Homebrew Backlog

Just 2 months ago I wrote a hilarious post about how not to keep your blog updated and I’ve obviously been following my own advice.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, I brewed a saison and wrote about it and then kinda dropped the ball. I’ve brewed 3 more beers since then but let’s start back where I left off.

Belgian Saison

Back in April I posted about brewing a Belgian Saison. Well, that one has since been bottled and drank. I think I had the last one a couple weeks ago. The kit I used suggested “cellaring” this one so I saved a six pack for as long as I could, although not in a cellar. I think the last ones probably tasted better but that might have just been in my head.

Here’s a shot of how it turned out from when I still had some:

Belgian saison

Strawberry Hefeweizen

After the saison I decided I would try brewing a strawberry beer. I know, it was a dumb idea but I did it anyway. Any experienced homebrewer will probably tell you not to try dealing with fruit until you have more experience and a list of successful brews under your belt. And like most people new to home brewing I said “eff that, I want to try it” and bought a hefeweizen extract kit from Northern Brewer and some fruit extract to add at bottling.

Actually the original idea was a strawberry/banana hefeweizen, so I got both strawberry and banana extract/flavoring. Then I did some reading and found that most people weren’t happy with the taste when using this stuff. Change of plans. I decided to add actual strawberries after the primary fermentation and ferment at higher than normal temps to try to coax some banana flavor from the yeast. That might sound like a weird thing to say, but when you ferment at a higher temperature, some yeasts will actually add a fruity, sometimes banana-like flavor to the beer.

The first step was to brew and ferment the hefeweizen. Here’s the recipe I used:

  • 6.3 lbs wheat malt extract
  • 1 oz Hersbrucker hops (60 min)
  • 0.5 oz crushed coriander (10 min)
  • Brewferm Blanche dry yeast
  • 7 lb frozen strawberries (secondary)

Ingredients for a strawberry hefeweizen

This photo also shows some bitter orange peel I had left over from previous brews but I ended up not adding it. The coriander was my own addition to the recipe. It’s something you usually see with a Belgian witbier but I had some left over and I like the peppery flavor it adds so I just went with it.

The basic process of heating the water and adding the extract is the same as the other brews I’ve posted. I started with 2.5gal of water this time, mainly because that’s what the recipe called for, but also because I wanted to try something closer to a full boil. The more of the wort you can include in the boil the better. Most extract kits are meant to be used with smaller equipment so they don’t recommend you boil the full amount. With my 5gal kettle I could probably do more than 2.5gal but I figure I would start out here and try a larger volume next time if this one goes well. The main concern is boilovers. If you try to boil 5gal of liquid in a 5gal pot you’re obviously going to be cleaning up a mess.

Hops have just been added

Once all the extract was added and started to boil I added the 1oz Hersbrucker hops. I decided to just add it to the boil without a muslin bag or anything and right after dropping it in, all the foam turned bright green. It looks pretty gross (anything that color green doesn’t look appetizing) but I had fun looking at it.

With 10 minutes left to go in the boil I added the coriander. This time I decided to give it a couple spins in the coffee grinder to really break it up. Last time I used a mortar and pestle I made out of a ceramic IKEA bowl and a glass. The grinder is much faster and easier. I should probably get a separate one for coffee but I can’t say I’ve noticed any coriander notes in the coffee I made after this so maybe not.

Crushed coriander

Another thing I didn’t anticipate was that I was going to end up with a lot more hot ass wort that I would need to cool down to 70F as quickly as possible. To make matters worse I forgot to buy ice. I usually pick up a couple bags of ice and use them to make an ice bath in the kitchen sink. Without the bags, I had like half a tray of cubes and one of those blue things for coolers so I filled up the sink with cold water and whatever frozen stuff I had and hoped for the best.

As you can see the ice didn’t last long and after 10 minutes the water in the sink was really hot. I thought about refilling with cold water but quickly realized it was time for plan B.

