Tonight I tasted Maudite, a Belgian Strong Dark from Canada. It was pretty good, a bit better I think than the Chimay I had last night, but nothing that really gets me going. I'm not sure how much it costs, it wasn't labelled, but I'm guessing about $2-$3 a bottle. For that, is it worth it, I don't know... I can get Duvel at about the same price, and I love the Strong Golden Ales. I have a photo I may post later...


Chimay Red

I also tasted Chimay Red tonight. I have a picture downstairs on the digital camera, which I may upload later. But overall Chimay Red was pretty boring. It was dark, but not too sweet, which was nice. It gave my wife heartburn right away, even with only one sip. She also said it smelled and tasted like apple cider, which I didn't really pick up on. What's that, Diacetyl or something? Anyway, it was OK, but for $4 a bottle, nothing really special. I am really looking forward to the Cinq Cents (Chimay White).

Wine Tasting

Last night, after brewing beer, I actually went to a wine tasting. Just to see what it was like.

It was interesting - everyone there seemed to know each other, like they were a pack of wine tasters who went to every tasting (they are held weekly at Riverwalk, a local bar/restaurant, plus there are a few wineries in the area).

As for the wine itself - one was actually a lambic that tasted just like Kriek Boon, which tastes just like a wine cooler. The bottle of this wine even said (in French) that it was spontaneously fermented. Hmmm. Except it was $18 for a 750 ml of 7.5% ABV. Kriek Boon was probably $5.00 for 330 ml, but I don't know the alcohol content. But the wine bottle was cooler than the beer bottle.

The other wines were OK I guess, there was one white, and three reds. The reds were all harsh - smoky, peppery, nasty. And I guess they were supposed to be, because most of the other people liked them. I liked the white the best - it wasn't too harsh, but it was a little boring.

I think for now I'll stick with beer, thanks.


Brew Day

Today I am brewing Rev.2 of Stonington Memorial Summer Ale. SMSA was the first all grain beer I ever made, and it has been a crowd pleaser. So I decided to tackle it again, making some adjustments based on my experience. Right now it is mashing in.

I am of course tasting the yeast starter beer. This tastes pretty plain, but it does have a tangy finish to it, just like a wheat beer would. It is WY1010 American Wheat. I think it will also be fun to drink one of the original SMSA beers later, since every time I brew, I wish I could drink the finished beer right away. This will be pretty close to that!


Funny Story

I did do a tasting tonight, of Westmalle Dubble. It was boring. But a funny thing did happen.

My son Boden is about a year and a half old. My oldest (3.5 years) was asleep and I wanted to check on my beers downstairs (I transferred Big Slick and Doree Forte to secondary today). I asked Boden, "Want to go check on my beers?" And he immediately pointed downstairs and said, "beer" (in his just beginning to talk voice, where most words sound the same, but this was definitely "beer" - he has said it before in context, and it was in context here too). So that was pretty funny.

Then we get down there, I strap him into his old high chair, and pick up the yeast starter for tomorrow's Stonington Memorial Summer Ale 2. He makes a motion indicating that he wants me to shake it around. Apparently he has seen me rouse yeast so much that he expects me to do it every time. Now there was some yeast on the side walls of the jug, so I did want to shake it up a bit just to get that down into the liquid of the starter, but I was shocked that I had taken him down there while I roused yeast so many times that he expects it now.

As a side note, I am not convinced that rousing does anything at all other than provide an exciting burst of bubbling activity as CO2 comes out of solution.

Then as I checked on Doree Forte (which was dosed with corn sugar at transfer, so it should bubble up again), he told me to shake that one up, too. So I did. Then I checked on GSX-R1.104 (which had a thick layer of stuff on top when I went to measure gravity (1.030~10%ABV) and maybe transfer today), and he told me to shake that one up. I am getting a bit crazy, but I actually asked him, "Do you really think that helps it?" And he gave an assertive nod. Mr. Future Brewer right there!

Of course he also nodded when I asked him if he saw dragons in the basement, so it is hard to tell...


Chimay Blue

So tonight, I tasted the Chimay Blue. This 33cl bottle cost me $3.99 at the Cask'n'Keg. It packs a 9%ABV punch, and is, of course, bottle conditioned.

