Port Wine With WLP530 and Advanced Brewing: Yeast Washing

In continuing the experiments with fermenting weird stuff, the newest experiment is 1 gallon of welches grape juice and 1 lbs of dark brown sugar.

Why?

It tastes like port wine.

But that’s not the point, and it’s not what the post is about. The experiments are driven by two factors: No-one really seems to be exploring fermenting non-beery things with beer yeast and the experiments have to be cheap enough that if the product is total junk, I can toss it. The biggest hurdle here is yeast. Good yeast, which is usually $7 a phial, is way to expensive to be tossing on top of apple juice and brown sugar, grape juice and brown sugar, motor oil and other things you might want to experiment with fermenting and drinking.

As usual, we’re using a standard 6.5 stopper, three piece airlock, carlos rossie 4 quart jugs, WLP530 and whatever I feel like feeding the WLP530. Why 530? It’s got a nice flavor profile (it worked really well for the cider) and it seems fairly tolerant of.. me feeding it terrible stuff. The downside – it operates really slowly. Really slowly. Even on it’s own fermenting good old maltose it’s just slow. The cider took a month, and I wasn’t sure if the cider was going to work. In typical fashion it took three days to get started and it will probably take it a month to finish.

The yeast wash was fairly easy and I think I overthought the problem the last time. Take the yeast trub (the slurry on the bottom of the bottle) preferably by pouring your product off from it as gently as possible into a bottle or another jug, then fill the original jug up with water and shake it. The yeast is now suspended in the water. Put some foil or wrap on top and put it in the fridge for a week or until the yeast settles back down. (Note that if you brewed an all grain batch, you’ll see two layers. The bottom layer is proteins from the grains and you don’t want this). Do this until the water runs clear, usually twice or three times.

Once you have it down this far, you want to pour off the water one last time and then stir up the slurry. Pour this into a glass or (ideally) the tube the original yeast was shipped in. Top up with water (or it will mold), seal, save $7.

That being said, to get the yeast to start you either need a stir plate (but this is a post for another time) or you need a bubbler stone. The stir plate is the better option in my opinion because the yeast is going to clump up and sit on the bottom. That’s why you need the bubbler, you need to put air in the product. Lacking either one of these, I just put a cap on the carlos rossi bottle and shook the hell out of it once I had put the yeast in. This worked, but like I said, it’s a slow starting yeast which is made even slower because of the lack of oxygen in the wort.

So hows it coming along? Three days into it, it’s finally to the place I would expect actual wort to be bubbling after 12 hours (a bubble every second or so). I’m thinking the grape juice either has chemical preservatives in it or its way too acidic for this yeast. ONLY THE STRONG SURVIVE. If it plays out the way the cider did, it should finish sweet and have enough complexity to satisfy jaded drinkers while being easy (and cheap) enough to make to keep as a table wine.

Advertisements

Brewers Deal Alert: Giant F’ing Pot

Free shipping, 50 quart enameled steel pot: $53.20

Check it out here!

That’s 12.5 gallons, more than a keg cut in half, steel and coated for easy cleaning. This is enough space to do two 5 gallon fermenters at once or a wine kit from grapes. Also suitable for canning.

On Catawba Grapes

There’s weirdly little history on catawba grapes. I find this incredibly strange because this particular vinaculture saved the American wine industry, wholly on accident. In a weird twist of Jonny Appleseed kind of legend, Nicholas Longworth established the cawtaba grape vine in Ohio. Similar to Maynard’s comments in Blood Into Wine, the vines had lived through temperance, prohibition and just about every major American military engagement since 1800. Why don’t we know more about him? Because no-one really has published anything about him. Wikipedia is weirdly quiet on the topic, but I think this is largely because they’d have to put the Republicans in a positive light. Wikipedia has a clear policy against this, so once again history is lost to personal agenda.

There is exactly one source google coughs up which I consider credible: You can read the story here. The Wine Historian has graciously transcribed Great Fortunes and How They Were Made which also has an excerpt on Longworth. If you try to read the book, which is available on google reader, it’s just badly written and can’t stick to a topic.