Bath bath

I quickly moved the pot into the bathtub (luckily it’s right next to the kitchen) and filled it with enough cold water so that all the hot wort was submerged and then tried to keep the cold water moving to draw as much heat out as possible. It took a little longer than I was hoping but I managed to get it down to around 80F in 30-40 minutes. Time to get it in the primary and pitch the yeast.

After dumping the wort into the bucket I decided to try a new method for aerating. The metal whisk (sanitized of course).

Aerating the wort

Seemed to work pretty well. If you don’t have a more sophisticated method I highly recommend it. At this point I took a sample for a gravity reading. This being an extract brew, it was pretty much right on target: 1.045. The recipe said it would be 1.046, and it probably was. I topped off with water to get it up to 5gal so it probably just wasn’t 100% mixed.

This was my first time using dry yeast. I followed the directions on the packet which seemed simple enough, but I might have benefited from making a yeast starter. I could just be second guessing myself as usual though.

Brewferm Blanche wit yeast

After pitching the yeast, I added the lid and airlock and moved the bucket into the living room where I do all my fermenting. That’s where the AC is so its the room where I have the most control over ambient temperature.

Now we finally get to the part with the strawberries.

After 2 weeks in the primary, fermentation was complete with a final gravity of 1.010. I then dropped 7lbs of frozen strawberries from Acme into the secondary bucket and racked the beer on top of it. A couple days in I started to see some activity in the airlock again. 7lbs of strawberries also added some amount (no idea) of fermentable sugar so the yeast obviously woke up for a bit. That didn’t last long though and after a full week in secondary I decided to rack to another container to get the beer off all those strawberries. I don’t really have a good reason but that’s what I read some other people did and it made sense to me. Leaving it for too long (I would imagine) could bring a little too much out of the berries.

I was a bit surprised after cracking the lid and seeing that all the strawberries were floating on top. I don’t know why I thought they would stay at the bottom but I guess it makes sense that they would eventually float to the top. They also looked pretty gross but I was expecting that. There was a sort of whiteish/pale tinge to them, as if the color had been leeched out (I’m assuming that’s good) and they had taken on some of the color of the beer as well. Here’s what they looked like after racking the beer off:

Spent Strawberries

Here’s a closeup. They look even worse up close so look at your own risk.

I let it sit for another week before bottling. I’m not sure if that was necessary but it didn’t hurt. If anything it allowed some time for any bits of strawberry to settle out. I haven’t brewed this beer without strawberries so I don’t have anything to compare it to, but I’d say it definitely took on some color that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. Oh, and after being on the strawberries for a week I figured why not take another gravity reading. It came out at 1.009 so… something was happening. I’m not sure if I can figure out the ABV at this point since the sugar from the strawberries wasn’t there for the OG reading.

Strawberry weizen ready for bottling

So, now for the bad news.

It’s been over a month since these have been in the bottle and they taste pretty funky. It’s very tart. I was hoping for more sweetness and actual strawberry flavor but so far it’s hard to get any of that. It’s hard to even get any of the beer flavor with how overpowering the tartness is. And I like sour beers. This is more a combination of a tartness and something else. I can’t really place it but it’s definitely kind of unpleasant. It smells even funkier than it tastes. There’s definitely an element of strawberry to it, but it’s almost like rubber or plastic or something – not exactly a flavor most people want in their beer.

At around 3 weeks I had one that seemed like it was getting better. It didn’t get as much of the tartness up front and it almost had a “creaminess” to it. More of a mouthfeel thing, but I was started to be a little optimistic. Then a week later I tried another one and it was worse than where it started. This one as in the fridge over night, where the one at three weeks was in just long enough to cool down, so I’m not sure if that was a factor.

I’m keeping it around to see if it ever mellows out but I’m not holding out hope after my last taste. It was the first of my own beers that I couldn’t finish. Sad face. Well it was bound to happen at some point (and probably will again) so I’m just gonna roll with it. On to the next one…

I was planning on writing about the other 2 beers I brewed after this one, but this post is already pretty long and it’s pretty late so I’ll save that for the next post. If you just can’t wait, you should check out my Flickr, which is more up to date than this site.