Needs More Time


Well I’m getting very good carbonation from the bottle conditioning of the White House Honey Ale my brother and I have been brewing. Good fizz but no lacing yet as with a good pour, and it has a lovely caramel color with a touch of haze. Now, as for the taste. Well when we bottled the beer it was sweet, delicious but flat. Now its very, very dry, bitter, harsh and chemical-ish, but not sour. I’m worried. Its only been about two weeks of bottle-conditioning, but I’m worried there was some contamination during the bottling. I’m not sure what to do think.

The homebrewers forums all say to just be patient and perhaps to wait up to a month or more. It gives time for the yeast to spend, and for the flavor to mellow. Apparently, the bitterness doesn’t increase from conditioning and comes from the BOIL were the alpha acids were isomerized into the ale (in short, absorbed), but that bitterness can recede quickly after a period of conditioning. Oi vey, how can something smell so damn good, look so good, and fall so flat on the taste! I guess I’m going to have to just wait it out…. In the off-chance that the beer just needed to be chilled I’ve got one in the fridge for the next 48 hours and will crack it open this weekend and see if its any better. And again, the forums say if its still no good, wait some more.

Home Brewing Pt. 2

Last week, my first home brew, the White House Honey Ale, came out of its three-week primary fermentation. Now, normally most home brew kits and recipes suggest a two-week primary fermentation and then a two-week secondary fermentation in another fermenter bucket. Doing some research revealed an increasingly accepted longer single-primary fermentation approach. Basically, fermenting for 3-4 weeks then going straight to bottling where the final conditioning will take place in the bottle. Apparently it leads to a clearer beer and reduces the risks of introducing oxygen into the fermentation and other contaminants that might ruin the beer. Well, being no expert, I turned to the DC Homebrewers association and indeed got the recommendation for a primary fermentation and went with it.

After painstakingly washing and sanitizing about a case’s worth of bottles, we transferred the ale to a bottling bucket. The aroma of honey and beer filled my apartment. Sampling the beer revealed a flat but sweet brew, delicious actually, but in need of carbonation. We then primed the ale with dissolved and purified brewer’s sugar and went to work bottling. The whole process took about an hour. I stored the beer in the second bathroom and around next weekend will open a bottle for the first tasting. If there isn’t enough carbonation, I will let it go another week or so before refrigeration which should be just fine because it will probably all be consumed over the holidays anyway. I’m nervous, but everything looks good so far…

White House Honey Ale Primary Fermentation







Home Brewing Pt. 1

I’ve been itching to try homebrewing beer for quite a while. I took a class at Brooklyn Kitchen a couple years ago, bought the kit but never followed-up. Recently, I was inspired by the release of the recipe for the White House Honey Brown Ale under a Freedom of Information Act. So I grabbed my brother and we messed up his kitchen in Bloomingdale last weekend.

Of course it is tradition to sample brews AS you brew. Fat Tire’s Snow Day and Heavy Seas Loose Cannon kept us properly marinated while we steeped the grains, boiled the wort, and added the first and second batch of hops. We then moved the wort to the fermenter, put the lid on and attached the airlock. And now we wait. The recipe suggests that we rack the beer for the second fermentation after 5 days, but while doing some reading on the homebrew forums I came across the notion of a “long primary.” Seems today’s homebrewers now agree that a single longer primary fermentation will yield a more clear beer with less risk of oxidation in the transfer to a second fermenter. After checking in with the guys at DC Homebrewers, I took their advice and am going to let it sit for 2 weeks before bottling and conditioning for 2 more. So I won’t have the beer in time for Thanksgiving, but definitely should have it to give as Stocking Stuffers!

Cider Brewing: the Charge

My little hard cider homebrewing experiment is going well. After 10 days, it’s time to seal-off the cider. This will cause the fermentation to build-up and effectively carbonate the beer (though its well on its way already). The brew should have about a 3% alcohol content. Frankly, its neat to see the brew coming along. The yeast has steadily consumed the sugars, and you can smell the faint whiff of alcohol off the cider and the yeasty goodness. After a couple days of charging, its into the fridge for cooling–which will kill/stop the yeast from consuming the rest of the brew. I figure by the middle of next week it’ll be ready for consumption. If it goes well, I’ll immediately launch into a Thanksgiving brew. I’ve picked up some light peach cider from a Jersey farm–gonna turn that into hard cider too.

Good evidence of fermentation


Hard peach cider for the next brew

Again, this was a dead simple project that was inspired by the recent launch of the Hudson Valley Cider Route.

Give Yourself a Gift that Gives

Its ok I tell you…its ok to give yourself a Christmas gift. Many people do. At some point in the year, you have to stop and remind yourself you care about that face in the mirror–that you want him to be happy, to grow, to be appreciated. Oh sure, you hear the TV prattle on about giving yourself the gift of time, gym memberships and crap like that, but I find the best gifts to myself are the ones that tend to pay dividends to others. A couple years ago I joined the Sierra Club. That was a gift a long time coming that lives up to a commitment I made twenty years ago…to care about my impact on the Earth and leave it better off for future generations. Last year I gave myself a month off between an old job and the new one. Not sure if my wife appreciated that one–both of us being home at the time, but I like to think she did.

When I was a kid growing up in Cleveland, my parents used to take my brothers and sisters and I to the Cleveland Arcade every Christmas.

A magnificent arcade of glass, steel and bronze (one of three great arcades on Euclid Avenue), we shopped at the toystore where ceremoniously,  I would pick out my own tin soldiers each year. I know, I know you could have Transformer or G.I. Joe action figure…but there amid the glow of christmas lights reflecting off the bronze banisers, amidst the smell of fresh popped popcorn and roasted nuts, I wanted to buy my own sharpshooter or mounted knight.

Cleveland knew how to hold onto its Christmas spirit during the “rust-belt” years better than anyone else. That’s why they could film A Christmas Story there in the mid-80s without a bit of prop or scenery. The Higbee’s that Ralph visits to sit on Santa’s lap? It was exactly the same thirty years ago, even though the film was supposed to be set in the 50s. Sadly, the old Higbee’s is to become a casino soon I hear.

Ok, enough waxing poetic, this year’s gift to myself was strictly fun and it definitely promises to provide dividends to my friends if they’re willing to wait.  Tonight I took a homebrewing class at The Brooklyn Kitchen.

Adding the malt extract to the wort
Sanitized bottles waiting patiently
Two-week old brown ale ready for bottling

I took home a couple of bottles of the last classes brew, Dirty Water Brown Ale, I think they called it. It needs two more weeks conditioning in the bottle, but I’ll let you know how it turns out. I’m thinking of making a Porter or a Winter Ale for my first attempt at homebrewing this weekend. Brooklyn Kitchen has no shortage of malts and hops which I look forward to sorting through this weekend.

Now, I also like playing “secret santa” and generally enjoy the surprise that comes with getting a gift. But how does one be one’s own “secret santa?”

I like what Partners & Spade have cooking up this weekend. Apparently pre-wrapped gifts will be available at their space Saturday from 12 – 6pm. Also on tap, goods from a great purveyor (and blogger Matthew Hranek), WM. Brown. Best Made Co. will have something there too. I’ve been dying to try WM. Brown’s charcuterie so I’m definitely stopping in. I wonder if Hranek has given thought to doing some brewing up at WM. Brown? Either way, I’ll be picking up at least one more gift for myself.