Monthly Archives: October 2010

Drinking It All: #35 Terrapin Pumpkinfest

Drinking It All is a document of my attempt to try every beer in circulation. It’s a Herculean and tragic attempt at best. But it’s the means, not the end that counts here.

drinkin' pumpkin pie

I’ve been drinking some of the the fall pumpkin/acorn squash/butternut squash beer that I recently kegged, and I realized that I had a couple of other fall beers hiding out in the refrigerator. The beer I reached for today is Terrapin’s Pumpkinfest.

I’ve previously hinted at the fact that I’m not a huge fan of pumpkin beers, and I’ve even managed to find slight fault with a Dogfish Head pumpkin beer. I guess there are always exceptions to rules/personal opinions.

This Terrapin beer is a strong pumpkin beer with a pretty prominent nutmeg and cinnamon taste. The label isn’t exactly clear, but it seems to hint that the beer is an Oktoberfest lager-style with pumpkin and spices added. And it is a very visibly clear beer–so all signs point to lager. The feel of the beer has the signature crispness that lagers have also. And the taste. Like I said, it’s noticably spicy–tastes like cinnamon and nutmeg. These spices give the beer a meaty kind of taste, too. It is heavier on the malt than the hops but easy enough on both to let the pumpkin and spices come through very clearly.

One disconcerting caveat on the label indicates that what I’m drinking is actually a ‘malt beverage’ brewed with pumpkin and spices. Malt beverage? I am not putting the shit on you–it actually claims and advertises to be a malt beverage. I have no idea why, and, to be honest, it doesn’t (and shouldn’t) change my opinion of the beer (i.e., malt beverage). And neither the label nor carrier offers any explanation. Categorization aside, it’s still a good beer.

Thumbs up or thumbs down? Up. If I’m going to look for a pumpkin beer, this’d be the one I look for.


Brewed Slowly: Kegging

When I posted about the advantages of kegging over bottling, I promised to later go into more detail about the kegging process itself. Now I’m keeping my promise. Today I kegged the fall brown ale (w/pumpkin, butternut squash, and acorn squash), and so now I’ll tell you about it.

Like I mentioned in the earlier kegging post, about the only tedious part of kegging is the cleaning and sanitizing. If you’ve brewed your own beer, then you’re probably used to this emphasis on cleanliness. Here it’s no different. I cleaned my keg with TSP (tri-sodium phosphate) then sanitized with the basic sanitizer that usually comes with starter brew kits.

The cleaning:

1. I took apart the keg. So the lid comes off, the in- and out-posts have to be unscrewed and removed, the long and short dip tubes come out, and all the o-rings (lid, posts, tubes) were removed.

2. Once the keg is disassembled (this Johnny-5 is not alive), I put the small parts (basically everything but the keg itself) in a tub to soak in a dilution of TSP and warm water–about a tbsp of TSP per gallon of water. Then I filled up the keg with the same dilution of TSP/water.

3. After about 3o min.-1 hour, I brushed around the inside of the keg, with a carboy brush, and then dumped out the solution. For the small parts, I just rinsed them off well.

And that’s the cleaning. (Cleaning is different from sanitizing, and both are necessary. Cleaning aims to get off any visible dirt, residue, nasty shit you don’t want in the beer. Sanitizing’s purpose is to bring the equipment as close to sterile as possible. So an item can be clean but not sanitized, and vice versa.)

The sanitizing:

1. I took all the small parts and soaked them in a tub with a dilution of the brew sanitizer, and I filled up the keg with the same dilution. (Basically following the steps of cleansing, but with a sanitizer.)

2. After letting everything soak for about an hour, I dumped out the solutions and rinsed off everything well.

3. I let all the small parts dry off for a while.

Note: I used a sanitizer instead of bleach, which is what (the bleach) I usually use to sanitize when brewing. The reasoning is that bleach can be corrosive to stainless steel over longish periods of time–and the keg is stainless steel.

After I had a clean and sanitized keg, I put all its parts back where I found them (i.e., assembled). Then I got out the fermented beer. From here, the process is exactly like bottling, except that it is, like, unquantifiably easier and less a pain in the ass. I chose to force carbonate the beer today, so I skipped the bottling bucket and corn sugar addition.

from fermentor to keg

I put the fermentor on the counter and the keg on the ground below. Then it was as simple as siphoning the beer into the keg. Fin.

After the beer’s in the keg, I closed it up and pressurized it with 5 PSI CO2 to make sure that the seals all seated well.

