Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Pectin: my most hated of all polysaccharides

Last week we bottled this year's meads. We ended up with about three and a half gallons each of traditional Still Sweet Orange Blossom Mead and Jackfruit Melomel. Both are quite good, but the filtering of the Jackfruit was horrendous. The problem: pectin. Jackfruit is loaded with it.

For those of you unfamiliar with it, Jackfruit is a giant, spiky south Asian fruit related to breadfruit and durian. It tastes kinda like funky bananas and pineapple, is incredibly resinous and sticky to peel, and is loaded with kidney bean sized seeds (which can be cooked in curries, fried or salted and roasted!). I got my hands on about 10 lbs of raw jackfruit from a local farm, not even a whole one as the individual fruits can be upwards of 60 lbs. It took probably two hours to peel...ugh. Then I racked 4 gallons of mead onto it, added pectic enzyme, and let sit for a month or so.

Some people really go au naturale on their meads, adding water, honey, yeast and nothing else. Not me. Yeah the Vikings may have mixed honey and water in a barrel, spit in it for good luck and left it to ferment as it wanted, but not me. If figure if you can use it in wine, you can use it in mead. So I add yeast nutrient, fining agents, acid blend, sorbates and sulfites, and filtering as necessary to make something great come out in the end. However, patience is still a virtue.

Well after all the waiting, racking, waiting, sparkaloid, waiting, sulfites and sorbate, and more waiting, it was fairly cleared. But there was still some sediment and more importantly, pectic haze. Thanks a lot, pectic enzyme.

So into the filter it went!

I use a gravity fed vin-brite filter for my wines and meads, and while it works very well if things have been fined and given plenty of time to clear, it didn't fare so well against the jackfruit. I expected it might take 45 minutes or an hour...

It took eighteen hours.

Here's a photo or the carboy perched precariously on a chair for some extra gravity. I decided to just leave it to filter overnight, as it was barely going. By the next evening I was able to bottle it, blended with some of the sweet mead to balance its acidity and final gravity of about 0.996.

Obviously there are some oxidization concerns. Normally I would be worried, but these bottles won't last more than a few months anyway, and there is some ascorbic acid in the acid blend I added to taste before they went into the bottles.

The verdict? They are both still quite young, but are very good meads already. The jackfruit really comes through in the nose, and gives it a Chardonnay character in the flavor. The sweet mead is nice, you can really taste the honey, and the honey aromas are still around. The final gravity was about 1.022 so it's sweet but not cloying. Both have very nice color and clarity.

I ended up with 30 wine bottles and 8 smaller beer bottles for competition. The sweet mead got gold foil, jackfruit silver. Some of these will get special labels and end up as presents, most will just be enjoyed by us! Total cost: about $2.50 a bottle I'd guestimate. Plus hours of labor and months of waiting...

So here's some Tips For Mead:
  • Don't heat the honey. Just add one gallon of honey (I like Orange Blossom because I can get a gallon for about $25 around here!) and top up to 4 gallons total. Swirl and mix as best you can, either in the carboy or in a pot with a whisk. Add some yeast nutrient (a couple teaspoons) and your yeast and you're good to go.
  • Sanitization. Cleanliness is next to godliness. That said, honey is pretty resilient stuff. Don't stress too much.
  • Add fruit into the secondary. If you want, you can freeze it first which kills off some of the nasty bugs and more importantly causes the fruit cells to rupture, meaning more fruit flavor and aroma. You can use campden tablets to sanitize the fruit must if you wish. The slower fermentation in the secondary will not blow off nearly so much of the aromas, whereas if you put it in in the beginning you risk messy explosive blowoff and loss of flavor and aroma.
  • Add acid blend. It really helps round out the flavor, making your mead less of a one trick pony. If you add acid blend at the beginning, which can help the yeast, go easy. I say 'can', because yeast do like an acidic home, but honey is acidic, and some honeys are more acidic than others. I have had a fermentation get stuck because the PH dropped too low... Try 1/4 tsp for 4 gallons. You can always add, but you can't take it away. Then add to taste at bottling. I only put about a half teaspoon total in these.
  • Patience. Let it clear before bottling. This could take 6 months to a year. If you use bentonite or sparkaloid, mix it in very well then wait at least a week.
  • You can always sweeten to taste at bottling. Just be sure fermentation is done, and consider adding sulfites and sorbate to keep fermentation from starting up again.
  • Bottling. Move your carboy to where you're going to rack from at least a day before you plan to bottle. This applies to wine too. It's amazing how those sediments shoot up into suspension. Then rack into another carboy or bucket to get it off the lees. Then you can filter if you wish, or don't bother.
  • If you're going to make it sparkling or petilent (a little bubbly) use beer bottles and bottlecaps. Otherwise your corks will shoot out. If you aren't down with sulfites, use bottlecaps in case you get a restarted fermentation in the bottle.
For more info check out Ken Schramm's The Complete Meadmaker, a great book which I've found very helpful.
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Saturday, December 13, 2008

CSA Box: Week 3

So our Community Supported Agriculture membership with Redland Organics began just before Thanksgiving. For those new to the term, a CSA is a program where members sign on with a local farm or group of farms before the growing season, paying for a weekly box of produce throughout the upcoming season. The farmers use the investment to purchase seeds, fertilizer, etc. without having to pay interest to a bank. The members in turn get a box of of local, seasonal, and frequently organic produce each week. We pick ours up at a member's house conveniently located in Coconut Grove.