Sorry - no guest tasters or smellers tonight.

As you can see from the photo, this is a dark red/brown color, with a big head that settles quickly to a medium head (pictured).

This beer had a simple smell. It just smelled malty sweet and watery. I was surprised, and expected more complex aromas. It did have a big fuzzy mouthfeel and plenty of carbonation, despite the not-so-big head. Alcohol was immediately apparent and warming in the chest. Aaahhhhhhh... feels good. This beer was not too sweet, considering its dark color, which was good. As it warmed up, more roasted malt flavor and complexity did emerge, but I was halfway through a 9%ABV beer, so my analasys skills were muted somewhat. The hops were, again, moderate. Sure they were there, and I could taste them. It was somewhere between Wheat Beer and IPA (as if that helps at all). As it warmed up, it also developed more of a molasses, even almost chocolate smell to it.

Overall, this was pretty good. I would definitely drink it again, but it is a bit pricey. Maybe I should make it! My only regret is that I don't have a proper Chimay glass.

La Fin Du Monde

I had the pleasure of La Fin Du Monde last night. So much pleasure, I didn't get to blog it last night. This bottle was from Cask'n'Keg here in Mystic, which has lots of great beers available. This bottle was "best before 2/8/10". Funny thing is it was a twist off cap... It was of course bottle conditioned.

La Fin Du Monde ("the end of the world" for the severely language challenged) is made by Unibroue in Canada. But it is oh so Belgian. Triple fermented beauty in a glass.

It pours cloudy deep gold, with lots of big bubbles forming a luscious head. It has a strong Belgian fruity smell that invites you to tip it back and drink up. The flavor is very fruity and spicy, as a Belgian ought to be. I'm not sure - this might be a Trippel? Check http://www.beeradvocate.com/ to see what they say. This beer has what I'd call a meduim body - not too sweet, but not too dry. It produces an alcohol warmth in the stomach. I guess it must have had hops, but I don't have any notes on it. It was probably moderately hopped - I am sure it was well balanced and appropriately hopped for its color, body, and alcohol

I have a special treat today. I got guest smellers and a guest taster. Iris, my three-and-a-half year old smelled it. Normally, beer smells "yuck" to her. But she claimed this one smelled "kind of good, kind of bad, kind of gigantic, kind of medium, kind of enormous". Not sure quite what that means, but it isn't "yuck". I think she was making a joke... Aimée, my wife smelled and tasted it. She gave it a smokey purfume smell. I think that means Belgian. Then she said it tasted like Birch Beer, with a grimace on her face. I don't think she liked it. But then again, she was drinking an Italian Pinot Grigio at the time, so I could see how the two might not mesh that well

I, however, did like La Fin Du Monde. If this is what the end of the world is like, then bring it on! This beer was just what I wanted right when I had it. I love a light color, and not-too-malty-sweet taste. I like strong alcohol feel in the gut. I like a foamy head. And I like that classic Belgian smell and taste. In fact I want a Fin Du Monde right now. But I only bought one. I'll have to make it!


Allagash Dubbel

Tonight I just tasted the Allagash Dubbel. It came in a 12 ounce short fat screw top bottle a-la Sierra Nevada. I used my Duvel glass since it is Belgian style, but it turns out a normal glass would have done fine. There was not much carbonation in it, but at least it was bottle conditioned.

This is a smooth 7%ABV beer that is quite dark red/brown/amber in color. The smell was slightly spicy Belgian, with some caramel notes, and something maybe sour? But there was no sour taste. I wonder if this one is aged on wood. The taste was somehow malty and dry at the same time, with a very dry finish, which was nice. The hops are low to moderate, not quite enough to balance the malt, but pretty good. There is a very slight Belgian spice taste to go along with that subtle aspect of the aroma.

Overall, this beer is solid, but it is a bit dark and malty for my tastes.


I hit the local packie, and got hooked up with a bunch of good stuff. I actually bought it, so I guess "hooked up" may not be the right term. But I'm still excited. I got Maudite, Fin Du Monde, Chimay Red, Chimay White, Chimay Blue, Westmalle Dubbel, and Allagash Dubbel. So that's about a week of tastings for me to report coming up.

