Posts Tagged ‘Witches Brew’

Always Learning

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Sorry for the lack of updates and all the critical posts these days. This month is move in for the clients we’ve been developing a home for. With training, meetings, plus my normal work schedule blogging has fallen by the wayside.


When I first got into homebrewing I was talking with a fellow brewer and had remarked that he knew everything about brewing. He responded with one of those cheesy you can’t know everything about brewing because your always learning comments. I knew then that what he said was true, but it never really seemed relevant until today.

When I first started this blog in February I was just starting to get serious about beer and made learning about brewing a priority. Because of this 2009 has seen huge leaps in my brewing skills and knowledge. No surprise then that when I pulled out my witches brew gruit recipe I made in February I couldn’t stop laughing. My early attempts at recipe development show my lack of knowledge about the brewing process at the beginning of this year.

Here’s what the recipe looked like when I first wrote it and brewed it

7lb light malt extract
3/4 lb Roasted Barley
1/4 lb Chocolate Malt
1/4 lb 60 Crystal Malt
1/4 lb CaraPills
1 tsp Irish Moss
2.5 oz Yarrow @ 1hr
1.5 oz Bogmyrtle @ 1hr
1 oz Sweet Gale add to fermentor
1 oz Fennel Seed @ 1 hr
Nottingham Ale Yeast

Since February I have switched from using the same light liquid malt extract for every beer to using a a few different dry extracts. I know some people think a serious homebrewer should be brewing all grain, but for my budget, equipment, and storage space malt extract works best, and with practice and knowledge you can brew really good extract based beer.

Another interesting thing is the original recipe has all the herbs being added for the full one hour boil except sweet gale. Apparently I didn’t follow my own instructions because I opened a bottle of this stuff a few weeks ago and there were some (not much though) complex herbal flavors. In those early brewing attempts my ability to get all the ingredients in the wort at the same time was limited since I was brewing highly concentrated wort in a spaghetti pot. This means some of the herbs were added, the pot became to full, I split the boil into two pots and then added the rest of the herbs. Also I didn’t have a scale at the time for measuring my ingredients, so my weights were guesstimates. Perhaps it’s better that this beer became a sour ale.

Needless to say I completely tore apart this recipe and rebuilt it from the ground up for brewing this morning. Now I just gotta pull that recipe down after I get back from yet another training/meeting.

I Can’t Brew Gruits

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

beerfailMy gruit finished carbonating last week, and it looks like I have five more gallons of meat marinade. I skipped putting it in my small carboy to clear and just siphoned right off the yeast cake in the six gallon carboy, and straight into the bottling bucket. I also pulled a glass for sampling and testing the final gravity. The FG came out just around 1.01, and the sample tasted awesome. Thinking everything was gravy I added the priming sugar and bottled. I even went as far as to sanitize my caps, something I don’t usually do. Needless to say I was excited to have this batch turn out.

Two weeks later I popped the top on one of the ones from the reused cap experiment. It was flat. Apparently some of the caps didn’t reseal like I’d hoped. I decided to try it anyway to see how it tasted. It tasted exactly like the last batch. It had an herbal flavor, but there was such an overpowering sweet/tart flavor that I could barely swallow. This bottle didn’t seal properly though right? Maybe it was a case of the same infection that I thought had taken my last batch. I reached into the other case and grabbed one that used a brand new cap and popped the top. This hiss told me it sealed which was exciting, so I poured it in a glass. Turns out this one tasted the same. In fact they all did.

Somewhere along the line this recipe keeps going south. I sent out a couple of inquiries, and am waiting to hear back from another brewer who’s done gruits before. Right now it appears that something in the beer is causing it to oxidize like crazy. You think it’d be easy to tell since oxidation has a unique flavor, but the problem is, if this is oxidation it’s so strong, and unplanned for, that it’s ridiculous. Hopefully I can figure out what’s up soon though, because the flavors it has when it comes out of the carboy are awesome, and it is a brew I really want to succeed.

If anyone out there has any experience brewing gruits and can give me advice I’d appreciate it. When I swing by Homebrew Heaven to talk to Doug I’ll also check with him to see what he thinks.