But it's Winter! Well, Florida is special because the growing season is reversed, we plant in the Fall and harvest through the Winter and Spring.

Anyhow, I think it might be interesting to list what we receive and what we end up doing with it.

Week 1
  • Some stalks of lemongrass (went into stirfrys and curries)
  • A bunch of Dill (went into previously posted dill pickles)
  • Green Beans (went into Green Bean Casserole for Thanksgiving)
  • Mizuna (salads)
  • Baby Bok Choy (Stirfry)
  • White Asian Salad Turnips w/tops (Hakurei turnips. These were really good, went into salads and stirfry)
  • Lettuce (salad. Duh.)
  • 'Kirby' Pickling Cucumbers (4 went into Dill Pickles, 4 into Sweet Pickles. Both really good.)
  • a Monroe Avocado (guacamole)
  • Extras: a Canistel (ate when ripe, mmmm eggfruit)
Week 2
  • Pei Tsai (asian green = salads)
  • A tomato (into sandwiches)
  • Three baby butternut squashes (Two went into an awesome Squash and Apple Soup, one went into Callaloo)
  • Mint (Mojitos!)
  • Another Monroe Avocado (isn't ripe yet)
  • Two Black Sapotes (almost ripe, cookies?)
  • Callaloo (actually a sort of vegetable amaranth known as pig weed. Made a Trinidadian Callaloo. It was so-so.)
And now this week:

Week 3
  • Four Yellow Squashes (will probably grill)
  • A smallish Daikon radish (will pickle for Bahn Mi's! Vietnamese sandwiches that are some of the tastiest things on Earth.)
  • Hon Tsai Tai (Salads? Stirfry?)
  • A pint of Cherry Tomatoes (Actually kinda big, probably in salad)
  • Green Bell Peppers (grill or salad)
  • A nice Eggplant (Baba Ghanoush!)
  • Salad Mix: arugula, mizuna, tatsoi, lettuce (um, salad.)
  • Thyme (should have been in last week's. I'll thyme something or other...)
  • Roselle (Jamaican Sorrel/Hibiscus. I have NO IDEA. But it looks really, really cool. Probably try making a tea, and take some to Seattle for Christmas centerpiece decoration)
  • Didn't take extras this week, as we're leaving in a couple days
The cookbook didn't come in the box, but it will be the end of the eggplant. That's the Roselle up in the left corner.
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Friday, December 05, 2008

Happy Repeal of Prohibition Day!

Seventy-five years ago today, December 5th, 1933, the 21st Amendment was ratified and the national experiment in Prohibition officially came to an end. Interestingly Utah was the final state needed to ratify the amendment, though Mississippi would be the last to do so, in 1966.

This didn't end prohibition for everyone of course. National prohibition was over, but around 2/3 of the states elected to exercise their "local option" to allow voters to choose to remain dry, and for a time around of 1/3 of the population of the U.S. chose to do so, either on a state, county or local level. Even today dozens of dry counties remain, including, famously, Moore County, Tennessee, home of the Jack Daniel's Distillery.

Here in Florida there are five dry counties, Lafayette, Liberty, Madison, Suwannee and Washington County. What's most interesting about the dry county phenomenon is the interaction between state and local governments. In many states it's actually illegal for a city or county to go dry, meaning control of alcohol policy is firmly within the state's hands. For example, Oregon's Liquor Control Act, is "designed to operate uniformly throughout the state," and replaces and supersedes "any and all municipal charter enactments or local ordinances inconsistent with it." Others are simply given the option, for example New York allows local municipalities to exercise the option via a public referendum. In others control is handled almost entirely on a local basis. North Carolina may have the most complicated system, setting up dozens of independent local boards to create and administer alcohol policy within their small jurisdictions.

Well, here's to the diamond aniversary of the 21st Amendment! Now back to studying for my Intellectual Property final...
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Saturday, November 29, 2008


So I made another batch of bacon. Ran up to Penn Dutch in Hollywood and got a whole pork belly for a very reasonable price. This time I took photos of at least some of the process.

I split the belly in half and made about 4lbs of maple bacon and 4lbs of cracked black pepper. Basic recipe out of Charcuterie, basic cure + maple syrup or black pepper. Here you can see them side by side after curing.