Plus I'm brewing an American Wheat Monday, plus a few gallons of something simple to which I can add a ton of fresh strawberries we picked yesterday. Then transferring Big Slick and Doree Forte to secondary on Tuesday. It is an exciting week of brewing and tasting!


GSX-R1.104 and Big Slick and Dorée Forte

OK so now it seems GSX-R1.104 is slowed WAY down - could it be done already? I'll have to test it when it's a week old to see where it is.

And Big Slick has resumed activity, albeit slight activity. It is a good thing for Big Slick. We'll see about GSX-R1.104.

Oh yeah, and Dorée Forte is still going and it is two weeks old.

It seems like all three of the big guys will be going into secondary at the same time...


GSX-R1.104 and Big Slick

Well GSX-R1.099 ended up with an OG of 1.104, so I'll have to change its name to GSX-R1.104. I pitched yeast at like 1:45, so it was much quicker than an all grain batch. The fermentation was bananas, though. This morning, I could smell the fermenting gases in the living room, upstairs from the basement fermentation chamber. I thought, "well it must be really working". I got a chance to go down there, and found that the lid was popped off. The fermentation must have been so vigorous that it clogged the airlock, and eventually built up enough pressure to pop the lid on the plastic bucket. Good thing I wasn't using a glass carboy...

And I pitched the yeast starter to Big Slick, but it didn't seem to help. We'll see.

Gotta go



Today I am brewing what I have called GSX-R1.099 (I know the picture is a GSX-R1000, but there isn't an 1100 this year, and I didn't want to call it Hayabusa - that would have to be a Japanese-style beer). It is a double version of the Fat Tire clone from the BYO 150 clones book. I am troubleshooting my high FG issue by doing an extract brew today. Four cans of LME make a gravity of almost 1.100. I think I will dose with corn sugar in secondary to make a OG of 1.100 just so I can call it GSX-R1.100.

Liquid Malt Extract is messy and annoying. This is barely any easier than All Grain brewing. We'll see how long it ends up taking.

I am also, as tradition has established, drinking the yeast starter beer while brewing. It gets easier each time to drink hop-free beer. Not sure if that's a good thing or not...

I am also making a yeast starter of WY1056 (equivalent of WLP001) to pitch to Big Slick at high krausen to revitalize the fermentaiton for secondary fermentation tomorrow or Wednesday (depending on when it gets going). What a day!


New Contact Info

Hello! I have a new web URL and email address. OK the URL has nothing at it, but it is www.brainardbrewing.com, and my new email is keith@brainardbrewing.com. This can be done from the link to the left, but I'm so excited, I just had to make a post of it!


Cracked Hydrometer

I am not sure if this cracked hydrometer is affecting my readings. You can barely see the crack to the left of the vertical line in the photo. It is not leaking liquid into the hydrometer, but still could it be a problem?


Homebrew Supply

Next up I am making a double Fat Tire clone from the 150 clones magazine put out by BYO. Since I've been having terminal gravity problems, I wanted to try an extract brew to see if it was my mashing that might be causing the problems.

I tried to go to Rob's Homebrew to get the yeast required by the clone (WY1272 or WLP051). I also wanted to get another vial of WLP001 to try to restart the Big Slick (IIPA stuck at 1.030). They didn't have any of it. I was stuck. On the bright side, they did order a couple of odd Belgian yeasts for me, which should be there this week sometime. But they're a half an hour away, so it's hard to know when I'll get back there.

I still needed my Double Fat Tire stuff. I wanted to try Zok's in Willimantic, but they're not open Tuesdays. So I ended up at Beer and Wine Maker's Warehouse in Hartford. Both are an hour away from me (in Mystic, CT), so it was a toss up. BWMW ended up being really cool. They had everything I wanted, and the owner was there working, and was very knowledgeable. They even had plastic PET 0.5L bottles, which I've been wanting for the NASCAR race this fall.

Funny thing about this recipe is it is an extract-based recipe, but they still have me mash the pound and a half (three pounds, since I'm doubling) of specialty grains. I have to "steep" the grains at 154°F for 30 minutes and then "rinse" them with 170°F water - sounds like mashing to me... So it will still take a long time anyway. I thought I was going to save two hours, but I guess not... We'll see how it goes. Probably brewing on Monday. Pray for good weather.


