Synesthesia Pêche – Brew in Review

We brewed Synesthesia Pêche at the end of October and recently were able to enjoy the (peachy) fruits of our labor.  This was our first successful fruited beer, with Kiwi Kaleidoscope being our first attempt as well as an education on how protease enzymes work.  Live and brew and learn… then brew it again.

Synesthesia Pêeche

Synesthesia Pêeche

For Synesthesia Pêche we used freeze-dried peaches.  I chose freeze-dried after watching The Mind of a Chef and seeing them recommended to get the most true fruit flavor in cooking, I figured that would apply to brewing as well.  I guess in order to get a good comparison I would have to do this again with another form of peaches but I can say that I’m please with the results from the freeze-dried.  The aroma of peach comes out on the pour, however it fades a lot after the initial burst.  However the peach flavor is big and juicy in the beer, perfectly balanced with the beer being mostly dry with enough sweetness to make the peach flavor pop.  Most of those that tried it said the flavor was just right, with one of our friends saying it was a bit too intense.  That friend is crazy and we all know it.

Normally I don’t pay a lot of attention to the proper seasons for beer but I have to say that drinking this reminded me of late Spring to early Summer and it would be perfect then, perhaps paired with an assortment of cheeses.  Maybe I’ll try to save some until then.

Some sexy bottles of Synesthesia Pêche

Some sexy bottles of Synesthesia Pêche

Brewing Synesthesia Pêche

Synesthesia Pêche is our first venture into fruited beers, OK… it’s actually our second but we prefer to forget the abomination that was Kiwi Kaleidoscope.  We’ve brewed a couple batches of Synesthesia Saison with good, consistent results so it was a perfect choice to try a fruit addition.  Since we’re in Georgia it seemed that peaches were the logical choice so Synesthesia Pêche was born.

Saison + Peaches = Yes.

Saison + Peaches = Yes

I did some research on the various methods of adding fruit and after careful consideration decided to ignore them.  While watching Mind of a Chef on Netflix I saw an episode where they played around with some freeze-dried foods and the chef mentioned that this method (with fruit) produced the most true fruit flavor in his dishes.  A bit more Googling showed a couple of people have tried this in brewing but it isn’t a widely used method, it seems a few more people tried it with mead than with beer.  As a side note, I saw several people using the term dehydrated and freeze-dried interchangeably and they are very different preservation methods.  Dehydrated/dried fruit has had most of the moisture removed (usually with a combination of heat and air) where freeze drying works by freezing the product then using pressure to remove the moisture.  With either method there may be preservatives used, so make sure what you get is additive free.  After emailing them to confirm they used only peaches I ordered this can from Honeyville Farms on Amazon.

Freeze dried peaches.  I'm gonna drown them in beer. RIPeaches.

Freeze dried peaches. I’m gonna drown them in beer. RIPeaches.

Most of the others I could find that used freeze-dried fruit in their brew made a slurry in a blender before adding it to their beer/mead.  My fruit came in small dices and I wanted to add it straight to the beer so I got as much of the flavor as possible without diluting the beer with more liquid.  However I wasn’t sure if this posed an infection risk so I dropped an email to Michael Tonsmeire (The Mad Fermentationist and author of American Sour Beers) and he felt that although the fruit wouldn’t be sterile the environment in the beer likely would not allow it to grow.  Good deal, full steam ahead.

Racking the saison onto the peaches

Racking the saison onto the peaches

I brewed the saison as normal and allowed it to complete fermentation which finished at 1.006.  I used 12 oz of freeze dried peaches in a 5 gallon batch.  My Google-fu suggest that freeze dried fruit is 8-9x lighter than fresh so I’m estimating this is equivalent to 6.5’ish pounds of fruit.  I cleaned and sanitized a carboy and added the fruit then purged it with CO2 before racking the beer onto the fruit.  After that I placed it in the fermentation chamber at 65°F and let it work its magic.  Saturday will be two weeks and I sample and see if this one is ready to keg.  I’ll post an update with results once the beer is done.  I think I may even have a bottle of the regular saison around to do some comparison.

You may notice the airlock on my carboy looks a bit different, I’m trying out a new waterless, sanitary airlock called Sterilock.  It’s not available for purchase in the US just yet but should be headed this way soon.  This is my first brew with it but I’ll post a review of that as well as the plastic Big Mouth Bubbler in the near future.