The big revelation on this one was I finally got my smoker to cooperate and not overcook the bacon. I use a Weber Smokey Mountain "bullet" smoker, and while it does a great job of holding 225 for 10 hours it doesn't really like to go cooler. But this time I did a modified 'Minion Method' start and it kept a great 180 for several hours. Just fill the charcoal pan about half full, sprinkle whatever wood you're using (I used maple, alder and a bit of hickory), and add 20 lit briquettes. Fill the pan with cold water, and the lit coals will slowly spread keeping the temp nice and low. Worked like a charm, didn't get any dry or toasty bits and got to an internal temp of 140 before I pulled them.Here you can see the pepper bacon being trimmed into two nice sections, and some knobby end bits. Those were chopped up and used in a soup. Both maple and pepper came out great, the best attempt yet.
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So last weekend our CSA started up, and just in time for Thanksgiving. In our half-share we got a bunch of lettuce, some mizuna, some hakurei turnips, a Monroe avocado, two pounds of green beans, some fresh dill and 8 pickling cucumbers. So last weekend I made pickles.

The jar of dill pickles is on the left, sweet on the right. Both recipes came from Charcuterie. It has occurred to me that it might seem like I only have one cookbook and I assure you that's not the case. I'm not trying to pull one of those French Laundry At Home blogs... But Charcuterie is seriously excellent. I'll open them in a couple weeks.
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Brew Day: Saison Hiver

So I took the yeast cake from the bottom of the Saison d' Ete and brewed a dark winter saison. It's based on the recipe from Zymurgy, adapted to the ingredients on hand.

At the last minute, instead of using the Dark Candi Sugar and Turbinado I took a 1lb cake of Palm Sugar, inverted it and caramelized it for about 45 minutes until it was quite dark and added it at 5 minutes remaining. It goes into secondary tomorrow and I'll add the vanilla bean and cinnamon then.

Also discovered that the reason my last saison's gravity was so low was that I'd underestimated the final volume. As I found out when I racked from the 6.5 gallon primary to the 5.5 gallon secondary and it overflowed all over my floor. Ooops. Tasted great though. Think I'm going to etch gallon markings onto the carboys soon.

Saison Hiver
Belgian Specialty Ale

Type: All Grain

Date: 11/6/2008

Batch Size: 5.50 gal

Brewer: Russell Everett
Boil Size: 7.78 gal Asst Brewer:
Boil Time: 90 min Equipment: Brew Pot (15 Gal) and Igloo/Gott Cooler (10 Gal)
Taste Rating(out of 50): 35.0 Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00
Taste Notes:


Amount Item Type % or IBU
11 lbs Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM) Grain 70.97 %
1 lbs Munich (Cargill) (9.5 SRM) Grain 6.45 %
1 lbs Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM) Grain 6.45 %
8.0 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt -120L (120.0 SRM) Grain 3.23 %
8.0 oz Wheat Malt, Pale (Weyermann) (2.0 SRM) Grain 3.23 %
4.0 oz Carafa I (Weyermann) (320.0 SRM) Grain 1.61 %
1.50 oz Sterling [7.50 %] (60 min) Hops 30.4 IBU
0.50 oz Sterling [7.50 %] (20 min) Hops 6.1 IBU
0.11 oz Cinnamon Stick (Secondary 5.0 min) Misc
0.55 oz Vanilla Bean (Secondary 5.0 min) Misc
12.0 oz Candi Sugar, Dark (275.0 SRM) Sugar 4.84 %
8.0 oz Turbinado (10.0 SRM) Sugar 3.23 %
1 Pkgs Belgian Saison I Ale (White Labs #WLP565) Yeast-Ale

Beer Profile

Est Original Gravity: 1.079 SG

Measured Original Gravity: 1.010 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.023 SG Measured Final Gravity: 1.005 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 7.44 % Actual Alcohol by Vol: 0.65 %
Bitterness: 36.5 IBU Calories: 43 cal/pint
Est Color: 27.6 SRM Color:

Mash Profile

Mash Name: Single Infusion, Light Body Total Grain Weight: 14.25 lb
Sparge Water: 3.44 gal Grain Temperature: 72.0 F
Sparge Temperature: 168.0 F TunTemperature: 72.0 F
Adjust Temp for Equipment: FALSE Mash PH: 5.4 PH

Single Infusion, Light Body
Step Time Name Description Step Temp
75 min Mash In Add 4.00 gal of water at 161.5 F 149.0 F
10 min Mash Out Add 2.85 gal of water at 199.0 F 168.0 F

Mash Notes: Simple single infusion mash for use with most modern well modified grains (about 95% of the time).
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Charcuterie: I Made Hot Dogs!

Right, it's been a while and it's time for posts. I've been using my wife's camera to take photos of various things and it turns out that actually getting them off the camera is a bit of a challenge. But first up: I made Hot Dogs!

I used the recipe from Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie. These are All-Beef Chicago-Style, with no mechanically separated meat, raccoon parts, or old boots used at all. It took me three days and about 8 hours of work to make 12 hot dogs. Was it worth it? Oh yes.