Brewing Dorée Forte

So right now I am sparging my Duvel clone, named Dorée Forte (roughly, "Strong Gold") according to some online translator. The recipe from the BYO 150 Clones magazine is a bit more complicated than I'm used to. There are two options, but both involve applying heat to the mash tun. But I have an Igloo cooler setup...

I chose the one where you mash in at 99 and then slowly raise temp to 168 over 90-180 minutes. My burner doesn't go that slow, and I ended up doing steps at 120, 130, 140, and 150 for 10, 10, 20, and 30 minutes each, then a mash out at 170. Who knows what will happen. The mash water is really cloudy. I will check the gravity and add up to a pound of DME if I need to.

I made a yeast starter again this time. It is cool - I tasted it and it tastes like belgian ale. I know this is what they always say, but it was still amazing to me. Contrast with last week, when the Cali Ale yeast starter tasted sort of like nothing is even more amazing.

Well with any luck I'll pitch my yeast at 4 PM.


Big Slick Update

Fermentation slowed on Big Slick, my Imperial IPA, a few days ago. Yesterday, I sampled the gravity to see where it was. As a bonus I got to taste some.

Well the gravity remains high - 1.030. I'd really like to see it hit 1.015 or even lower, so we'll see what happens. I did learn that I don't really need to hurry it off to secondary. So now I am "rousing the yeast" a few times a day - sort of swirling the carboy to resuspend yeast so it can get back to work. I'll resample again next Monday and see how the gravity is doing.

Oh yes, and the taste. The basement has been about 72 with the recent heat, and the fermentation was making the beer temp around 78 - by all accounts a bit too high. And the alcohol taste (it is already 8.5% ABV) was prevalent to say the least. So I guess it's time to insulate and cool the fermenting beer boxes - even in the basement.

Hey at least it is higher than 3% ABV, which is ultimately what I was after.


Otter Creek Wee Heavy

OK so I thought I wanted to brew a wee heavy. A high alcohol beer with a cool style name. So I got a 22 ounce bottle of Otter Creek's version from their "World Tour" series. I was very optimistic.

First warning sign: screw top. Why?

Okay...past that...it pours with basically no head at all. I just used my mug with a handle (tankard?) for it, so it should have a large head. But nothing... well OK it isn't from Belgium, so maybe no head is OK.

It smells like a scotch ale, which it should. It has that sweet caramel and malt smell. Maybe even an oakey smell. It is also brown - not as dark as my nut brown, but solidly brown - darker than Newcastle.

First taste...blah. Not bad, but not making me super eager for another sip. I can feel some alcohol in it. I assume it is at least 8%, by style, but it doesn't bother telling us how much ABV it has, so it's anyone's guess. I felt pretty good (taste buds notwithstanding) after finishing the 22 ounces, so it can hold it's own in the ABV dept.

It is lightly carbonated, which is fine. It has subtle hops, which is fine. Is is super sweet, which is not so good. My mouth is sticky from all the sweetness. Maybe in style, but not what I like. In the end this is just too sweet for me.

So instead of a Wee Heavy, I am going to make a Fat Tire clone, maybe a double Fat Tire (I guess that would be a Quad ATV)

Duvel Notes

Duvel. Perhaps the most well known Belgian ale. I had a four pack of 11.2 ounce (330 ml) bottles. This is one of them. The bottles came with a fancy glass from which I've been drinking all the other belgians. Duvel is 8.5% ABV and it was in a brown bottle which was capped.

The color is very light golden. It has a big frothy head, which dissolves from the edge of the glass (probably due to dishwasher detergent residue), but stays in the middle (probably due in part to the etched "D" in the bottom of the glass which sprouts forth bubbles while beer is in the glass). I can smell it through the head. It smells fruity, but slightly unfresh.

It tastes tangy, effervescent, peppery, and sweet. It is very nice. It has a great round carbonated feel. The alcohol is secretive - you'd never know if you didn't know. As it moves on, you get a little of mouth and throat warmth from the alcohol.

Damn this is good! I can't wait until I make my own on Wednesday - unfortunately Tuesday it will rain, so I can't brew, since I brew outdoors...



