Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Pepper Beer

It's time to brew something different. Something exciting. Something, dare I say... DANGEROUS! Okay maybe not dangerous (unless you choke on the beer... somehow), but still we are heading in a new direction here. What direction is that? Pepper beer. So crack open a homebrew and read on!

I recently went to the Extreme Beerfest here in Boston and it has gotten me thinking about brewing something bigger than your run of the mill stouts, IPAs, Pale Ales, etc. One of the best beers I had at the festival was easily a Sake-Beer from Cambridge Brewing Company. It was absolutely amazing. It had the sweet and floral flavors from the Sake but on top of the malty goodness of the underlying beer. Apparently CBC first brews the Sake and starts the fermentation process. Once fermentation has gained some momentum they brew the beer and dose in the wort to the fermenting Sake so that the two ferment together, driven by the Sake yeast. The process is complicated but the result is absolutely delicious! If you happen to live in the Boston area I highly recommend trying it out if they still have it.

But I digress. I just can't help talking about the Sake beer, it is that good. So pepper beer. There was at least one brewery with a pepper beer offering at the Extreme Beerfest but unfortunately it was a butterbomb with very high diacetyl. I felt like I was drinking room temp butter and if there was any pepper in there I certainly couldn't find it.

Fortunately, one of my homebrewers-in-training has a love of pepper beer that couldn't be diminished by a whole tub o' Land O' Lakes and so we are forging on to brew a pepper beer.

1) What kind of pepper should we use? This depends on your goal. Are you trying to just get some extra bite with the hotness or are you also trying to get some pepper flavor? There is a great Chipotle Beer out there (The brewery escapes me) that not only has kick to it, but the smokiness that is characteristic of the Chipotle.

2) What will the malt base be? I have read about pepper beers built on porters, pale ales and amber ales. I like the idea of a porter base maybe with some addition of a small (VERY small) amount of smoked malt. I am hesitant to use a lighter beer as the base because I don't feel that there would be enough complexity in the maltiness to complement the spiciness of the pepper. However, I could be completely wrong and I would love to try a pepper beer built on pale malt to find out.

3) When should we add the pepper? There doesn't seem to be a consensus out there. Some people add during the boil and others to the primary or secondary as when fruiting a beer. I am not sure how volatile capsaicin (the chemical in peppers that produces the burning sensation) is so adding to the boil may not be the best. I think we are going to add it to the primary after the first few days of vigorous fermentation or maybe we will rack into a secondary over the peppers.

4) To roast or not to roast? On days where I have spare time for some legitimate cooking with a recipe involving red peppers, I occasionally like to roast the peppers myself in my oven. The change in flavor can be subtle or dramatic depending on how you roast, but I like the idea of opening up more flavor for the beer. We will probably roast our peppers ahead of time.

Alright reader(s), you have made it through another meandering post about beer that hasn't even been brewed yet! Congratulations. I suggest opening a homebrew as a reward for yourself and be sure to check back later for the results of the brew! Cheers!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Bitter Beaver IPA

Okay, okay this post is a little later than it should have been after all the talk of "Midnight Brewing back online" but better late than never! If you have not done so already, crack open a homebrew and read on about the first weekend of brewing in almost a year.

We chose to brew an IPA about a month ago. Now with that first sentence I am sure you are thinking something like "Wait, wait, wait A Brewer. You distinctly said last time B Brewer had moved away so what is this 'We' you speak of?" A fair question. Well as it turns out there are other people here in business school that are interested in homebrewing but like most, have never taken that interest anywhere. Personally I can't let that stand. If I have the equipment and you have the interest then by god lets brew some beer! So the new "We" would be me and a group of 3 or four other (new) homebrewers. But I digress.

As I said we chose an IPA by popular vote. We aimed for a copper colored IPA with bitterness under 90 IBU. We weren't aiming for a West Coast IPA or East Coast IPA in particular though in general I prefer the citrusy West Coast flavor. Details:

8.5lbs 2-row
2lbs Crystal 40L
0.5lbs Vienna
1oz Nugget (Pellets) 60min
0.5oz Nugget (Pellets) 30min
1oz Cascade (Whole) 10min
1.5oz Nugget (Pellets) dry hop - 4 days

So it has been a long, long time since I have made an IPA so this is the rough beginnings of a new recipe. I am a little concerned about the effect on flavor and body of 2.5lbs of Crystal & Vienna, but on the other hand I am curious so why not try it. As far as the hops go, BrewPal says this should lead to about 66 IBU but this does not necessarily reflect the perceived bitterness. I try not to get too hung up on IBUs in general as I have had a 50IBU beer that tastes less bitter than a 23IBU beer due to the balance of malt flavor. So while IBUs are certainly a good indicator, it is not a guarantee of how bitter a beer will actually taste. Again, the best choice is to taste the beer we end up with and adjust for the next time.