Peaches releasing all their love into my beer.

Peaches releasing all their love into my beer.

Cooking With Spent Grain

BREWHOUSE UPDATES!  Our pumpkin beer (It’s The Great Pumpkin, Timmy D!) is done, and it’s really good.  Last year’s ITGPTD was a horrible failure, we went back to the drawing board and this year have something we really like.  We also brewed another batch of Synesthesia Saison that will get racked onto peaches soon to create Synesthesia Pêche, we hope to have that one ready to drink in about a month.

I’ve been saying for a long time that I was going to make some stuff with spent grain.  Each time I brew I save some and freeze it, then a few months later I throw it away, it’s a vicious circle.  This time I actually followed through and tried a couple of recipes with some grain left over from brewing Synesthesia Pêche (more on that soon) and was pretty pleased with the results.  Brew Dog Boo got some dog treats out of the deal and I got some banana nut bread, everyone was happy.

I decided to use some of the grain as is and to turn some of it into spent grain flour.  Turning the grain into flour was a time-intensive process and you’d be surprised how little you get after drying and milling the grain.  I have a four tray food dehydrator and loaded it up with grain, after all was said and done I ended up with about 1 1/2 cups of flour, which was fine as it still covered what I needed for the banana bread.  So here’s how I threw it down…

Spent Grain Dog Treats

Spent Grain Dog Treats (Note that this amount makes 1/2 of the recipe below.)

Spent Grain Dog Treat ingredients.  (Ingredients shown are for 1/2 batch.)

This was the first recipe I tried since it didn’t require any special preparation to the grains beforehand.  I simply used the well-drained grains out of the mashtun, this is a really easy recipe.  Googling recipes for spent grain dog treats I found the exact same recipe on 9 out of 10 sites.  Hey, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, my recipe follows most others.  Note on my batch I halved this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups spent grain
  • 2 cups flour (I used all-purpose whole wheat flour)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup peanut butter

Instructions:

  1. Mix everything together until dough forms a firm ball
  2. Spread dough on parchment paper about 1/4″ thick
  3. Cut your cookies out.  I used a beer sample glass as my cookie cutter.
  4. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes
  5. Reduce heat to 225°F and let cookies bake for 2 more hours to dry them.  You want them dry and crunch but not hard, you should be able to break them in half easily.  Drying them will help with storage and prevent spoilage/mold.

Let them cool a bit and see what your brew dog thinks about them, Boo gave them her seal of approval.

Fine, human... I'll play your silly games.

Fine, human… I’ll play your silly games.

Cookies cooling off

Cookies cooling off

Spent Grain Flour

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If you have a food dehydrator you can use that for the first step of drying the grains.  Simply line your trays with parchment paper, cutting a vent hole in the center for airflow if necessary.  You don’t need a fancy dehydrator to get the job done.  I have a cheap one (similar to this) and I’ve done dried herbs, fruit, jerky and now grain and it does just fine.  If you don’t have a dehydrator you can do this in your oven.

  • Preheat your oven to it’s lowest setting, no more than 200°F.
  • Prepare grains by making sure you’ve removed as much moisture as possible.  Place them in a strainer and mash with a spoon or spatula to get the excess water out.
  • Spread grain on an ungreased cookie sheet (can also line with parchment paper) in a thin layer, approximately 1/4″ deep.
  • Place pan in the oven for 7-8 hours, stirring halfway through.
  • Boom.  Dried grain.

You can then mill the grain in a coffee or spice grinder if you don’t have a mill.  I did mine in my NutriBullet which came with a milling blade I thought I’d never use, it worked amazingly well for this.  I have a love/hate relationship with my NutriBullet, it works very well but I had some leaking issues and had a tough time getting service, but that’s a story for another time… on with the recipes.

Spent Grain Banana Nut Bread with Dark Chocolate

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup spent grain flour
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 Tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 over-ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten (Make sure to set a safe word so things don’t get out of hand.)
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven toe 350°F
  2. Sift together flours, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine the butter and sugar together.  Add the eggs and banana and stir to incorporate.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients a little at a time, mixing well to combine.
  5. Fold in the nuts and dark chocolate chips.
  6. Pour batter (batter should be quite dense/thick) in to a well-buttered loaf or cake pan, I used mini-loaf pans and got 4 loaves.
  7. For a full size loaf you will need to bake for about an hour, my mini loaves were done in ~ 30 minutes.  Check about 20 minutes in.  Loaves are done when a toothpick or butter knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. Place on rack to cool a bit and devour.