The recipe is as follows:

1 lb. Boneless Lean Beef (I used chuck)
1 lb. Beef Suet

3/4 oz kosher salt
1/2 tsp Pink Salt
10 oz. Crushed Ice

2T Corn Syrup
1 tsp dextrose
1 tsp minced garlic
1 T dry mustard
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1/4 tsp white pepper

5 feet or so of hog casings (or use 10 feet or so of sheep for skinny dogs)

Step One was to make suet, on account of I don't have any idea where to buy it around here. I asked the butcher at Norman Brothers if I could get some "beef fat trimmings" and he looked at me like I'd grown a second head. "I'm making hot dogs and I need fat." "So you want some sirloin?" "Um, no, I just need beef fat." Which brings me to an issue I've been having. Seriously, it is irritating how the state of the butcher's art has declined. Most supermarkets are near useless, and even Whole Foods has turned out to be generally unhelpful. Fortunately there's a few good specialty and Cuban places around here that can hook me up. Anyway, it was finally communicated that I was making hot dogs from scratch, which fascinated the butcher at the counter, and resulted in a wonderful cry to the back of "Hey, get the fat bucket!" Now we're talking. So I got about 6lbs of beef fat scraps for $6 and went home to render.

I brought out the big cleaver and went to town on the scraps. In retrospect I might have bothered to run it through the grinder, the yield would probably have been higher.

So all the bits went into a pot with about a half cup of water. Then it went on low until it was simmering a bit. When it had done that for a half hour or so I popped it in a 200 degree oven and left it for about 4 hours.

When I was done I ended up with a good pound and a quarter of pure delicious beef suet, and maybe a half-pound of rendered beefy jelly. (The jelly went into a beef stew and was delicious. The process also left crusty little bits of beef that had essentially confited in the fat. They went into some carnitas tacos and were also delicious.)

Here it is on the left after it cooled. The next day it was time to make hot dogs. Hot Dogs are an emulsified sausage, with bits of meat suspended in a paste of fatty goodness. Heat is your enemy on this one. So the chuck and suet were diced and put into the freezer until crunchy but not frozen solid. Then they were ground through the large die onto a baking sheet and put into the freezer again. Then, it was mixed with the salt, pink salt, and ice through the small die and into my Kitchenaide bowl set in ice. Added the corn syrup, dextrose and spices and whipped it on high for about 6 minutes with the paddle attachment.

Mmmm looks delicious no?

Did a quenelle test like the recipe said and discovered that I am terrible at doing the quenelle test. Soldiered on and loaded the mess into my sausage stuffer and made links of varrying regularity...

Now, normally these would be left to dry out a bit for a day and then smoked. But the weekend was over and I just didn't have the patience or time to fire up the smoker. So the next day my darling wife poached these at 160-180 F till cooked and ready to eat (140 F internal).

I figured that by grilling them I'd get enough smoky goodness to make up for it, and I was more or less correct. The final verdict? They were possibly the most amazing hot dogs I've ever had. Like the best dog you ever had at your first baseball game with your father when you were six kind of awesome. You can see the finished product below next to some very bland looking leftover coleslaw and potato salad.

My only advice: cook them properly. On the grill, George Forman, or whatever is ok, just make sure to take an internal temp reading and hit 150. If it's colder then water inside sortof comes out in a lukewarm rush. Not good eats. But if it's hot enough it comes out in a toasty warm flood of deliciousness.

Will I make them again? Maybe. I think I could streamline the process a bit. Still a lot of work though. But worth it.
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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Brew Day - Saison d'été

Sunday was a brew day, and in preparation of a monster yeast cake to ferment an upcoming Winter Saison (our Christmas beer this year!), I decided to brew an normal refreshing summertime Saison.

"Summertime!?!", I hear you say, "but it's November!" Well we're in Miami and it's 81 outside, so ha! You get your revenge when it's July and pleasant wherever you are and it's unbearable here.

The brewday was full of hinderances and distractions. I was also kegging the Pumpkin ale and the brew was delayed a whole day because I had to buy more propane. Once everything got going it was ok. Only major mistake was that I added the aroma hops at 20 minutes for some reason, probably having to do with my not using fining agents and some kind of unconscious need to add something around 20 minutes left. So by my calculations it will have upped the IBUs to 45-50 and I appear to have made a Chouffe IPA.... Oh well, I'm sure it will taste fine. I also had a lower gravity than expected, 1.063 instead of 1.070, which I attribute to a slightly lower mash temp and a slightly higher final volume. And I didn't have any oranges so I used about 3/4 of a tangerine peel instead. Used homemade invert sugar rather than buy candi sugar, this could also account for the differences in projected vs. actual gravity.

This brew was done with a packet of Wyeast VSS Farmhouse (3726) yeast, which appears to be chugging along well. I pitched around 72, and have just let it run. The fridge is set to turn on if the ambient temp goes above 80, but room temp is 78 still so I don't think it will happen. This yeast can go into the 90's, so hopefully it doesn't want to be hotter! I may just move it out into a room and put a blanket over it, let the internal heat build up.