I wrote the above portion of this post many moons ago when we actually brewed this batch and the beer has since fermented, been bottled and mostly consumed. This batch turned out absolutely delicious and I can't wait to make another batch. It is a bit thicker than I expected, but I think that the mouthfeel fits well with the overall beer experience. As I expected the perception of actual bitterness is not up there, but it is definitely in IPA territory. The malt and the body of the beer balance the bitterness very well and make for an extremely drinkable beer. As for color, it is a deep copper with a decent straw colored head. The aroma of the nugget hops really comes through as soon as you pour yourself a glass and people that have sampled it have said they expect it to be very bitter from the aroma but are pleasantly surprised. If you love IPAs and have a friend who you want to get hooked as well I think this would make a great "gateway" IPA. It is bitter, but balances so well that the newbies will not run in fear at the first sip.

A great comparison to this beer would be to Troegs Nugget Nectar. If you are on the east coast and have the opportunity to try Nugget Nectar I highly recommend this IPA. If you like Nugget Nectar then by all means try out this recipe.

A few other notes: Our efficiency was pretty abysmal at 62%, but there were some issues I will go into in another post about the current equipment situation. The final abv was 4.5% which is respectable enough for me though could be higher if we can achieve better efficiency. Overall though I am very happy with this beer and can't wait to brew it again. We just bottled a Spiced Holiday Ale so I will try and throw up that recipe soon. If you haven't brewed your holiday beer at this point though it is not likely to be ready by Christmas.

You have made it through another post fair readers so why not congratulate yourself and crack open a homebrew! Cheers!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

MBC Back Online!

Dearest Reader(s),

It has been awhile. Nearly two years since we have spoken. Things have changed quite a bit here at Midnight Brewing. B Brewer has moved on to the Maryland area (with half the MBC equipment) and I am now in the Boston area. I can count on one hand the number of times I have brewed this year and obviously I have written nothing about those few brews. For that I am sorry.

But fear not! I have since purchased a new kettle, fermenter and false bottom (more on this later) and brewing is going to start up again. Of course since I am in Boston this means that Midnight Brewing is located in Boston (not Maryland B Brewer sorry). I plan on brewing this weekend. And next weekend. And the following weekend. Not only that but *Gasp* I will probably write about the new adventures of Midnight Brewing here for your reading pleasure!

Just to give you a preview, this weekend will be the first time use of the false bottom. Up until now we have always used a braided hose in our lauter tun (Round drink cooler) which has had its fair share of problems. So hopefully from this weekend I can lay down some fresh lautering wisdom. I have also met some Boston homebrewers that work with 15 gallon batches (brewed indoors no less) that I would like to profile at some point.

So there you have it readers. Midnight Brewing is back and beer will be on tap (in bottle?) soon! So relax, breathe easy and why not pop open a homebrew to celebrate!

Sunday, January 25, 2009


I had mentioned some time ago that I would be going to Versuchs- und Lehranstalt fur Brauerei in Berlin and that I was planning on keeping a blog of my experiences. For any who are interested in my meandering thoughts about the brewing school as well as what it's been like living in Berlin take a look.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Off to Brew School

I have good news and bad news fair readers. Bad news first? Well there may be a slow down in the blog postings. Whats that you say? We take forever to post anything new anyway? Well I wouldn't say forever, but it looks like things might slow down a bit more, which brings us to the good news. I am going to be heading off to Germany to attend the 2009 Brewmaster program at Versuchs- und Lehranstalt für Brauerei in Berlin (VLB).

The course is going to start January 5th 2009, but we may not be able to do much brewing between now and then since I am going to be focusing on packing up my life in Rochester (And if we did brew would there be enough time for me to enjoy any of it?).

I hope to do two things for you readers though. #1 Discuss why I chose to go to VLB over other programs such as the one at UC Davis or the World Brewing Academy through the Siebel Institute of Technology. #2 Start a blog about my experience in the program should anyone want to read about it.
In any case that's whats to come for Midnight Brewing Co. That was probably as tiring reading as it was writing so why don't you crack open a homebrew. Cheers!