hops and too many of them. Replace the Cascade, Centennial, Simcoe et al with British hops to the same IBU rating and hey presto, you have over hoppy porter. Red Coat of course refers to the soldiers of the British Empire for whom beer was shipped out to both the American colonies and India.

A beer such as my spiced Christmas amber ale, called Biere d'épices, harks back to my growing up in Germany and loving the smell, and taste of course, of the gingerbread houses my mother made at Christmas. Why use French as the name though? Well, simply because my parents now live in France and given the Belgian yeast and French hops in the beer, it sounded more apt than "Lebkuchenbier" -  though of course a quick change of yeast and hops, and Lebkuchenbier could yet be this year's Christmas libation of choice.

Tomorrow I will be bottling the Best Bitter I brewed a couple of weeks back, single hopped with First Gold and fermented with Wyeast 1968 London ESB yeast. The name is Gunnersbury Gold, gold for the hops and Gunnersbury for the park in London where my brothers and I would play when we went to visit my nan in Southall.

The one thing I haven't done of yet is get seriously creative and create labels for my bottles. There is a very simple reason for this, I have, in the words of Blackadder, all the "artistic talent of a cluster of colour blind hedgehogs in a bag". I did though create this little thing for my recent weizenporter, Black Rose.

However, Rob from OptaDesign is supremely talented and created this label for LimeLight.

What then inspires your homebrew brands and label designs?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A carboy, a carboy, my kingdom for a carboy!

It has been a while since I brewed. My fermenters sit empty, forlorn and pleading to be filled with wort and yeast, apart from the dandelion wine that Mrs Velkyal made in our tiny little 1 gallon carboy which is being bottled this week and left to sit until Thanksgiving.

I am expecting to change this situation in the near future, in fact at some point today I will be buying ingredients from good old Northern Brewer, and maybe also from Rebel Brewer as they have a wider selection of hops. I have a few options when it comes to what beers to make next.

Of course there is the British Style American Style India Black Ale I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. I also want to re-make my Ring of Gold Best Bitter, largely because I am convinced the recipe is sound, it was just that the carbonation didn't happen because the cellar was too cold for the yeast. Then there are my winter beers, Machair Mor and Biere d'épices which maybe I should brew earlier this year to give them plenty of time to condition in the bottle. Also due to be done is making parallel versions of LimeLight using the two yeast strains I have used, to see the difference - on a side note, one of my colleagues mentioned that the 2.1 version reminds him of Hennepin from Ommegang.

Those are the existing brewing plans, and perhaps I think too much but I have a raft of other ideas floating around my head - one of which is to make maple mead, using maple syrup rather than honey, or possibly a combination of the two. Naturally I am planning to take Ron's posts and make some of those historic beers. Also maybe, just maybe, I should make a special beer for my birthday this year, perhaps something with an OG of 1.075 and an IBU rating of 35 or some such mess of numbers.

In the midst of all this homebrew stuff for my cellar, I have also had the delight of helping some friends take their first steps in homebrewing, both of whom work with me at the Starr Hill tasting room. One kicked off his career with a large scale version of the
Black Rose Weizen Porter (originally a dunkelweizen, but perhaps a touch too dunkel, though not too dissimilar in colour from Erdinger's dunkel), while the other started out with a California Steam Beer.

So many ideas, I think I need more carboys...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Homebrewer of the Week

The beginnng today of a new semi-regular series, in the spirit of my recent Brewer of the Week I introduce Homebrewer of the Week! First up is, well, me. So here goes.

Name: Velky Al

How did you get into home brewing?

My homebrewing was a result of my getting into beer more seriously than just chugging gallons of whatever industrial stuff was available while watching football in the pub. As much as I love Czech beer, which is predominantly pale lager, my first beer love has always been stout. My first legal beer was Guinness, I loved Murphy's and Beamish as well. I wanted to make my own because there is so little ale being made by commercial brewers in the Czech Republic.

Are you an all grain brewer or extract with grains?

I brew with extract and specialty grains. I don't have the space at the moment to go all grain, though I plan to eventually, the key word being eventually, I am in no rush.

What is the best beer you have ever brewed and why?

Difficult to say, I really enjoyed my imperial stout I brewed last winter as I did my Christmas beer. Having said that, a week or so ago I open a bottle of a barley wine I brewed last November in preparation for Thanksgiving to see if it was worth putting forward for the Dominion Cup. Well, simply put it was smooth, boozing and obscenely easy to drink for its 12%abv.

What is the worst, and why?

My first brew in the US was a total disaster. I wanted to make a pale ale with Amarillo hops, using White Labs' Burton yeast. For some reason the yeast didn't do its thing and the beer didn't ferment properly, so I had to pour 5 gallons down the sink. That was the reason I ditched the 5 gallon batches for 2.2 gallons and clear carboys rather than white buckets.

What is your favourite beer that you brew?

It has to be LimeLight, my lime and coriander witbier, which is also very popular with people who drink it. It is such a simple recipe and the results are consistently good. Without having to go through the hassle of all grain brewing, I am done with LimeLight in about 2 hours from start to finish.

Do you have any plans or ambitions to turn your hobby into your career?