General Davy, of Rocky Mount, on that river, afterward Senator from North Carolina, is supposed to have given the German in whose garden Major Adlum found the grape a few of the vines to experiment upon. General Davy always regarded the bringing of this grape into notice as the greatest act of his life. “I have done my country a greater benefit in introducing this grape into public notice,” said he, in after years, “than I would have done if I had paid the national debt.”

Weirdly enough they made carbonated wine back then. Considering that the wine was generally fermented and served in barrels, actually spending it’s entire life in a barrel, this suprises me greatly. But, with the popularity and custom of making fortified wines to ensure they wouldn’t spoil from Europe, it’s not too much of a stretch to think someone looking to make a European style wine (which was the only popular style in colonial America) would toss in some sugar and bottle it. The result would be a homebrewer bottle grenade, as the newly fortified wine wouldn’t get to age on a sea vessel in a barrel for several months in the Atlantic crossing.

When I get the first six-ish pounds of grapes off these vines, I plan on doing a 1 gallon batch in the traditional colonial American style. Save those champaign bottles for me.

Maynard James Keenan and the Great Grape Gonspiracy

I mentioned Blood into Wine the other day – I decided to buy it having gotten one positive comment from someone and one e-mail telling me my comments didn’t work and I should kill myself and it happens to be decent.

I also would like to plug Caduceus. I’ve been sitting here far longer than I should at work paging through it (I’m up to 07/28/06) and having a blast reading it. The intro to the site is deceptive, wait until you see the vine come up onto the trellis and click on the book. Start from the beging. Click on the photos. Maynard is one of the people I would love to meet in real life. Yeah it’s a great artist and all that but he understands the purpose of The Great Work (emphasis on the last word) for what it takes to actually invest yourself in something. More on the point he’s got a wonderful sense of balance of nature to his vineyards. Some of them are graded, some of them are on the side of a hill, and when they found a mystery grape vine, they kept it. That grape vine has seen two world wars, the prohibition, “hippies and smelters” and now it’s his.

Reading this type of thing I tend to feel like I’m missing out on life by not owning a vineyard, but I suppose there’s perks to having more money than god. For one, Maynards tasting notes from literally around the world are interesting to read, if not terribly brief. But on the other hand he doesn’t come off being a wine snob. It’s something he’s interested in doing. To quote the journal, what other rock star owns a backhoe? Or what other rockstar has a subaru brat which has seen some real amature welding. Lord only knows.

My grandparents had grape vines growing around back, but I never remembered the taste. Not sure if they ever produced anything workable, certainly I don’t ever remember eating them. I do remember their back yard in the valley house being a total wash for the most part. I do plan on trying to grow grapes here, I think it would dovetail nicely into the beer brewing and the honeymead. If the cross pollonation happens the way Maynard suggests with growing fruit near the grapes, then the grapes grown in the backyard should be fantastic if we can keep the apple, pear and nectarine trees alive.

Anyway, if I’m ever in Arizona, I figure I’ll show up with my purple postal carriers hat and a shovel and see if he could use the help or if I’ll just become another paintball target.

Anyone Seen Blood Into Wine?

Looking for an honest review of Maynard’s Blood into Wine. For the sites who don’t know who he is or don’t listen to TOOL, the general take is that’s its a C-. There’s a lot of comparison to Sideways out there – Sideways making California more of a mecca for douches than it already is. It’s got about as much in common with Sideways as Star Trek did with Apollo 13. Yeah they both take place in Wine Country but so does every other movie set in California.

Blood into Wine takes place in Arizona, if you’re wondering. It has nothing to do with Sideways. Sideways was a cheap hack of Mondovino, which was a hatchet job of wine snobs. But on a more serious note, Sideways isn’t about wine, it’s about people who use wine. Blood into Wine, from what the interviews say, is actually about Maynard making wine.

That being said, anyone seen it?

