Monthly Archive for October, 2008

Inverting sugar: cheap candi sugar

I’m going to be brewing a Belgian-style Dubbel this weekend, and the recipe calls for Belgian candi sugar. (I don’t know why they insist on the i) A pound of the rock candy costs around $8, which is rather expensive. I’ve spent most of the last few years trying to figure out how to reduce the cost of brewing( free hops, dry yeast, all grain, etc), so I’m just not willing to spend the additional $8 per batch for glorified sugar.

Luckily, the internet wants me to save money, so I was able to find what other cheap bastards brewers are doing in place of candied sugar or syrup. Discussion over what type of sugar to use varied, and some folks felt that plain white cane or beet sugar gave the beer a cidery finish, which is something I try to avoid. Candied sugar, or inverted sugar has been partially transformed from just sucrose to a mix of glucose and fructose, and if you cook it long enough, you get some carmalization, which adds color and flavor. Several different forums pointed to this collection of instructions on inverting my own sugar. And another. For $8, I’ll give it a shot.

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Freaky Fermentation Friday

October’s Fermentation Friday is hosted by Pfiff. The topic is:

It’s time for y’all to whip out your best homebrewing horror stories. Extra points for tales of woe told in true campfire fashion, and head straight to the front of the class for a bonus handful of candy corn if there’s a deliciously ironic twist in the end.

Well, gather ’round because I have one of the most frightening, lurid tales. Deep in the dark basement is where I store my homebrewing equipment, right next to the crawl space. In fact, there are some small holes in the partition between the safe part of the basement, and the dark, dusty, and recently-radon infested crawl space. One night recently, I wandered down in the dark to check on the laundry when I noticed a dulled sheen on my brew kettle nestled beneath the open stairs. Normally it sparkles in its stainless glory. Something was wrong.

I stepped closer, straddling the pile of towels and linens waiting to wash, and was mortified to discover the cause. A layer of dust and dog hair had settled on top of my equipment, all of it. The equipment hadn’t been used for so long that had not only it developed a cake of dust, but it had started growing hair.

Oh torment! Have I been such a neglectful homebrewer that my equipment is evolving in a Lamarkian rate to find a meaningfun existance? I leaned in close to the kettle, whispered in it’s ball-valve “I’ll brew again! Just don’t leave! I’ll stop buying all the Full Sail Doppelbocks at New Seasons!”

Then, I traced a finger over the lid, hoping to soothe it, and was relieved to find that the dust and hair came up on the tip of my finger. This wasn’t permanent at all, just a dusting of neglect, a sin I could redeem myself of.

Celebrate 2008

Guess what Michelle brought home?

Old Crustacean circa 1999

While attending a wedding in Pugetopolis this past weekend, we crashed with Scott and Stephanie. The wedding was on a Friday night, so afterwards, everyone was pretty tired save Scott and I. So after everyone else was tucked in, we lounged downstairs, talked it up, and savored some of his homebrews. He had both a Dunkelweissen and Pumpkin ale on tap, and while both were great, I’m not a pumpkin ale fan so I stuck with the delicious Dunkel. I also tried a bottled IPA which was excellent – just the right color, aroma and with plenty of citrusy hops. But then the mood changed when Scott broke a 1999 Old Crustacean out of his cellar.
A 9 year old Crusty

I thought he was teasing me at first since it was only a 7 oz bottle, and if you’re going to save a bottle for nearly a decade, how could you drink it just shy of that anniversary. He convinced me however because I was one of the few people he knows that relishes in barleywine. So he poured to small glasses and we sniffed. The smell was glorious.

You never know what you’re going to get 9 years after you bottle something, but evidently the original recipe was right. The aroma was part brandy, part malt, and completely alluring. The first sip revealed the truth – this beer was OMFG good. After nearly a decade, the flavor was layers of aged ingredients. There was a gradient from port to grand marnier to chocolate to plums and raisins, then after a 15 second pause, a wash of bittersweet that I can only imagine were the hops begging for recognition. Amazingly, this sensation occurred every time you took a sip, even with the smallest draw of the nectar.

I’m honored that Scott shared such a delicious beer with me. It made me consider cellaring beer for a second, but I’ve thought that before and it’s never really worked out. If you can find this sucker somewhere (ahem, bottleworks), I’d seriously recommend it.

Hoarding Full Sail Doppelbock

I missed out on Oktoberfest somehow, and its one of the few times of the year I relish in German brewed beers. Normally, I prefer to drink the locally brewed equivalents, of which there are many fine examples. However, this year I would have totally missed the boat had I not stumbled upon Full Sail’s 21st Birthday beer, a delicious doppelbock so good that I feel no lament for missing Optimator on tap at Mt. Angel.

I’ve found myself hoarding the nectar each time I visit New Seasons. 2 Weeks ago I bought the last 3 bottles. This weekend, I bought all but the last 1 bottle, feeling a slight bit of midwestern guilt (You always leave the last cookie on the plate). I felt a little silly, but it has allowed me to enjoy a great doppelbock, while still honoring my NW beers edict. The stuff is so delicious that I’ve forgotten that I missed the Oktoberfest beers, the kraut, cabbage, and curried brats.

Label peelers

You can always tell when your out of state friends have been in town because more than half the empty bottles have had their labels peeled off. To Washingtonians, that bottle is either getting tossed out or possibly to the recycler. To Oregonians, you may as well be throwing nickels in the trash. I can only imagine the pressure that you must feel when living in Michigan.