DeKoninck & Lange Wapper

January 31, 2009

Constantly daydreaming about  Belgium and her fabulous bounty takes its toll. Your beard grows unabated, your family becomes increasingly concerned of the ragged gleam in your eyes, and like Cheever’s ill-fated swimmer, you might just leave the waspy cocktail party on a drunken mission, jump into the neighbor after neighbor’s pool, never to return. The Flemish people of Antwerp are steeped in folklore, and as I’m wondering if my obsession might destroy my life like Bluegrass destroyed John Fahey’s, I’m reminded of Lange Whapper, the giant fairy of the river Shelde, who would appear out of the fog to the late-night drunks along the cobblestone streets and punish them for their multitude of sins against the fairy-people.

Lange Wapper, appearing menacingly to a couple of hapless souls, notice the jug in the hand of the guy on the left.Lung Wapper, Appearing Menacingly to a couple of hapless souls

My good friend Nick Falivenra keeps asking me for a good Saison extract and steeping grains recipe for, but I can’t recommend that anyone use those Saison yeasts in the winter because of their tendency to underattenuate and take forever to get the job done when nurtured with sub-80 degree temps. My friend Andy just fermented out his Saison with a hot plate underneath, and even them he hard time getting it to get below 1.020, which is the same experience I had with the Wyeast Saison yeast, even with a gallon starter and hundred degree Sacramento summer heat.

Instead, I will post a Belgian Pale Ale, that like the best Saisons, is a study in balance, with a skronky malt backbone that gives way to delightfully fruity yet dry finish. This recipe is based on Jamil Zainasheff’s clone of De Koninck, the daily beer of the people of Antwerp.  The Mt. Hood hops in the recipe aren’t to style, but they’ve been resonating in all my thirst quenchers lately, like autumn leaves floating in a pool, wavering among the reflections of the stormclouds up above. Plus, the Kent Goldings he suggests are all but extinct in these parts these days.

Lange Wapper

(Antwerp Pale Ale)

5 gallons (extract plus grains)

OG = 1.053

FG = 1.013

IBU = 29

SRM = 8

ABV = 5.3%

Ingredients

7lb Pilsner Liquid Malt

10 oz Caramunich Malt (60 Lovibond)

4 oz Biscuit Malt (25 Lovibond)

1.5 oz Mount Hood 5% a.a. pellet hops (60 min)

.5 oz Mount Hood 5% a.a (0 min)

Wyeast 3655 (Belgian Schelde) Yeast

Drinking out of a Bolleke, the flemish word for bowl and official glass of De Koninck
zymurgy cover

Zymurgy, Official Magazine of the Venerable American Homebrewers Association

So you want to brew a batch of incredible beer but you don’t have much in the way of equipment or space. You want your beer to turn out tit-gushingly delicious, but you are wary of the learning curve present when engaging in this ancient craft. There are plenty of  youtube videos and forum stickies about brewing your first batch, so at the risk of reinventing the wheel, I’m just gonna drop the quick knowledge that worked for me. First, we’ll start with an extract plus grain batch. It’ll be amazing, and better than any beer you’ve ever tasted. Because you made it. 

E. Beaglethorpe Expertly Siphons the Nectar of the Gods

E. Beaglethorpe Expertly Siphons the Nectar of the Gods

 

 

 

 

 

Step One: Basic Equipment

Starter kits are available for a hundy bucks or so from your local homebrew shop or countless other shops online; I like Northern Brewer for their customer service and kickass forum

 

  1. Brew Pot 20 qt : People argue Stainless Steel vs. Aluminum ad nauseum. Suffice it to say that both work just fine, but go heavy stainless if you can.) 
  2. Large Stirring Spoon: Non-Wood, cuz you gotta be able to sanitize it. You can get your ancient oak mash paddle when you go all-grain.
  3. Fermenter: Five or Six Gallon Food Grade Bucket with lid and hole for airlock, Glass Carboy, or Better Bottle. Better Bottles are best because they won’t break and kill you. Food Grade Buckets work fine, but don’t you want to while away your hours watching your yeasties vigorously making beer? 
  4. Sanitizer: Star San or Iodophor. Star San is better, it’s no rinse, and the residal foam turns into yeast nutrient when in contact with wort. However, Iodophor is on sixty three cents per five gallons; I use both.
  5. This is Boozy.