The Spoils of Wort: IPA, Mead

I took a hiatus from brewing because I bought a house and had a kid. The one-two punch really put a dent in the hobbies. More on the point I couldn’t find half the fucking equipment for the longest time and there was one totally aborted batch somewhere in the middle due to the electric range not cutting it for brewing.

The previous electric range in the apartment was actually better, but did nothing to spread the heat so the eventual outcome was scorching on the brewpot until I figured out the flashing trick.

If you are interested in brewing on an electric range, the quick fix for hotspots is to buy a turkey fryer and never brew on your electric range again. If you absolutely insist on not owning a turkey fryer, then go to home depot, buy a piece of flashing (for a building) and so long as it’s not lead, it will work as a heat spreader. If you have an electric cooktop, it already has this. But seriously, buy a turkey fryer.

BEER
I’ve been getting hops off my Goldings rhizome for several years now and they just end up in the freezer. I think I killed it this year transplanting it into the garden, which sucks, but three years for a hop vine is actually a fairly long time. Point being, Goldings are supposed to be piney, sweet and floral. These were headed towards grassy. However, being an IPA, I decided to toss them in anyway for aroma. Hops tend to depend strongly on where they’re grown, so the “apartment hops” are going to be different from the “house hops” if they survived. More on the point hops don’t have very strong separation unless made in tightly controlled conditions, which tends to lead to hop of the month. I also grew chinooks, but it was never very good and finally expired, probably due to acidic hops needing more neutral soil than I could provide in a balcony pot.

The recipe was a basic IPA base, which is to say 16lbs pale and 1lbs caramel. Actually I made that 2lbs caramel and dropped the special B, pils and special roast because at .25 lbs, they don’t contribute anything. If it were black patent or chocolate, they would have made the beer roasty. Also my mash water is slightly on the high side since my thermometer didn’t survive the winter and I need to purchase another one. My best guess is that the water was 175F to 180F since the thermometer now has the column of color and then a thin line of it 5 degrees higher up. Fortunately they’re only $3. I also disagree with the 45 minute mash, generally longer is better when it comes to mash with the cutoff being when the mash drops to 160F or so it’s time to drain it before it really cools down and makes grain jello. My mash was roughly 1h15m.

I ended up using more make up water than I wanted due to me not paying as much attention as I should be and letting the mess boil over. Plus the late addition of hops usually means the brew kicks up. I need a bigger pot is really the root cause of this so I can keep a hard boil on while not worrying about what the hops are going to do to nucleation. This isn’t a huge problem with IPAs since the emphasis is on the hops and I had planned to use some of my own anyway.

The cooldown I decided to do entirely differently. Normally I’m a fan of the hot water bath or wort chiller, but now I’ve got a basement which hangs out at about 70F. A bit warm for lagering but perfect for just about anything else. The new plan was to simply put the beer in the carboy and put a plastic bag loosely over the top and let it sit overnight. The airlock here is a trap because the wort will suck in air as it cools. The air in the carboy is going to contract, the more it does so the more vacuum is built up in the fermenter and it’s perfectly capable of sucking all the water out of the airlock. The double-bubble airlocks really shine here because it works both ways. If the water is below the half way mark, it’ll keep the nastiness out. 3 pieces will pull the water right into your beer. So, if you have a double-bubble, use that if you’re not going to chill the beer ahead of time. It’s not the best filter, but it’s better than the bag. My double-bubble went AWOL in the move, hence the bag. Water isn’t the best filter, but as the K5 Bong Squad will tell you, it does filter whatever bubbles through it to some extent.

Dry hopping – I put in hop flowers and I really should have shredded them before doing it. Since they’re frozen, they’re plenty crumbly. It made a real mess to clean out of the fermenter. Plus they float. Not only do you lose the trub on the bottom but you lose the beer on top now that it’s filled with hops. I think I only lost four bottles out of what I expected to get but that’s four less bottles to drink. There’s a reason why those wine filters are so popular in the brewing community, and this is the reason.

Yeast – I double-pitch now because I’m paranoid that the long cooldown period will let things get into the beer I don’t want. Buying two yeast packets instead of one is cheap insurance.