 

Spent Grain Banana Nut Bread... WITH Dark Chocolate. (Sexy, isn't it?)

Spent Grain Banana Nut Bread… WITH Dark Chocolate. (Sexy, isn’t it?)

Spent grain banana bread, sliced up wile still warm from the oven.

Spent grain banana bread, sliced up while still warm from the oven.

Pumpkin ale brewday and other project updates

If you’re a general beer geek and follow commercial releases you’ll know that pumpkin beers have been on shelves since July.  I think this is crazy and refuse to drink any pumpkin beers before September, it’s just plain wrong to have a pumpkin beer in July.  It would be nice if craft beer could stay away from the seasonal creep of other consumer products but it looks like that ain’t happening, I’m sure next year I’ll get some pumpkin ale from the Easter Bunny.  But now we’re into the cooler evenings that mark the end of Summer and we’re officially less than a week away from the start of Fall, which means it’s cool to commence consumption of Autumnal ales.  And also to brew them.

Our pumpkin ale was inspired by Southern Tier’s Pumking which for my tastes is one of the best pumpkin beers I’ve tried.  The spices are just right with a noticeable nutmeg front, there’s a sweet milkiness reminiscent of whipped topping and a buttery graham cracker crust – there is some Willy Wonka magic going on in this beer.

Pumpkin ale brew day in review.

Pumpkin ale brew day in review.

After drinking and analyzing Pumking we set out on a search for clone recipes, we found several but none seemed to capture all of what we were looking for.  So we mashed a few together and made our own tweaks and we’ll see what we come up with.  Our recipe included two lbs of fresh roasted pumpkin, typical pumpkin pie spices, a bit of lactose, and we’ll use graham cracker and bourbon vanilla extracts in secondary.  It tasted great going into the fermenter, but it’s basically a soup of sweet wort, pumpkin and spices so what’s not to love?  Let’s see how fermentation treats it, we’ve got high hopes.

Pumpkin ale going into the carboy

Pumpkin ale going into the carboy

Update on hop farming, Domain of The King stout, and Tornado Warning triple chocolate porter.

So here’s the update on our hop farming…. it failed miserably.  The shoots never got more than about 6′ tall and we didn’t get a single cone on any of them.  I’ve heard that 1st year Centennial can be picky so we’ll see what happens next season.

Our Domain of The King stout is in a keg and stuck back to age for a while.   The mouth feel on this one is light and definitely not what we were going for.  Other flavors were pretty good but I still think we’ll do this one again to get it exactly where we want it.  We also left it on the oak too long and there’s a woody bitterness to it, I’ve heard that can calm down some with age so we’ll sample again in a month or so and see.

Tornado Warning triple chocolate porter got some bugs in it, this was totally our fault.  We had it in a fermentation chamber with a 1 gallon batch of Sparge of Darkness, an experimental batch we had going with some leftover wort and dregs off a bottle of Tart of Darkness.  The pellicle on top of both jugs looked identical so I’m thinking we got some cross contamination there.  Since this isn’t a wild strain we may actually end up with something decent in the end.  We’ve transferred this one to another carboy to age for a long time and then we’ll sample to see if it’s salvageable.

Sparge of Darkness (L) Tornado Warning (R)

Sparge of Darkness (L) Tornado Warning (R)

Making More Mead – Bottling Day

After our initial success with Pirate Pancake Syrup Brian and I realized that we are naturally gifted mazers and decided we needed to make 42 more batches immediately.  This revelation came to us last fall so we set to work getting batches in carboys until my closets were full of sweet honey water.  Since we’d already mastered basic mead we decided to get adventurous and make an acerglyn (mead made with honey and maple); a blueberry, lavender and vanilla melomel (mead with fruit); another batch of Pirate Pancake Syrup; and a variant of PPS we dubbed Sailor’s Warning which we made with blood oranges.