Forced carbonation: Like I said, I force carbonated this beer. This means that I basically pumped a good bit of CO2 into the keg and ‘force carbonated’ it. Simple. I let the keg get cold in the refrigerator for most of the day, and then put about 20 PSI into the keg and shook it for a good while. After letting it sit for another hour or so, the beer’s carbonated and ready to drink.

Of course the beer would benefit from a longer aging period and natural carbonation, but I was feeling like seriously impatient today so I took a shortcut.

On a mostly unrelated note, I’ve been listening to Probot while writing this post. This record basically just kicks ass all over the place and right into your ears.

Drinking It All: #34 Bell's Brewery Kalamazoo Stout

Drinking It All is a document of my attempt to try every beer in circulation. It’s a Herculean and tragic attempt at best. But it’s the means, not the end that counts here.

a stout in a bottle--crazy.

Almost emptied the basement refrigerator of the beers I’ve been saving for about 6 months. This beer is the second to last of the hoarded six-pack. I’m not much of a fan of bottled stouts, which I think I’ve probably mentioned before, but I picked up this stout because what the hell. It’s a stout brewed with brewer’s licorice, according to the label, and it’s made by Bell’s Brewery in Comstock, Michigan.

This is one of the few stouts that I’ve tasted out of a bottle that actually differentiated itself from a porter. This beer, of course, looks like a porter, and it’s got the roasted barley and coffee-like flavor of a porter, but it’s also got a little something else that make me think–decidedly stout. I could be wrong, but I think the aforementioned licorice gives this beer the kind of tanginess that makes me think of Guinness. And if I’m a stout, and I remind a beer drinker of Guinness, I bet I’m good at tasting good.

So the Kalamazoo Stout has a prominent roasted barley flavor, which is similar to the coffee taste, and just a tiny (and correct, I think) amount of tang. Imagine dropping like 1/4 a shot of Jagermeister into a non-Guinness stout. (I haven’t actually tried this, so I’m just imagining it too. But make the bar your own science lab–experiment. Color outside the lines.) The smell is a good and pretty strong roasty smell.

This is a good solid stout, and coming from a bottle instead of a tap, that’s (me) saying a lot.

So why the caveats about bottled stouts? To me, bottled stouts almost always pour just like any other beer, unless they come equipped with those little ping pong ball ‘widgets.’ What I mean here is that when Guinness is pulled from a tap, it’s carbonated/nitrogenated–the bubbles in the beer come from a combination of CO2 and N (nitrogen). And the effect of this combination of gases is the tiny bubbles, the funny sheet of light brown bubbles falling down the sides of a just-poured Guinness, and the seemingly-flat quality of the beer. All of this helps make a stout a stout instead of just a porter called a stout (which this porter-or-stout business is something I’ll get to sometime soon, I promise), so I like to have that quality when I have a stout at home, and most bottled stouts, like I said about 127 words ago, are only CO2 carbonated.

Thumbs up of thumbs down? Thumbs up. I’d like to try this beer on tap maybe when my wife and I finally make it to Kalamazoo to see our soon-to-be-Dr’d (as in PhD’d) friend Emily.

Brewed Slowly: #10 It's Finally Fall Brown Ale

This beer was a little more complicated than I planned for. But it got made without any of what I’d call real problems. As you might have guessed from my last portentous post, I made a fall-themed beer. And I got all mad scientist on its ass–I threw in not just pumpkin, but butternut squash and acorn squash, too. And a little cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. Whoo-boy.

Why the extra additions? I’ve never had a fall seasonal beer made with pumpkins, acorn squash, and butternut squash–so what the hell. I usually feel a little underwhelmed with the pumpkin beers I try, so I figured let’s see what some other fall harvest vegetables add to a beer. My little customization experiment the day before led me to believe that adding all three vegetables would be preferable to just one.

that's a pot on a burner.

Let’s get on with it now.


56 g. Black Patent malt

112 g. Pale Chocolate Malt

6 lbs. Liquid Amber Extract

1 lb. Dry Amber Extract

56 g. Centennial hop pellets

Wyeast 1056 American Ale

735 g. roasted pumpkin

452 g. roasted acorn squash

849 g. roasted butternut squash

1 tsp Irish Moss

I’ll stick to a concise and perspicuous recipe process here.

1. Roasted all the vegetables at 450 F for 20 minutes, let cool, then peeled the skin off.

2. Brought 3 gallons of water to 150 F and added vegetables and grain. Steeped at temps. between 150 and 160 F for 30 minutes.

maybe the best way to cook vegetables.