    Hydrometers Tell You The Gravity of the Beer. Verdict: This is Boozy.

    Thermometer: I like the seven dollar cheapies from target.  You’ll want to calibrate it or make sure its accurate before you go all-grain, but for now it’s no big deal that it’s crazy accurate.

  6. Muslin bag: For steeping your grain.
  7. Big Strainer: For straining out hops when pouring into your fermenter.
  8. Big Funnel: For pouring your wort into your fermenter so it doesn’t get all over the kitchen and make your lady mad.
  9. Airlock or caboy cap: I like the carboy cap because I can stick a blow-off tube to it when I get vigorous fermentation. Blow-off tube=less mess.  
  10. Hydrometer and tube: So you can measure your original, specific, and final gravity,your abv, and make sure your beer is done fermenting.
  11. Auto-Siphon: If you are really hip, you can just go racking cane and plastic tubing. However, the fermtech auto-siphon less than ten bucks, makes life so much easier, and double as wine thiefs when sampling your beer. Need to get like five feet of tubing to go with it.
  12. Bottling Bucket with Spigot: Five gallon, plastic food grade bucket with a spigot. Some people will tell you this isn’t necessary.  I think it is.
  13. Bottle filler attachment. Little guy that will help you fill up those bottles, fits right into the spigot.
  14. A methodology: Instead of reinventing the wheel here, may I direct you to two homebrewing methodological hip priests.

Charlie Papazian, author of “The Joy of Homebrewing”, and Zymurlogical wizard and founder of the American Homebrewer’s Association. His wry Vonnegutian sense of humor and goofy mysticism have converted me and millions of others into obsessive disciples before my first batch hit the boil kettle. Also, Papa Charlie coined the phrase, RDWHHB (Relax Don’t Worry, Have a Homebrew), the cure-all for all brewing anxieties.

John Palmer, author of “How to Brew”, and purveyor of cavernous alchemical geek knowledge made digestible to the wide-eyed and petrified novice. If you got some extra cash and you want to know the science behind this noble work, read and re-read his seminal work.

Homebrewtalk.com, the larges archive of homebrew knowledge on the web. They even have a social networking gig, and a wiki. Home to such beer heroes as Revvy, Edwort, Bobby_M, Biermuncher, and Orfy — masterbrewers. 

HINT FOR THE CHEAPSKATE: The bulk of Mr. Palmer’s book is available online for free here.

Beaglethorpe Brew Co. Gravity Fed Goodness

Beaglethorpe Brew Co. Gravity Fed Goodness, Sacramento, CA"

Ladies and gentlemen, I give thee Beaglethorpe Brew Co.

Homebrewers love to show off their ghetto-ass rigs, the mad-max glued-together monstrosities that lead their neighbours to believe they are secretly crafting methamphetamines or building bombs for the Queda.

The process is actually relatively simple. Hombrewers shall recognize. The water goes in the liquor tank, the highest keg converted into a kettle (keggle), then when it reaches the right temp for my mash it goes into the orange cooler mash tun with the grain (grist) for the mash, usually for about hour or so. There is a false bottom in the cooler that filters out the  grains and leaves sweet wort to go to to the boil kettle, also a converted keg.  I batch sparge, meaning I run hot water over my grain after the mash to rinse the residual sugars and get my appropriate amount of wort for my boil. I usually make ten gallon batches of my house pale ale and six gallon batches of whatever seasonal heaviosity my wife is hankerin’. During the boil, I add a bunch o’ hops to give it the bitter and floral goodness. Then, after the boil, I run it through that little plate chiller resting on the corner of the table. He’s connected to a garden hose, and through the wonders of thermodynamics, he brings it from boiling to yeast pitching temperature. From there it goes into the fermentation fridge/closet.