A week later and the beer hadn’t settled, so I let it sit for two weeks and some change and things had improved. Also make a mental note to buy a keg kit. Actually washing out two cases of bottles, sterilizing them, and then washing them out again is crap. Not that kegs are easier to clean but they’re certainly better than 50 bottles. The beer is good.

MEAD
My wife eventually got the beer envy and said “Lets try making mead!” Note that we still have that lonely bottle in the basement from beeguy via Rusty, I keep saying we should drink it and she keeps coming up with reasons why not. I think it’s getting on four years old now. One of these days I swear it’s going to grow wings and fly away.

Now, BEERLAB 2021 is already setup to do wine because my wife thinks Arbor Mist is good wine. Then, just because Arbor Mist wasn’t shitty enough, there’s a brand of wine kit called Harbor Mist which is absolutely fucking foul. Any wine which requires you to add “concentrated watermelon flavor” to the mix – probably crap. The two year old bottles are actually passable because that shit gets toned down but no-one is going to mistake it for wine. We’ve had OK luck foisting it on people as wine coolers. Also a note on better bottles versus glass. Better bottles, despite all claims, pick up the hop smell. If you use a better bottle for beer, you cannot use it for wine. I have been playing with the idea of adding noble hops to wine or fermenting wine in a beer bucket if the nose is right, but I want to hear from more winemakers before committing to it. I’ve had the better bottles for a few years so they’ve got some wear on them. I also have a glass carboy and I prefer to use that.

Anyway, mead is interesting. The Northern Brewer will ship just about anything for $7.99. While it’s not a huge savings for one kit, if you order two it’s a steal. In fact they have an extremely nice selection of mead kits so I just picked a beer kit (petit saison) and we got them both. Of course, she got sweet mead and let me tell you it lives up to it’s name. The mead kit comes with energy mix, whatever that is, and three more small satchels of the same. It also comes with the standard overpitch of yeast. Of course it also comes with a metric ton of basswood honey.

Now when I link to that, it’s so you can see the color and get some tasting notes. Be that as it may, this honey from northern brewer was raw. It was slightly darker than that, strong smelling, had shit floating in there to the point of being opaque and it had a layer of stuff on the bottom. NB sends a note with it – “it’s normal for the honey to be opaque since this is brewing honey, not table honey”. OK maybe it’s a UK thing, but I wasn’t aware there was “table honey”. The instructions said it would clarify when it was warmed, which to their credit it mostly did but I’m still not sure you would want to eat it straight from the bottle. There were no mummified bees present in it’s golden depths.

Now, if this were wine there would be warming, a brief boiling period, etc. Mead is a lot more raw than wine and the process is dead simple: Warm bottles in a hot water bath, boil some water. Stir in big yeast nutrient phial in boiled water and add yeast. Fill fermenter half way with warm water. Pour in honey. Top up. Done.

I changed this a bit.

I’m in the camp that the yeast should be re-hydrated with whatever you’re going to put them in. Reason being that the yeast are sensitive to temperature and they are strongly sensitive to Ph. I could have saved some honey and put that in the water but the easiest way of doing it is to toss the yeast straight way into the fermenter. Since we already have to stir up the honey and we need to stir in the yeast food, it only makes sense to put the yeast in the must (unfermented wine-product) and stir and stir again. I did not observe any adverse effects.

The honey at this point was quite pretty and golden.

The next day – it stank. To make it more fun, there’s three additions of yeast food 24 hours apart. If it stinks now, you can bet that it would stink for subsequent feedings. Trust me, it did. It only got worse. Every time we fed it for the next three days it smelled like all sorts of strange smells. Sulphur and overripe apples abound. I was actually getting worried it had spoiled, except every time we gently stirred it we got CO2 out so I knew the yeast was working properly. Fortunately we have a radon mitigation system in the basement and it’s fairly flowy so most of it was going out the top of the house. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was unique. Once you smell it you notice it’s everywhere.

