March in like a lamb

March is here. It’s in the 50’s and there is no sign of snow anywhere. Does this mean we are going to get pummeled at the end of March? To that, I say only this…

Bring it on.

This winter has been so weak, I’m ready to get absolutely plastered whilst stuck in the house during a blizzard of 100-year proportions. Why not? There will be plenty of beer.

300_jangoJango: Enthusiastic

Jango will be ready in a few days. It was supposed to be an “everyman’s beer” because I decided I had too few pales in my repertoire. However: It’s going to be hoppy and strong. I’m okay with that. It’s going to be great!

300_arminiusArminius: Hopeful

Arminius has me a little frustrated because my target temperatures for fermentation (42-48F) were hard to hit in the garage with all this warm weather. I ended up bottling it with a small amount of DME last weekend in hopes that after carbonation, it will lager in the bottles in the fridge. I used less sugar to carbonate it in hopes that the yeast will finish fermentation in the bottle. The FG was pretty high when I bottled it, so there may have been some leftover sugars to ferment. I think giving it a LONG time to lager may help. We’ll see in May! I’m hopeful it will clear out after time.

I’m hopeful because it actually tasted pretty good when I had a small taste during bottling!

300_bedfordshireBedfordshire: Satisfied

This is my heaviest beer. So, I disassembled my circular tun and re=assembled by big rectangular grain tun so I could mash all 14 pounds at once. This didn’t work very well because I used a single-sprayer sparge arm instead of my old rectangular one. So, even with 14 pounds of malt, I was only able to get 1.047 OG. That’s not much for a large amount of malt.

This helped me decide that any recipe I do over 10 pounds of malt, needs to be done in a 2-gallon batch with my smaller fermentation vessel. This way, I’ll be sure to use the efficiency of my circular tun and can guarantee those higher gravities for my stronger beers. That would be, Tyrannicide, Diwiarts, Grenadier, Arminius and Bedfordshire. No more 5-gallon batches for high-alcohol beers. Not until I get a REALLY big mash tun.

But: I’m satisfied with Bedfordshire. I used orange zest and only 1 type of hops in this batch. I’m looking forward to drinking this “Session IPA” this Spring on the deck. (A session IPA is one with a low alcohol content. You can use this as an excuse for not hitting your target OG>)

ibu_logo_circle-4colorprocess1-300x300IBU open

I have 4 beers competing in this contest. This is only my second competition. Last year, I sent 3 beers to the Iowa State Fair and I plan to do even more this year. Here’s where I think my chances are in the IBU open:

  • Grenadier English Porter: This will not score well. It’s too strong and too sour. Using that commercially-ranched yeast was too risky. Did I drink it all anyway? Damn right I did.
  • Ironman Warbrew Bavarian Lager: After nearly 60 days in the fridge, my first lager recipe will do pretty well. It is very close to the profile for an official Marzen. I think this will do pretty well. I drank it all except the two bottles going to the contest. I made the mistake of drinking this way too soon. By now, two months later, it should be pretty darn good.
  • Jango: I’m entering this in the American Pale category. It may be too bitter from all the hops to compete well, (America Pales only have moderate hops) but it tastes great!
  • Offa of Mercia English Dark Mild: This beer will do fantastic. I don’t think there will be much competition and this is as close to a perfect beer that I’ve ever brewed. It may be the only beer in its category and may be placed into another larger category. If I have a chance at winning anything, Offa is it.

It will be fun to see the results in April and see how well I predicted the outcome.

Hops Planting

Next weekend, my buddy Cullin Herwig and I will be building the hops planter in my backyard, against the deck.

I don’t have the hops yet, as they are still in the mail or have yet to be harvested by the mail-in companies I purchased them from. I ordered 4 rhizomes: Chinook, Cascade, Willamette and Hallertau. I got the first three from Adventures in Homebrewing and the Hallertau from Thyme Garden. A couple weeks ago I did a short study on the beers I brew and found these 4 to be the hops varieties I use most often. It makes sense to grow my own!

From reading a new book I have (John A Perigine “The complete Guide to Growing hops and Malts“)and some online blogs, I may have difficulty growing the Willamette (The English hops I use for my Porter and Stout). It needs a lot of sunshine and I don’t have that much in the back yard. But, a lot of people disagree on how much sunlight is actually needed. I’ve seem several people post online that they only get 2-5 hours on their plants and they grow just fine. However, most agree it is easy to be discouraged because it can take 3-4 years for a hops vine to be really established and hearty.

I’m hoping it will look something like this when finished: for the first few years, I will only grow to the top of the railing. After three or four years, I may grow higher. But the difference below is that my planter will have landscape timbers stacked 3-high in a protected planter.

Here’s the plans! (Top view)

Next Up: Tyrannicide and Revenge

I’ll brew another Tyrannicide as that seems to be my most popular brew. I’ll want to take at least a 6-pack to the Lake this summer. I’ll also brew another 5-gallons of Revenge in an effort to perfect my favorite recipe. (I decided Revenge should be the Sam Adams Boston Lager of the Mike’s Basement Brewing Company)



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