The rececipe is based on the Saison Ete from Zymurgy a couple month's back, in their article A Saison For Every Season. Didn't have any aciduated malt, so if it needs it I'll add some lactic acid at bottling. This was a 'use things in the fridge' brew, hence the extensive use of Sterlings. I had about a quarter ounce of leftover Saaz that I just threw in too.

Saison Ete

Brew Type: All Grain Date: 11/8/2008
Style: Saison Brewer: Russell Everett
Batch Size: 5.50 gal Assistant Brewer:
Boil Volume: 7.39 gal Boil Time: 60 min
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00 % Equipment: Brew Pot (15 Gal) and Igloo/Gott Cooler (10 Gal)
Actual Efficiency: 65.34 %

Amount Item Type % or IBU
8 lbs 8.0 oz Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM) Grain 61.82 %
3 lbs Wheat Malt, Pale (Weyermann) (2.0 SRM) Grain 21.82 %
1 lbs Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM) Grain 7.27 %
4.0 oz Caravienne Malt (22.0 SRM) Grain 1.82 %
0.25 oz Sterling [7.50 %] (60 min) Hops 5.3 IBU
1.50 oz Styrian Goldings [5.40 %] (60 min) Hops 22.8 IBU
1.75 oz Sterling [7.50 %] (5 min) Hops 7.4 IBU
0.25 tsp Black Pepper (Boil 5.0 min) Misc
0.25 tsp Coriander Seed (Boil 5.0 min) Misc
0.50 items Fresh Orange Peel (Boil 5.0 min) Misc
1 lbs Candi Sugar, Clear (0.5 SRM) Sugar 7.27 %
1 Pkgs Farmhouse VSS 3726 (Wyeast) Yeast-Ale

Beer Profile
Estimated Original Gravity: 1.070 SG (1.048-1.080 SG) Measured Original Gravity: 1.062 SG
Estimated Final Gravity: 1.015 SG (1.010-1.016 SG) Measured Final Gravity: 1.012 SG
Estimated Color: 5.0 SRM (5.0-12.0 SRM) Color [Color]
Bitterness: 35.5 IBU (25.0-45.0 IBU) Alpha Acid Units: 10.0 AAU
Estimated Alcohol by Volume: 7.26 % (5.00-8.50 %) Actual Alcohol by Volume: 6.53 %
Actual Calories: 277 cal/pint

Mash Profile
Name: Double Infusion, Light Body Mash Tun Weight: 9.00 lb
Mash Grain Weight: 12.75 lb Mash PH: 5.4 PH
Grain Temperature: 72.0 F Sparge Temperature: 168.0 F
Sparge Water: 1.75 gal Adjust Temp for Equipment: FALSE

Name Description Step Temp Step Time
Protein Rest Add 2.87 gal of water at 132.1 F 122.0 F 30 min
Saccrification Add 2.55 gal of water at 187.9 F 150.0 F 30 min
Mash Out Add 2.55 gal of water at 210.3 F 168.0 F 10 min

Mash Notes
Double step infusion - for light body beers requiring a protein rest. Used primarily in beers high in unmodified grains or adjuncts.

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Stone in FL / Bottle TM controversy

Right, so it's been a while since I've had an update. Chalk it up to school and preparations for our biannual Election Day party. So first a couple small things.

1. Stone is coming to South Florida in mid-November! Rumor has it down the vine that a local distributor will be carrying the brewery's normal lineup of beers, Arrogant Bastard, Ruination IPA, etc. No word yet on whether we'll see their seasonals or the Vertical Epic series. This was a big topic of discussion at the 2006 AHA Conference in Orlando, where Stone CEO Greg Koch dashed all of our hopes by telling us that it would be years (2009 as I remember) before we'd see Stone in Florida. Well, it's almost 2009 and apparently patience pays. With any luck we'll get it on tap at the Titanic first!

2. The New York Times City Room blog has an interesting blog article about a trademark dispute between Garret Oliver's Brooklyn Brewery and New Belgium/Westmalle Abbey. Apparently the bottle design for Brooklyn's "Local 1" ale is too close for comfort to New Belgium and Westmalle's bottles. At the heart of the dispute is the raised ring around the neck of the bottle. Westmalle has traditionally used a single raised ring with the brewery's name on it, as has Colorado's New Belgium Brewing, and the double raised rings on Brooklyn's bottles raised some eyebrows. See below:

Brooklyn agreed to back down and redesign their bottles, at a cost of $60,000.

I actually wonder if they should have given up so easily. Certainly this is a perfect example of what the mere spectre of an Intellectual Property suit can do to a company, but they might have had some defenses. For example, one could argue that Westmalle and New Belgium's trade dress in their bottle shape hasn't acquired secondary meaning, at least within the US market. (How many average beer drinkers know Westmalle exists, let alone what its "distinctive" bottle looks like?) Yes the bottle shape is part of the the overall presentation package, but I doubt the popularity of these brands (delicious as they are!) is such that they have a credible secondary meaning in the mere raised ring.