3. Took out vegetables and grain and brought liquid to a boil.

4. When boiling, added 42 g. of hop pellets, all liquid and dry extract, and spices. Boiled for 45 minutes.

5. Added Irish Moss 45 minutes into the boil.


6. Added 14 g. of hop pellets at 58 minutes of boiling and cut heat after 2 minutes (= 60 minutes of boiling time).

7. Changed shit up a bit this time and had an ice chest of ice water standing by to work as an ice bath.

8. Pitched the yeast when wort was below 80 F.


OG: 1.050

This brewing experience was quite a bit different than all my previous brews. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, I recently got an outdoor gas burner, which I obviously used for this beer. I used Irish Moss in this beer, and hopefully it will help clarify the beer, which could possibly have a certain amount of pumpkin, acorn squash, and butternut squash material floating around in it. And I used more interesting adjuncts than I have in the past–so we’ll see how it all works out.

Things To Do With Beer: Customization

We, as individuals proud of our individuality, are wont to make things our own (individually). Some people like to add noisemakers/pipes to their big-ass, ridiculous trucks that sound as though there’s a microphone set up next to the engine (but, you know, they do it for the improved gas mileage). Some people set up in-home surround sound so they can pretend they’re in a movie theater when they’re actually in their living rooms (remember, one of the key elements of entertainment is always suspension of disbelief). Some people have tattoos, and some people have tailored suits. So the point here is that we like to make things our own. And there’s no reason why we can’t make the beer we buy our own as well.

People add lime to the Mexican beer of their choice. People put orange slices in Blue Moons and Abita Purple Hazes. So it would follow that customization is possible for you, at home, with your store-bought beer.

Naturally, I like to do a little customization here and there. Specifically when I’m trying to figure out a recipe for a beer. And so tomorrow I’m planning on making a mad-scientist (of sorts) beer. And so but today I had to do some beer science.

It’s now fall, and fall beers typically are made with pumpkin (or some other fall vegetable/fruit) and spices. I’ve not made a fall seasonal beer yet, but I’ve got what I need to make a brown ale and I’m thinking about what additions to a brown ale might a good fall beer make.

Obvious: pumpkin.

Less obvious: butternut squash

Somewhat less obvious: acorn squash

Crazy: dried leaves

fuck a v8. put your vegetables in a beer.

I was thinking that either pumpkin, butternut squash, acorn squash, or a combination of all three might be good additions to a brown ale that would work together to produce the kind of earthy, spicy flavor that would compliment late afternoons on the back porch, watching the sun fall down earlier in the day with each day.

So all these 335 words of introduction should have briefly just said that today I bought a six-pack of brown ale, a pumpkin, a butternut squash, and an acorn squash and made (customized) my own fall beers out of some store-bought beer.

What I did:

First I cut up the vegetables into slices, dusted them with a small amount of cinnamon, and put them in the oven at 450 F for 20 minutes.

While this was happening, I got out 4 beer glasses.

After the vegetables were done in the oven, and had cooled down, I put one slice of each vegetable in a beer glass–which, if you’re keeping count, means I had a glass left. Guess what went into the last glass. Slices of all three. All glasses were labeled and put into the refrigerator to steep. Then I went out to mow the grass.

like looking into the cabinet in biology lab--except that you shouldn't have to be dared/paid to drink what's in them.

Understand that the beer was undeniably a little flatter than usual since it’d been sitting in a glass for about an hour and a half–but we’re after the taste which isn’t necessarily affected by the carbonation here. So after tasting each of the beers, I came to a fairly reasonable decision about what to put into my fall beer.

And you’ll just have to wait to hear about it. I’m making the beer tomorrow, so it’s possible you’ll find out then.

Mystery. MYSTERY!

Drinking It All: #33 Tucher Helles Hefe Weizen

Drinking It All is a document of my attempt to try every beer in circulation. It’s a Herculean and tragic attempt at best. But it’s the means, not the end that counts here.

the good side of wheat beer

I’m trying to clean out some of the beers I’ve been saving to post about, and I found some that I bought around 6 months ago. A couple of these beers are relatively high in alcohol (>6%), so since I know they’ll be fine to age a little, I pulled out one that doesn’t have quite that much alcohol. Hopefully it hasn’t gone bad. The beer in question is Tucher’s Helles Hefe Weizen.

I’d always thought that I didn’t really like wheat beers because I don’t particularly like Blue Moon. However, I’ve realized that there are plenty of wheat beers that don’t have that citrus taste that Blue Moon and other less-than-good wheat beers seem to always have (is it maybe some kind of masking technique?). Franzikaner’s hefe weisse beer is a good example of a wheat beer that doesn’t at all taste fruity.