I tasted and noted Duvel tonight, but I can't quite find it in myself to post it right now. But I did do it. I know it was good stuff. Sweet and Belgian...light and high ABV. Just how I like it right now.

But at the bar, they had a lot of Irish stuff. Smithwicks (say "schmidicks") is good, Guiness is good, but Stella was my fave tonight (I know it's not Irish). Can't wait to brew my Duvel clone, named "Dorée Forte" (Strong Golden) on Tuesday, or maybe Wednesday depending on the weather.

I also would like to include my wife tonight. Aimée tasted the Duvel and declared it the best of the Belgians that I've had the past few weeks. I trust her pallette more than mine. She tasted subtleties in other French and Belgian ales that I initially missed. Where would I be without her? Probably still at the bar getting in a LOT of trouble. 143!


Brewing News

I felt that I should create a separate entry for brewing news. I made a few liquid malt extract kit brews. Then I did a few dried malt extract clone brews. Then I jumped into all grain. My system has terrible efficiency. I don't know if my thermometer is inaccurate, or maybe I am sparging/running off too fast, or what, but it is like 60%. Well it has been until this past batch.

I had been getting kits or grains from www.northernbrewer.com for my first 5 or 6 all grain batches. But now with the hot weather, I am scared for the viability of the yeast over 4+ days in transit in a UPS truck. So now I go to my "local" homebrew shop 30 minutes away. They don't have everything, but the yeast is in the fridge, and I am comfortable with that.

It seems that northern brewer doesn't grind their grains that finely, whereas the mill at Rob's (the homebrew shop) (www.robshomebrew.com) is set a little more fine. My first grains I got at Rob's were for "Big Slick", which turned out to be an Imperial IPA. I just knew I wanted to make a big beer with a gravity of at least 80. Well I got 1.095! I haven't run the numbers yet, but my efficiency is higher now! Only thing is I had to hand crank grind 20 pounds of base malts.

The recipe for Big Slick isn't fancy... it is 10lbs of 2-row and 10lbs of Maris Otter plus some American hops adding up to about 80 IBU (oh yeah, and about 3 ounces of crystal malt to get the color into the style range), but I'm excited to have some hitest in bottles around here. My other all grain batches are all 4% or less, due to my previously low efficiency. I have a wheat beer ("Stonington Memorial Summer Ale")where my hydrometer broke, but I think it's like 3.6%, then the nut brown which is 3.8%, the Stout which is 1.8%, an American pale ale which is 3.7%, and an ESB which had a starting gravity of 1.046 and should end up at <4%. So I need to balance 10 cases of session beers with at least one solid knock-your-socks-off hitest beer. I made a yeast starter for Big Slick, and the primary is just now slowing down (brewed on Tuesday), so I'm happy. I will transfer when it's totally dormant looking (hopefully Monday) and take a gravity reading then, but even if it's at 1.020, that's over 9% from what I can remember... Sam Calagione watch out! Plus the Duvel clone has a scaled up grain bill to compensate for the historically low efficiency, so it should end up over 8%. Then I'll make the Wee Heavy, which will be at least 7% (what's the range on Wee Heavy's?), so I'll be in good shape. Hope my fridges can handle the stock!

That's it for now. Hopefully one day someone will find this thing and I'll get a comment! That will be fun!!

Slacking off

OK so I started this thing and now haven't posted. Well I've been tasting my own brewed beers.

I bottled "Honey Nut Beerios" on the 21st. It's a Southern British nut brown with honey added to it. It is almost ready. Two weeks in the bottle is generally when I put it into the fridge.

I also bottled "Oatquake Stout Ale" on the 24th. It's an oatmeal stout that had some fermentation difficulties, and has a whopping 1.8% ABV, but it's still pretty good. Those yeast were eager for some fermentables, and it's almost ready already. But, two weeks till it's official.

Anyway, I've been on those the past few days. All I really have left to taste anyway is a couple of Duvels (I already tasted two, but didn't take any notes) and a domestic Wee Heavy.

I'm going to brew a Duvel clone next, on Tuesday, and a Wee Heavy after that, on the Tuesday after next. I guess I should probably do official tastings of my own beers... after all if you want to read about what commercially available beers taste like, that's what www.beeradvocate.com is for!