And there's no chance of confusion to the consumer, as 1) the consumer is probably looking at the label anyway, and 2) though Westmalle does come in a 75cl corked bottle, that bottle doesn't have the raised ring! Nor do New Belgium's large corked bottles (La Folie, for example) come with the raised ring.

However, it is possible that the monks might have some sort of protection under treaty or international convention, TRIPS for example.

Just goes to show how murky IP issues can be, and, in Brooklyn's case, how sometimes they're just not worth fighting over.
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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Brew Day - Punk! Ale


So Sunday I brewed the yearly Thanksgiving Pumpkin Ale. I was shooting for something like Dogfish Punkin’ Ale, but scaled from 7% to 5.5% ABV so my guests don’t go unconscious.

Brew went without complications, except in cooling. My plate chiller requires ice water to work well (my hose water comes out at about 80, not good if I want to cool to 70!) and it takes about 20lbs of ice and 15-20 gallons of water to chill 5 gallons. There has to be a better way to conserve water. Only had 10 lbs of ice, so ended up chilling to 77. Still, within a day it was down to 67 for the ferment. Thank you Stopper Thermowell!

Also my two digital thermometers were off by 8 degrees. >:( One had the mash at 147, one at 155. Within 45 minutes they’d agreed on 151. It’s possible there were heat pockets, or that my probes are dying. Over all it’s ok, if it was somewhere in the middle of the range it should be fine. Will try them in some boiling and freezing water before the next batch.

This year’s recipe is notable in that it uses real, fresh pumpkin. I bought two pie pumpkins (about 4lbs), split and roasted them at 350 for an hour and a half. Added the mush into the mash, heated on the stove first with a little water so it didn’t crash the temp. I added some Melanoidin malt to give it an orangy-red color. It seems 4 oz may have been too much, it has a deep amber color. We’ll see how it looks in a pint glass.

You’ll note there are no spices listed. This year I’m trying something different. Usually I add some spices at the brew, and some in the secondary, and some at bottling. This year I’m going to make a tincture in some Licor 43 - Cuarenta y Tres, (a Spanish aperitif with a strong vanilla flavor) and some fresh ground pumpkin pie spice. I’ll let it sit a few weeks and add to taste at bottling.

Without further ado, the recipe:

Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer
Type: All Grain Date: 10/16/2008
Batch Size: 5.25 gal Brewer: Russell Everett
Boil Size: 7.48 gal Asst Brewer:
Boil Time: 90 min Equipment: Brew Pot (15 Gal) and Igloo/Gott Cooler (10 Gal)
Taste Rating(out of 50): 35.0 Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00
Taste Notes:

Amount Item Type % or IBU
3 lbs Pumpkin (3.0 SRM) Adjunct 22.64 %
8.0 oz Rice Hulls (0.0 SRM) Adjunct 3.77 %
4 lbs Pale Malt (Weyermann) (3.3 SRM) Grain 30.19 %
3 lbs Maris Otter (Crisp) (4.0 SRM) Grain 22.64 %
1 lbs Caramel Malt - 60L (Briess) (60.0 SRM) Grain 7.55 %
8.0 oz Special Roast (50.0 SRM) Grain 3.77 %
4.0 oz Melanoidin (Weyermann) (30.0 SRM) Grain 1.89 %
1.00 oz Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] (90 min) Hops 16.1 IBU
1.00 oz Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] (20 min) Hops 9.1 IBU
1.05 items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 min) Misc
1 lbs Brown Sugar, Dark (50.0 SRM) Sugar 7.55 %
1 Pkgs SafAle English Ale (DCL Yeast #S-04) Yeast-Ale

Beer Profile
Est Original Gravity: 1.057 SG Measured Original Gravity: 1.056 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.015 SG Measured Final Gravity: 1.014 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 5.53 % Actual Alcohol by Vol: 5.48 %
Bitterness: 25.2 IBU Calories: 250 cal/pint
Est Color: 16.6 SRM Color:

Mash Profile
Mash Name: Single Infusion, Medium Body Total Grain Weight: 12.25 lb
Sparge Water: 3.78 gal Grain Temperature: 72.0 F
Sparge Temperature: 168.0 F TunTemperature: 72.0 F
Adjust Temp for Equipment: FALSE Mash PH: 5.4 PH

Single Infusion, Medium Body
Step Time Name Description Step Temp
60 min Mash In Add 3.83 gal of water at 165.9 F 154.0 F
10 min Mash Out Add 2.14 gal of water at 196.6 F 168.0 F
Other Brewing Notes:

Also moved the meads into tertiary. The Jackfruit is down around 0.998 and tastes like a dry Chardonnay, a bit hot though. Will add some honey to sweeten at bottling and run it through the wine filter. The Traditional mead is up around 1.040 and is very sweet, the Wyeast Sweet Mead yeast is still going after three months. It will be a while before it clears.

