Archive for March, 2011

All Grain Brewing

March 29, 2011

My last beers have been, if I do say so myself, extraordinary. My double IPA is one of my best. My farmhouse is light, fresh and tasty, and my hybrid honey biere de garde is a unique beer. My Belgian Strong Golden is aging nicely and just about ready to bottle. So, my brewing confidence is full force right now; I’ve said for a few brews that the next one would venture back into all grain, but clearly that hasn’t been the case. Until now. My Mount Vernon brewery is well stocked and I’ve got the layout figured out, confidence is high, so today I brewed a medium gravity, moderately hopped all-grain IPA. This is an all-chinook hops ale, an experiment I’m starting to really get to know my different hop varieties (the Mikkeller series of single-hop beers has also helped me with this, but it’s also made me want to brew a similar series).

Grain Bill:
10 lb 2-row
1 lb Belgian pale malt
.75 Belgian caramel pils
.25 Briess caramel 120 degree

In my previous all-grain incarnation, I stuck very firmly to the traditional model of sparging. I have been persuaded in my reading, though, to work with a “batch sparge” method in which the sparge is done at full speed (rather than the slow model in which the brewer maintains the level of water in the mash tun as it drains). The two big pluses to this method are speed and no stuck mashes; the con, of course, is a potential loss of efficiency leading to a lower gravity than a recipe might call for. Most of what I’ve read suggested that the loss of efficiency is not that great and can easily be countered by adding about 5% to the grain bill which is what I’ve done.

3.75 gallons mash water
Strike temp of 152 degrees
60 minute rest

4.25 gallons 170 degree water, in two batches.

1 oz Chinook hops, 11.2%, 60 minutes
1 oz Chinook hops, 11.2%, 15 minutes
1 cup malto-dextrine, 15 minutes
1 tbsp irish moss, 15 minutes
1 oz Chinook hops, 11.2% 1 minute

Add 1 tsp calcium carbonate and Wyeast 1056, American Ale yeast and aerate.

O.G. = 1.055

Everything went well and the pre-fermented beer tastes pretty good. I’m surprised by the hop character–it’s not that overwhelming a hop profile, or so I thought, but the first taste of it has a pretty spicey burn at the finish. This isn’t a bad thing, but it is surprising to me how strong it seems. We’ll see. My plan is to dry-hop an ounce of Chinook in the secondary, but I’ll sample before then and see what I think.


Africa, Part III

March 14, 2011

I’m having trouble learning the software to edit some of my Africa video footage. I have several videos which I partially took sideways to get the full image of dancers. I am trying to edit it to rotate the footage, but I’ve yet to figure out a way to do this (if anyone has suggestions, feel free to leave me a comment!). I thought I’d wait till I get it all figured out to put on the blog, but some of this footage is too cool. So here’s a video of a Batwa community wishing us farewell with song and dance. As Henry, our guide and translator, said, “They want to sing you one more song. What can I do?”

Sure, it goes sideways, but still pretty cool. Enjoy:


Africa, Part II

March 11, 2011

Here is a brief video of a Batwa Community welcoming us. Notice the slope of the hillside that they are living on. It’s hard to fathom how people live on these hillsides, let alone farm them.

Africa, Part I

March 10, 2011

Well, we’ve returned from Uganda. It was an overwhelming experience I’m still trying to sort through. Earlier, I said I’d probably give a day-by-day account after the fact (since I really couldn’t blog while I was there) but I don’t think that’s what I’ll do. I’m sifting through all my notes trying to pull out the relevant material, but it’s difficult to do. It’s such a different world.

The first thing I want to do, though, is post a few photos of the Batwa. I was struck meeting these people at how open and generous they were in the face of lives that would simply grind most of us down. I was simultaneously depressed and uplifted by their experiences, living in utter poverty but persevering and still able to sing. Here are a few photos of the Batwa in their communities:

My friend Kurt who went along as photographer will have many more, and much better, shots than I have that we’ll share when ready. I’ve also got video I will share in due time, but I need to figure out how to edit first. I’m also slowly working through transcribing the stories I recorded while I was there and I’ll share as I work on them, so plenty of material I’ll be posting here about our adventures. Stay tuned. In the meantime, be sure to check out Act and Empower to see the work they’re doing with the Batwa.