Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tasting: Heritage Rice American Pale Ale

Okay, I didn't quite make it through all of January without a drink; what can I say, I'm a brewer, I love my craft, and sometimes my curiousity about my latest beer gets the better of me.  So I broke my sobriety a few days early, to bring you this (much-anticipated?) post about what my first Promalt "almost all-grain" beer tastes like.

Appearance: Bright copper, almost red, with a large eggshell-colored head that shrinks quickly to a persistent off-white lacing.  Slightly hazy.

Aroma: citrusy--white grapefruit, slightly metallic.  A very thin and slight sweetness.

Flavor: mellow white grapefruit and a hint of scallion up front, with a clean assertive bitterness.  There is a slight woody dankness as well.  The malt profile is crisp and dry, and very subdued--almost generic.  There is a hint of sourness throughout.  Not picking up much flavor from the exotic rices--the hops seem to overwhelm.  Finishes with a spicy and slightly metallic note, a very weak sweetness, and again a hint of scallion and prominent white grapefruit, with a mild lingering bitterness.

Mouthfeel: good carbonation, smooth but a bit thin on the tongue; significant linger.

Conclusion: this isn't my best beer, but the biggest flaw comes from the hops.  The scallion flavor is a definite detractor, and the hops are more prominent than they ought to be, given the lack of assertive malt character.  This is especially bad because the hops are not terribly flavorful; a smoother, brighter, fruitier hop would do better here, like Amarillo or Galaxy, or perhaps even something soft and floral, like Palisades or Opal.  The malt base is not bad by any means, just too weak for these hops.

Were I to do this again, I would add some honey, and go whole-hog with a single variety of rice--a full 5 lbs of either the black rice or the wehani rice, to really get the flavor of the grain to come through.  I would hop it with more subtlety, using tried-and-true hops of a known AA%, and reduce the late additions to keep the hops from overwhelming the rice.

Maybe even try fermenting with sak√© yeast?  Some fruity/melon character could be nice....

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

How-To: Mashing and Brewing with Unmalted Grains and Promalt

Finally, a post worthy of the name of this blog!

A while back, I don't remember precisely when but sometime in October I think, I successfully made a beer using unmalted gluten-free grains mashed with promalt enzyme cocktail, a product not available to homebrewers but which was generously provided to me by a nanobrewer friend from homebrewtalk.com.  I wanted to try using some heritage varieties of rice that I enjoy cooking with, so I came up with what I figured would be a decent red ale recipe:

Heritage Rice Pale Ale:

Grain Bill:
2 lbs wehani red rice, lightly roasted
2 lbs "forbidden" black rice, lightly roasted
1 lb sprouted quinoa, untoasted
8 oz brown rice syrup
8 oz D45 Candi syrup
4 oz maltodextrin

Hop Schedule:
1 oz cascade hops, whole-leaf @ 60 min
0.5 oz cascade hops, whole-leaf @ 15 min
1.5 oz cascade hops, whole-leaf @ 5min
(hops were purchased at the San Rafael farmer's market and have an unknown AA%)

Extra Additions:
1 tsp yeast nutrient
1 whirlfloc tablet

Yeast: Safale S-04 Dry British Ale Yeast

Measured OG: 1.054
Measured FG: 1.012
Calculated IBU: ??? (~47 @ 5% AA)

I'll post tasting notes in early February, I'm taking the month of January off from drinking.  I've tried a few since bottling, though, and they were quite good (with the exception of the hops...the hops added an "oniony" flavor, due I believe to over-fertilization).  The more interesting part of this, though, is the process I used, which I will describe below!

First, I ground all the grains to a coarse grits consistency in my hand-operated Victoria mill:

The grist
Then, I performed a cereal mash, basically boiling the grains for about 10 minutes and then letting them sit for about an hour in the hot water to ensure the starches in the grains were thoroughly gelatinized.

Post-cereal mash
At this point, I let the mash cool down to 120°F, the temperature necessary for a beta-glucanase rest, which took a while (I could have dunked the kettle in a sinkful of cold water, or used my wort chiller, if I was in a rush to get the wort down in temperature).  Once I hit 120°F, I added about a teaspoon of promalt, and stirred vigorously!  The trick with using exogenous enzymes is that you must stir the mash often, it's the only way to get a good efficiency.  If this was to be done in a commercial setting, the mash tun would need to be outfitted with an agitator of some sort.  After about 15 minutes, I turned on the heat and raised the temps to 135°F for a protein rest, stirring constantly to prevent scorching.  At this point, the previously-stiff mash was liquefying nicely.