The Cream Ales are on tap. Both are good in their own ways. Some chill haze, I blame the cereal mash and the flaked wheat substitution. The higher efficiency is actually a bit troubling. I wanted lawnmower beers, and they go down like one, but there's a kick to them. I think I’ll take the hop profile of the Northwest Cream Ale and make an American Pale Ale out of it.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

GABF Winners Announced

The winning breweries in the 2008 Great American Beer Festival have been announced. This year there were 2902 beers entered in 75 categories, with an average of 39 per category and over 100 in American IPA.

The big awards went to:
Anheuser-Busch, Inc.
Large Brewing Company and Large Brewing Company Brewer of the Year

Pyramid Breweries Inc.
Mid-Size Brewing Company and Mid-Size Brewing Company Brewer of the Year

AleSmith Brewing Co.
Small Brewing Company and Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year

Rock Bottom Brewing
Large Brewpub and Large Brewpub Brewer of the Year

Redwood Brewing Co.
Small Brewpub and Small Brewpub Brewer of the Year
A good list as usual. Alesmith is singularly amazing of course, and Pyramid wins medals every year for its various wheat beers. No medals for the Magic Hat half of the company though...

It's interesting to note that Rock Bottom is a brewpub franchise, like Gordon Biersch and The Ram, and their different locations entered beers separately. So if you look at category 53: Irish Red Ales you'll see that Rock Bottom won all three medals, from three different brewpubs... The props went to 'The Rock Bottom Team'.

Also of note:

Former Titanic brewer and friend of the homebrew club Jaime Ray won a silver for his Montgomery Blonde. Congratulations!

The Aged Beer category looks like it was fun. The winners were '06 Alaskan Smoked Porter, Vintage Alesmith Speedway Stout, and '03 Sam Adams Utopias. Yum!

The Gold winner in the Pro-Am was brewed at Big Time in Seattle. Go Seattle homebrewers!

So I didn't make it to the GABF again. Maybe next year...
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Friday, October 10, 2008

Sky Full of Bacon: Head Cheese

The wonderfully titled Sky Full of Bacon has posted an excellent video about his attempt to go whole hog by using a pig's head to make head cheese. If you've got 20 minutes to kill, check it out. It covers pretty much everything I believe about eating local, organic and not wasting any part of the animal. I've never made head cheese, but perhaps some day. I particularly like the interview with his pig farmer at the farmer's market. It was conversations just like that that completely hooked me on trying to eat local, and getting to know the people that grow your food.

Sky Full of Bacon 04: A Head's Tale from Michael Gebert on Vimeo.

In other related news, the seeds for our "Victory Garden 2008" arrived yesterday. We're waiting on one more package, then it's time to germinate the seeds. Gardening in Miami presents unique challenges, not least of which is the reversed growing season. We'll be planting in a month or two, and harvesting from January to April.
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Monday, September 29, 2008

Democratic Participation for the day

Right, so it's time for some posts.

Up first: I spent some time this morning to contact my House Representative to thank him for sponsoring the Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008, and my senators to urge them to support the Senate vote on it. The bill is HR 7084 (in this instance the Senate is voting on the House number). My democratic good deed for the day.

Technological progress on the internet requires a reasonable approach to copyright and royalties. Under the current system it is cost-prohibitive to run an internet radio station, and unless the current practices are settled in an equitable manner between the copyright-holders and the stations, this branch of the internet will wither. Personally, I have Pandora running most of the time I'm by a computer (such as right now!), and my wife prefers to listen to Seattle's local NPR music station on the web, as Miami's is kindof terrible.
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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Brew Day 9/21/08 - Cream Ales

I suppose every homebrewer reaches a point where friends and relatives begin to come up and say: "So I'm having this party/birthday/wedding/graduation/etc.." and soon you find yourself brewing for a crowd. This presents problems. For example, you've got a stockpile of your 'crowd pleasers' but what if all your best beers are big Belgians or an Imperial-insert-style-here? In any large gathering there are plenty of those with, shall we say, less adventurous tastes.

"Uncle Ralph needs to drink his Bud-lite or he gets in one of his moods..."

Naturally, not wanting to embarrass yourself and your host, nor to witness the full extent of one of Uncle Ralph's 'moods', you look for solutions.

One I've heard presented came from Greg Koch, CEO of Stone Brewing. At the 2006 National Homebrew Convention he told about a party he'd been asked to supply early in the company's history. Naturally he brought kegs of aggressive beers, IPAs, etc. The host, however, was worried about Uncle Ralph and supplied a keg of Miller-Lite (or somesuch beer). As Greg began to pour for the guests, he'd say "What can I get you?" Someone would reply "x-Lite" and Greg would point to someone else, "What can I get you?". "An IPA!" they'd reply, and he'd pour one. He point back to Mr. Lite, "What can I get you?" "X-lite, please." Point to someone else, "IPA!", and so on until Mr. Lite answers "Um, an IPA?" "Here ya go!", and Greg would hand him one. Nine times out of ten Mr. Lite would come back for more, remarking on how good it was. This no-mercy approach seems a bit harsh, but what do you expect from a brewery whose flagship is Arrogant Bastard? A beer with this on the bottle:

This is an aggressive beer. You probably won't like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth.