It’s that simple. Shit ain’t rocket science.

“I tell you one thing, he’s not building a playhouse for the children.” – Tom Waits

Hop Backlash Inevitable

January 24, 2009

Year One Of Beaglethorpe Brew Co.'s Homegrown Cascade Hops

Beaglethorpe Brewery's First Year Homegrown Cascade Hops

Maybe you’ve heard the murmurs among your beer snob compatriots. Perhaps you yourself have wondered it aloud over your twenty dollar cheeseburger and Alpha King.  Time was, if you weren’t a hop head, then you weren’t part of the cool kids club, you certainly had no balls, and were likely a sabateur sent by BMC (Budweiser-Miller-Coors) to crash our party. The hop shortage and subsequent price hike of the magical flower didn’t just raise the prices of our beer, it cut the hair off our Samson strength like so many InBev Delilahs. And many of us paid the extra dough. And craft brewers kept cramming as many hops into their homemade hopback contraptions. All trying to out hop eachother. Randall the enamel animal?

One of my first batches as a homebrewer was an ungodly quadruple IPA that split Pliny the Elder’s tongue. I was so proud of my monstrous child, that when my friends cringed, I laughed at their lack of fortitude, and I ran over to Sam Caglione at Dogfishead we chest bumped each other in mutual man love before brushing our teeth with Magnum Hop oil extract.

Garret Oliver, the man behind the scenes at Brooklyn Brewery, Iron Chef judge, and all around  Beer Ambassador to the world once compared over-hopping one’s beer to over-salting one’s food.  Foolish comparison, tis true. The smell of that magical blend of Hops wafting from a Stone Ruination is one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had as a beer obsessive. It was love at first taste, certainly not a sentiment I’ve ever felt while drinking one of Brookyln Breweries foul excuses for the sacred beverage. But the man has a point.

hopsgraph

Beer is made from Water, Malt, Hops, and Yeast, and sometimes some other stragglers as well. And it’s important to bring everyone to the party. One of the best tools I’ve ever discovered as a brewer was this Gravity/Hops Ratio chart over at Homebrewtalk.com. Brewers know that the more fermentables you put into a beer, the higher your gravity, and the more alpha acids from hops you put into your beer, the higher your IBU’s. Some hops have higher alpha acid contents than others, and the longer you boil them, the more bitterness you extract. Some hops are better suited to this than others; Stone’s Arrogant Bastard wouldn’t be so arrogant without a 90 minute boil of Chinook hops, alpha acid bombs. However, hops also contribute that wonderful hop floral aroma as well.This hop aroma dissipates the longer you boil them, so brewers hop burst, drop massive quantities in at the end of the boil, or dry hop, dropping hops right into the fermenter or even keg. Some are better suited to this than others; beers generously dry hopped in amarillo smell like fresh sunbursts of citrus bubblegum marijuana heaven. This complicates this whole idea of hoppiness. When you say you like hoppy beer, do you mean you like it bitter, floral, or both?

American and English Pale Ales and IPA’s seem to exemplify this confusion. American IPA’s have gone hop mad, some using First Wort Hopping, Hop Bursting, and Dry Hopping to get truly high levels of hop aroma. Traditional English IPA’s are very bitter, with some hop aroma in the finish. The best of both seem to understand that the secret to a great IPA is not hops alone, but hops and malt, working in harmony. Beers that balance their gravity and their bitterness, are drinkable. And I don’t mean drinkable like light, I mean drinkable like I can drink a lot of it.

So the next time you drink your favorite regional brewery’s finest, ask that loving pint where it falls on the following chart. If you’re lucky, your brewery will tell you the Original Gravity in the IBU’s, and you can see how they pull that shit off.