Blueberry Berserker and Sailor's Warning

Blueberry Berserker and Sailor’s Warning

We allowed the meads to age for several months before doing anything with them, once they had cleared nicely we transferred them into a secondary to remove some trub and help us get a clearer product into out bottles.  On our first bottling of PPS we got things stirred up a bit and had some sediment in the bottom of a few bottles, this hasn’t effected the mead yet but over time it can be undesirable.  Last weekend (after about 8 months aging) we sampled the meads and decided our blueberry mead, Blueberry Berserker, and Sailor’s Warning were ready to bottle.

Sailor's Warning just before bottling

Sailor’s Warning just before bottling

Sailor's Warning mead all bottled up

Sailor’s Warning mead all bottled up

Blueberry Berserker mead all bottled up

Blueberry Berserker mead all bottled up

We chose to put these in wine bottles and cork them as the color and clarity is fantastic and brown bottles just don’t do them justice.  Blueberry Berserker is deep violet and bursting with blueberry with nice vanilla notes and a hint of lavender.  Sailor’s Warning is clear and golden, surprisingly lacking the red tint we expected from the blood oranges however the oranges were not as red as I’ve had them before, we’ll have to make another batch to perfect this one.  This one is very sweet with a lot of citrus and spice, especially cinnamon.  It’s very nice but is best in very small servings such as a cordial.  We’ll likely try a different yeast next time to see if we can dry it out a bit more.

Overall we’ve been very happy with our meads and can’t wait to make some more.

A nice pour of Sailor's Warning

A nice pour of Sailor’s Warning

 

 

When life hands you tornadoes, brew a porter.

Last week our buddy Stan from Funkytown Brewyard took a trip up to Atlanta for some drinking and brewing and smoking cigars.  We spent a couple of days checking out some of the great breweries and beer bars around town and spent Friday brewing.  We originally intended to rebrew Brian’s Rainy Day IPA but since Brian was running around the Pacific Northwest instead of hanging here and planning the brewday, he was outvoted and we decided on a chocolate porter.  We used a recipe Stan has brewed before with great results and tweaked it a bit to what I was looking for and to add chocolate to our Tornado Warning Triple Chocolate Porter.

Stan is either helping with the mash or making a huge mug of hot cocoa.

Stan is either helping with the mash or making a huge mug of hot cocoa.

That is definitely hot cocoa.

That is definitely hot cocoa.

The beer was originally going to be called Boom Chocolata but thanks to Mother Nature it got a name change mid-brewday.  The weather was actually quite nice for most of the day but right as we started to chill the wort the sky went dark and sirens starting blaring.  Unfortunately this isn’t an uncommon occurrence in my neighborhood so I don’t immediately run for a closet when a warning us issued, instead I start staring into the sky looking for a tornado, which I believe is the recommended way to handle it.  Usually I see some grey clouds and a bit of rain and wind but this time there were dark clouds swirling into even darker clouds followed by extreme wind and very heavy rain.  We almost took cover this time but the storm broke and moved on, it was pretty intense.

For real, there were tornadoes on brewday.

For real, there were tornadoes on brewday.

The recipe used Maris Otter as the base malt along with a touch of black malt, chocolate malt, pale chocolate malt and Crystal 60.  For hops we used Magnum and Willamette to bring it up to 30 IBU’s and pitched White Labs 007 for our yeast.  The ‘triple chocolate’ portion of the recipe comes from the use of chocolate malts, cocoa powder in the mash and the addition of cocoa nibs in secondary.  We’re using both cocoa powder and cocoa nibs as cocoa powder will give a great chocolate flavor where cocoa nibs contribute more chocolate aroma.  Our OG on this one was 1.053 and we’re targeting 1.013 FG to get an ABV of 5.2% which should give us a very drinkable but flavorful beer.

We’re also trying out a new piece of gear today, a plastic Big Mouth Bubbler from Midwest Supplies.  I had some questions on a few of their products and after trading some emails with them to clarify a few things they offered to send me one to try out and review.  Anyone that’s fought with cleaning a standard carboy can see why the Big Mouth Bubbler would be appealing.  I’ll wait until the brew is done for a full write up but can say it was pretty handy pouring my yeast starter into the carboy without the need to use a funnel.  I took a really crappy picture of it to share here, enjoy.

Crappy pic of the plastic Big Mouth Bubbler

Crappy pic of the plastic Big Mouth Bubbler