I tend to opt for the more diplomatic solution. I won't brew lagers for parties, first because we live in Florida and brewing lagers is difficult (especially during hurricane season!) and second, it just takes too long. The solution? A Cream Ale. Nice, light, low alcohol yet with more flavor and character than a Classic American Pilsner. I'll brew another more challenging beer for those with the taste or sophistication to appreciate an ale of its quality and depth, but for Uncle Ralph, a Cream Ale should do nicely.

The problem is that I haven't brewed one in about 4 years. So naturally, it's time to do a test batch. The grain bill was simple enough to work out, Cream Ales aren't particularly complex, but the problem is hops. Due to the hop shortage I've made it a point to use the hops I have, rather than pay $$$ for varieties I don't. I decided the best way to work around this was to split a 10 gallon batch and use two different hop schedules. One would be a Traditional Cream Ale ala Genesee and another would be a Northwest inspired version ala Hales Cream Ale. Also, part of the fun of this brew was that it required a cereal mash, which is something I rarely ever have to do. I wanted to see how well a cereal mash worked as a sort of infusion-decoction to raise the mash from a protein rest to its saccarification rest. The answer: very well indeed.

The Recipe:

Cream Ale 1 and 2
Cream Ale

Type: All Grain

Date: 9/17/2008

Batch Size: 10.50 gal

Brewer: Russell Everett
Boil Size: 13.12 gal Asst Brewer:
Boil Time: 60 min Equipment: Brew Pot (15 Gal) and Igloo/Gott Cooler (10 Gal)

Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00


Amount Item Type % or IBU
7 lbs Pale Malt (Weyermann) (3.3 SRM) Grain 40.00 %
7 lbs Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM) Grain 40.00 %
2 lbs Corn - Yellow, Flaked (Briess) (1.3 SRM) Grain 11.43 %
1 lbs Wheat, Flaked (1.6 SRM) Grain 5.71 %
8.0 oz Honey Malt (25.0 SRM) Grain 2.86 %
2 Pkgs American Ale (Wyeast Labs #1056) Yeast-Ale

Beer Profile

Est Original Gravity: 1.047 SG

Measured Original Gravity: 1.045 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.011 SG Measured Final Gravity: 1.012 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 4.60 % Actual Alcohol by Vol: 4.30 %
Bitterness: 0.0 IBU Calories: 199 cal/pint
Est Color: 4.6 SRM Color:

Mash Profile

Mash Name: Double Infusion, Light Body Total Grain Weight: 17.50 lb
Sparge Water: 8.19 gal Grain Temperature: 72.0 F
Sparge Temperature: 168.0 F TunTemperature: 72.0 F
Adjust Temp for Equipment: TRUE Mash PH: 5.4 PH

Step Time Name Description Step Temp

30 min Protein Rest Add 3.00 gal of water at 138.2 F 122.0 F

60 min Saccrification Add 2.00 gal of water at 203.7 F 149.0 F

10 min Mash Out Add 2.83 gal of water at 209.1 F 168.0 F

Mash Notes: Double step infusion - for light body beers requiring a protein rest. Used primarily in beers high in unmodified grains or adjuncts.


Split batch. Two 6.5 gallon, 60 minute boils.

One half gets
0.75 oz Sterling at 60,
0.5 oz at 15, and
0.25 oz at 1.
This should be about 18 IBUs.

Other half gets:
0.5 oz Chinook at 60
0.5 oz Centennial at 15
0.5 oz Centennial at 1
This should be about 30 IBUs.

Note that it says 2 lbs Flaked corn. I actually did 1 lb flaked corn, and 1 lb Quaker Corn Grits. Cereal mash the grits with a half pound of the crushed malts in a couple quarts of water at 155 for 20 minutes or so, then increase the heat and bring to a boil for an hour. I added water to bring the volume to 2 gallons and used this as the infusion for the saccarification rest. You could skip the cereal mash and just use flaked corn if you prefer.

Also note that there's a pound of flaked wheat. Originally I was going to use Cara-pils dextrin malt but it turned out I was out of it. So a last minute substitution of wheat should help the body and head retention, though it's getting into Belgian Wit territory... I also had insanely high efficiency for some reason. The corn, I suspect. So my little 4.5% beers will be closer to 5%.

It's been in the fridge for three days, going strong. Plan is to rack to secondary this weekend, keg the week after that. A week later, invite the groom over for a tasting session and we'll figure out which will be brewed for the wedding rehearsal. Now I've got figure out how I'm going to juggle carboys, because all five are currently occupied. Probably will keg the Ale to the Chief Barleywine this weekend, in preparation for the Election Day party.

Also, this is my first attempt to integrate BeerSmith's html export code into Blogspot. As you can see, it still needs some tweaking.
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