Post-protein rest
Then I heated to 150°F for a long saccharification rest.  I also added some additional amylase enzyme (not promalt, just pure amylase) to hedge my bets a little.  I stirred often, and occasionally had to apply more heat to keep the temp where I wanted it.  It did drop down to 145°F for a bit.  After about 2 hours,  the wort was thin and sweet.

Lautering time.  It's worth noting here that my brewing setup is a bit "ad hoc"; I don't have a mash tun or a lautering tun, but I do have two 20-quart brew kettles, a bottling bucket, a colander, and some large nylon grain bags.  So what I do is sort of a hybrid between BIAB ("Brew In A Bag") brewing and traditional 3-tier brewing: I mash with the full volume of water needed for the boil, directly in my kettle, and then lauter by pouring the mash through a grain bag that's lining my bottling bucket, which has a colander at the bottom:

Makeshift lauter tun
Lautering in progress
The resulting wort
I ran the wort back through the grain bed a couple times and added a wee bit of extra water to meet my final boil volume.  I took a gravity reading at this point, and I was shocked to discover I had achieved 75% efficiency!  This has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that all-grain gluten-free beers can be made without malting your own grain!

Next, the boil.  Fairly straightforward 60 min boil, with a little bit of extra sugars added in the form of D45 and rice syrup to meet my desired final gravity, as well as some maltodextrin for body and some yeast nutrient (since rice is supposed to be low in necessary FAN).

The boil
Following the boil, I cooled to 70°F, strained into the fermenter, and pitched the rehydrated yeast.

In the fermenter!
I fermented in primary for about a month, then bottled.  It carbed nicely.  All things considered, this experiment was a success!  I have since brewed a few more mostly-all-grain beers: a wild-rice, corn, and pecan amber ale with maple syrup, and a multi-grain wit with flaked amaranth, buckwheat, and millet.  I will post about these in the coming weeks as well, and have plans to do many more in the future!  I'll also be posting tasting notes on several of my most recent brews in early February, as well as reviews of Harvester's IPA (spoiler: it's awesome, they redeemed themselves big-time!) and the rest of the commercially-available GF brews I haven't gotten around to reviewing yet.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Review: Green's Endeavor Dubbel Dark Ale

There are only two dark gluten-free beers available on the commercial market: Harvester Brewing's Dark Ale, and Green's Endeavor.  Both are neither stout nor porter nor brown ale, unfortunately (stouts and porters were my favorite when I could drink glutenous beer), but Green's Endeavor is at least a recognizable Belgian dubbel.  It's not cheap, selling about $7 for a 16.9 oz bottle at my local Whole Foods, but it does make a nice treat when I'm all out of my own dark beers and lighter stuff just won't do.

Vital Statistics:
ABV: 7.0%
OG: 1.064
IBU: 24
Country of Origin: Belgium

Appearance: color is deep red-brown, just slightly darker than a brown ale; it is not nearly as dark as it appears in these pictures, though even here a close inspection shows some reddish translucence around the edges of the glass.  I'd say it's semi-translucent with red highlights, and a full effervescent light-tan head that quickly gives way to persistent egg-shell lacing.

Aroma: nutty and bread-like, reminiscent of whole-grain walnut bread fresh from the toaster, with some butter-toffee accents and a slight solvent sharpness.

Flavor: if you're expecting something like a stout or a porter, this beer will disappoint.  The Belgian dark dubbel, though dark, is a much different animal--high in alcohol, thirst-quenching, and having very little roast or burnt character.  Green's Endeavor is true to style, an impressive feat to say the least.  The flavor is sweet, thin, and a little sour, with notes of toffee and milk chocolate somewhat buried under peppery esters from the belgian yeast.  No bready flavors, despite the aroma.  A notable alcoholic warmth and slight solvent-like flavor is evident.  No roast character to speak of, more like molasses or dark sugar than coffee or dark chocolate.  There is a noticeable sour twang common to most gluten-free beers, but it is well-balanced by the yeast flavors.  Carbonation is quite high, leading to a light effervescent mouth-feel that is somewhat surprising given the color, aroma, and ABV.  All in all, it's a pretty good beer, true to style, but a little bit lackluster in the malt profile.

Rating: 4 out of 5.  Not what I'm generally looking for in a dark beer, but if I was into Belgian dubbels this would definitely satisfy me.  Now if only someone somewhere would put out a GF stout...it's really not that hard, I've brewed three excellent ones so far in my tiny apartment kitchen!  In fact, I'd say it's the least-challenging of all the styles I've attempted, probably because one kind of roasted grain tastes a lot like any other kind of roasted grain.