I would love to, but I have to admit that as much as I enjoy brewing, I prefer seeing the enjoyment other people get from drinking it. Working in a brewery tasting room has taught me plenty about serving beer, keeping lines clean and the like, so I would like to have a pub at some point in the future, whether my own brewpub or taking on a tied house with one of Britain's regional brewers.

Of the beers you brew, which is your favourite to drink?

My favourite to drink is my Scottish export ale, which I call Gael 80/-. It is very much a classic Scottish ale, more sweet than it is malty, lightly hopped and at only about 4.5% abv something I can drink plenty of. It was also the first beer I successfully conditioned in my polypin/cubitainor to replicate cask conditioning, and it was even better!

How do you decide on the kind of beer to brew and formulate the recipe?

As I said in the first question, it started out wanting to brew a stout. Otherwise I think about the kind of flavours I am looking for and then go from there, sometimes I want to brewing something as close “to style” as possible. For example at the moment I am planning a beer based on my favourite chocolate bar, the Twix. I am thinking about using Biscuit malt, Chocolate malt and one of the Caramel malts, and very lightly hop it.

What is the most unusual beer you have brewed?

In terms of ingredients, my Christmas beer was the most unusual, especially as I wasn't following a given style, just making it up. My initial idea was to make a beer that reminded me of the gingerbread houses my mother made at Christmas when we were kids. I started off with an amber DME base and added some Caramel 80 for colour and a touch of sweetness, for the hops I used French Strisselspalt, a very low alpha acid type. Nothing drastically unusual so far, but then came the spices I added to the boil, the classic Christmas spices of cloves, ginger, and cinnamon, as well as dried sweet orange peel. The result was essentially a very yummy liquid gingerbread, which I called Biere d'épices.

If you could do a pro-am brew, what would you brew and with which brewery?

A very difficult question, and I can think of several breweries I would like to do something with, all of them back in the UK. Everards would be an automatic choice as Mark there has given me tons of invaluable advice for my homebrewing, and I learnt a lot from his when we met up in Prague to tour some of the brewpubs there, not to mention the fact that I think Tiger is one of the nicest beers I had last time I was in England. Another brewer who has been a great source of knowledge and enthusiasm for beer, and whose beer I love drinking, is Jeff at . Finally would be Dave at the HardKnott Brewery because he seems to like doing random stuff, which kind of chimes with my own way of thinking about brewing. In an ideal world, we would all of get together to brew something, perhaps with one us choosing the malt, one the hops, one the yeast and the other the water!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Liquid Ginger Bread

It seems like a veritable age since I wrote tasting notes about a beer I brewed, but in the spirit of better late than never, here is a picture of my Christmas spiced amber ale. I called this particular brew Biere d'épices, roughly translated from French as Spiced Beer, a play on the French for gingerbread, pain d'épices.

My intention with this beer was to make a Christmas beer which wasn't too heavy and cloying, but still have those classic Christmassy flavours, cinnamon, clove, ginger and sweet orange peel were all thrown into the boil. The hops were from France, Strisselspalt, a low alpha acid hop which I would needs tons of if I wanted to create a hop bomb version of this beer, but I like a variety of flavours in my beer instead of having my tongue stripped bare.

So on to my Cyclopic notes:
  • Sight - dark amber to red, light tan head
  • Smell - gingerbread, mild orange
  • Taste - biscuity with jammy blackberry notes and a dry finish
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Taste - 1.5/5
This was a very subtle beer, with lots of flavours and aromas knocking around. The body was medium and the finish as well as being dry left a warming alcoholic glow. One of the inspirations for the beer was growing up in Germany and going to the Christmas markets every year, Biere d'épices brought all those memories flooding back.

PS - don't forget, if you are taking part, to brew your American Pale Ale this weekend as part of the International Home Project.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Brewing Plans

Having not had a single beer throughout Advent, I was very much looking forward to Christmas Day and downing a few bottles, admittedly though, this week is a blip in many ways because I intend to keep my annual booze free January.

Much to my own surprise, I only drank my homebrew on Friday, mainly the Machair Mor Imperial Stout, but also a couple of the spiced winter ale - Biere d'épices. I will write more about the Biere d'épices some time during the week, as I have more back in Charlottesville and want to do a proper tasting, and take pictures and such like.

One thing I am very happy about with the Machair Mor is just how much better it was with an extra few weeks of conditioning in the bottle, the Galena hops have mellowed a touch and now combine with all that chocolate malt to make a beer which is dangerously moreish.

Possibly the greatest pleasure was being able to share my brews with Mrs Velkyal's father and uncle, both of whom were most complimentary. I think now though I will need to buy a few more of the 3 gallon fermenters and start making more of my staple beers, especially as my dad is keen to try my beers when he and my mother come to visit in March/April. Particularly in order will be more of the Gael 60/-, a fresh batch of my Experimental Dark Matter (not using a kit though this time), and a new, hopefully improved, version of Limelight, which from reading (only in Czech sorry), went down very well with other homebrewers.

With all this brewing to come, I must admit that I am doing so with an eye on entering a few competitions this year. I am well aware that I am unlikely to win anything, but I want the feedback from judges so that I can improve my recipes and get more pleasure from seeing people enjoy my beer.

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...