This Tucher Helles Hefe Weizen is also a good solid and simple wheat beer. It’s got a malty taste with just a minimum amount of hop flavor to not be too sweet. The yeast, which you can see some left at the bottom of the bottle, gives the beer a little of its flavor as well. Overall, the taste isn’t bad.

But it does have a little, slightly metallic flavor. And this could very well be because I should have opened this beer about 4 months ago–I can’t be sure.

Lesson for the day: when you buy some beer, don’t let it sit for 6 months unless you know exactly how the beer will age and how long it’ll last. I won’t know, until I try another of these beers, if I waited too long to taste this beer as it was supposed to taste or if I waited so long that it started to take on unpleasant flavors. Some websites will tell you that, if refrigerated, beers will stay good (as in not-stale) for around a year, but who actually knows? Is there any empirical evidence to support this claim? I doubt it–at least not any that said websites are referencing. So my advice is to not wait very long to drink your beer–I know that’s a tall order. Think of your beers as you would eggplant or tomatoes that you buy at the store. Sure, they might stay good in the fridge for up to x amount of time, but aren’t they always better when you enjoy them basically right after you get them?

Thumbs up or thumbs down? I can’t trust my procastination-burdened sample–I’ll have to try it again. And try it sooner.

Brewed Slowly: #8 Ginger Kolsch and #9 Smoked Porter

In my posting-laziness this summer, I made two beers that never made it onto the blog. So to catch everything up, I’m going to now outline the basic process for each beer.

Reader (you): But, hey, dude. How can you remember exactly the brewing steps of two beers that you made months ago?

Me (me): Cause I wrote it down.

Reader: That’s smart.

Me: Yes.

An essential part of each brewing process, and a part that I’m pretty sure I’ve not mentioned before, is writing down the recipe and brewing process. It’s likely to be the most fun you’ll have record-keeping, and it’ll give you a good, and relatively non-pretentious, reason to get one (or even more) of those hip Moleskine notebooks. I got one with a hard cover for my records. (More on this later.)

are you writing this down?

On to the beers. First, the Ginger Kolsch (6/22/10).


0.5 lb Belgian Pilsner Grain

6 lbs. Northern Brewer Wheat Liquid Extract

28 g. (1 oz.) Perle hop pellets

14 g. Cascade hop pellets

Wyeast 2565 Kolsch yeast

75 g. fresh grated ginger

Now the concise recipe.

1. Steeped the Pilsner grain by putting it in cold water (2.5 gallons) and bringing it to a boil. Then took the grains out.

2. Added the liquid extract, Perle hops, and ginger. Boiled for 57 minutes.

3. Added the Cascade hops. Boiled for 3 minutes.

4. Took the pot off the heat and cooled it down in an ice bath. Pitched the yeast when the wort got down below 80F.

OG: 1.044 (I apparently didn’t write down the final gravity.)

Now, the Smoked Porter (8/5/10).


4 oz. black patent malt

4 oz. non-malted roasted barley

6 lbs. Northern Brewer Amber liquid extract

28 g. Sterling hop pellets

28 g. Northern Brewer hop pellets

Wyeast 1272 American Ale II yeast

1. Using hickory nutshells from my backyard, smoked the black patent malt and roasted barley for an hour on the grill. (More on that later also.)

2. Steeped the grains (again by bringing cold water (2 gallons) to a boil).

3. Added the extract, all of the Northern Brewer hops, and half of the Sterling hops (14 g.). Boil for 58 minutes.

4. Added the rest of the Sterling hops. Boiled for 2 more minutes.

5. Cooled the wort down in an ice bath until the temp. was below 80F. Pitched the yeast.

6. Transfered to a secondary fermentor after 10 days.

7. After 2 weeks, kegged it.

OG: 1.042

FG: 1.000

A couple of points about these recipes. First, I steeped the grains by bringing them to a boil instead of starting them out at and keeping them at 150 F because my digital thermometer had broken. But now I have a brand new thermometer, so from now on, I’ll probably go back to steeping them at a constant 150 F.

I’ve started measuring hops in grams instead of ounces. I started making bread pretty seriously this summer, and measuring in grams is much more accurate than ounces since the increments are smaller (28 g. = 1 oz.). So I figured I’d start measuring my beer ingredients in grams too.

janine, with that kind of handwriting, you'd have no problem finding work in either the medical or law fields.

Like I said, this is a pretty basic outline of how I made these beers. But this is enough, for me, to know what I did so I can reproduce the recipes or change them in the future. Keeping a record of the beers you make and how you made them just seems to make too much sense not to do it. And like I also said, it gives you a reason to get a fancy notebook that you’ll actually fill up with important stuff instead of just carrying it around in case you have an inkling to start writing that novel you’re always saying you’re going to write.