A week later I went downstairs for something unrelated and noticed it was cloudy and highlighter yellow. I was starting to fear the worst so I got out the trusty wine spoon and gave it a quick cleaning. I stick it in there and KABOOM. All the suspended CO2 came out, it looked like soda. Six gallons of highlighter yellow mountain dew. I decided to lick the spoon and it was delicious. Honey, apples, flowers and sugar. Oh this is going to be dangerous. Yes it is.

PA Response to the Monks Raid

Mom always said “You catch more flies with honey” but I always pointed out she beat the living hell out of me the day I tried squirting honey onto a fly for the purposes of safely depositing it outside the house.

I had written the PLCB over the Raid the day I saw it on philly.com.

Basically, I wrote them a nastygram.

In case you’re not familiar with PA law, it’s stupidly draconian. The PLCB (Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board) is a bunch of pricks who use excuses like “bulk buying brings you lower prices”. In actuality since the liquor in the state is effectively taxed at 32%, basement hooch to high end wine is accounted for to the bottle.

And god help you if you’re drinking high end wine, there’s no wine bars in PA because splitting a bottle is technically illegal.

Here’s what I wrote:

To whom it may concern at the PLCB,

WRT: http://www.philly.com/dailynews/local/20100308_Troopers_raid_popular_bars_for_un licensed_beers_Dozens_of_gallons_seized_aftercitizen_complaint.html

No-one in their right mind believes this was a “citizen complaint”. PA has long since had possibly the worst licensing and distribution system of any state I’d have the pleasure of visiting, and the PLCB is anything but a monopoly. As such no-one believes that any citizen would have both the insight and understanding of how this draconian establishment works enough to report “improperly licensed” beer. More on the point I sincerely doubt given the quality of the average state trooper or PLCB employees language skills that anyone in either of those two establishments would be able to read the barrels or beer names, most of which would be labeled in Belgian German or Flemish.

Even more on the point – it’s been legal for tobacconists to have “house blends” of tobacco, but in reality these tobacconists are selling tobacco purchased under another name. Yet no-one walks into Grandpa’s tobacco shop with state troopers armed to the teeth and says “OH YOUR TOBACCO IS MISLABELED”.

I will also submit a CONTACT THE GOVERNOR form and CC him.

As a result of this action, I’ve created a sign up sheet in my neighborhood to hold a workshop this weekend. This weekend I will teach approximately 17 people to make their own beer.

Sincerely,
Joshua Knarr

Actually the homebrew thing wasn’t nearly that popular, and it’s only got three people. But it’s good to put the fire under them. Also of note, tobacco is regulated similarly to liquor, but given the “declining popularity” the state has decided to tax the living shit out of it while not caring where it comes from. For those really not from the area, PA is the “tax state” for goods, Delaware is impossible to live in since they’re the “tax state” for paychecks, and NJ typically taxes the living hell out of tobacco. As such, we go to NJ for our gas, buy our tobacco in PA, and buy merchandise in Delaware, the home of “tax free shopping” (and god help you if the staties see you crossing state lines with a TV on your roof).

Anyway.

Here’s the letter I got back:

Mr. Knarr,

Please be advised that it is the Pennsylvania State Police, Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, and not the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, which enforces the liquor laws in Pennsylvania. Therefore, your e-mail is being forwarded to them for review. Thank you.

OK so lets talk to those guys. I shot them the same mail and….

This is in response to your inquiry regarding the recent raids of three Philadelphia-area bars, conducted by the Pennsylvania State Police, Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement (“BLCE”), in which the PSP, BLCE apparently confiscated beers that may or may not have been properly registered for sale in Pennsylvania.

The raids in question were conducted by the PSP, BLCE, not the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board(“Board”). The officers involved are employed by the PSP, BLCE and not the Board. The Board and the BLCE are two distinct agencies. Therefore, your inquires should be directed to the PSP, BLCE Harrisburg Headquarters. Their contact number is 717-540-7410.

Ah yes, the great circle jerk of responsibility continues unabated. (Note that the state police and governor simply said “Thank you for contacting us” and included no other response).