Blog Archive

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Kansas - local beer tour.

When I travel, I enjoy looking for a bit of local taste. I visit as many local beer spots as a I can to try and get a feel for the local beer culture and to try new adventurous beers.  I do this when I travel for business or for pleasure.  For me, the holidays are an opportunity to go to my hometown and relax a little but since I don't get back home often, it's an opportunity to catch up on my old stomping grounds developments in the beer world.

Over the last week, a buddy and I drove around the area and hit a few of the local beer spots.  Some new (to us) and couple "old faithful" spots that I just like to get to when ever I get the chance.

First up on our local tour was 23rd Street Brewery located on Clinton Parkway just 3 miles from Allen Fieldhouse, home of the Kansas Jayhawks (Rock Chalk Jaywalk).  While this brewery is one of the most aesthetically pleasing breweries I've seen, assistant brewer Tucker Craig says the second floor brew house makes things a bit of a challenge on brew days.  They use a winch to hoist their grain deliveries up to the second floor 15 bags at a time.  Craig, who is still an avid homebrewer says his brewing buddies sympathize with his plight.  

The brewery still caters to their local homebrew club the Lawrence Brewers Guild. (@LawrenceBrewers).  Most recently one of their members, Andy Booth was part of a collaboration beer with the brewery.  Together they brewed up Firehouse Alt.  I was able to try that beer along with many of the others from the brewery during our visit.  I'll post some of my tasting notes along with pictures of each of the beers from the tasting below.  

After leaving 23rd Street, we made our way up Clinton Parkway to Mass street.  This is the heart of Lawrence and the home of not only the first legal brewery in Kansas post prohibition but also the brewery where I experienced my first, real live craft beer. FreeState Brewery.  Just to give you an idea how long it took for Kansas to get it's first legal brewery post prohibition, FreeState was opened in 1989.  

We went there on a Saturday afternoon at about 2:30 and this place was hoppin.  We couldn't get a seat at the bar so we stood at the end of the bar.  That of course didn't stop us from getting a couple beers.  First up Black Eye Rye Porter.  I've always been a fan of FreeState dark beer and this one didn't disappoint.  I also tried a small taster of their Ironman Imperial Stout which the bartender made sure to tell me it's on a Russian Imperial Stout.  Russian or not, this one left me wanting a little but I'm a big fan of big beers so it's going up against some pretty good competition.

After leaving FreeState, we were running out of time before the "better half" required my presence so we were looking for the biggest bang for the buck (in terms of beer choice).  We made our way up I-70 to the Legends mall near the Kansas Speedway.  Tucked in between the many shoe stores and places I try to avoid at all cost is one of the many YardHouse Restaurants.  While this is a chain, they do a great job and stocking many choices for the craft beer aficionado.

While here, I only had time for a couple beers.  First I tried a Petrus Aged Red.  I had never had a Petrus beer but I live just miles from Jester King Brewery which is one of the best sour breweries in the nation...hands down.  That said, this one had to do a miracle to measure up.  While it wasn't in the same league as JesterKing it was a nice beer.  It was aged on cherries and in my opinion tasted about as close to a tart cheery pie as you can get in a glass.  It was very low in acidity but still had a nice sweetness.  Could really only have one of these so I also had a Goose Island Honker's Ale. I pretty much have to try any English Bitter I find on a beet menu because I'm always looking for a nice session-able ale.  This one did not disappoint.  I'm not 100% positive but I would swear they used a lot of Marris Otter malt in this beer and it really comes through.  Very nice beer.

That was pretty much the extent of the trip before having to make our way back to Topeka.   My conclusion is that if you're in the Topeka area and want something other than Blind Tiger (which I'll write about later) you might have to drive a bit but there are some pretty good choices that aren't too terribly far and there are a number of places I'd still like to go...if I can only break away from the "better half" and the social schedule.  Cheers to happy holiday's and remember....drinking responsibly means drinking again.

Lawrence Brewers Guild - @lawrencebrewers
23rd Street Brewery - @23rdStBrewery
FreeState - @freestatebeer
YardHouse - @yardhouse
Jester King Brewery - @jesterkingbeer

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A PB&J Beer? Yes, PB&J!!

I home brew because I like the fact it gives me the opportunity to be creative and make beers that I can't find anywhere on the market.  This Peanut Butter beer is a great example of being able to express creativity.

For the last three years, my wife and I have attended the Great American Beer Festival in Denver Colorado and for each of those years, I've found at least one example of a peanut butter beer....but it's always a stout.  I guess I get it.  Peanut Butter & Chocolate = Reese's Pieces.  But what about Peanut Butter Captain Crunch? No chocolate there.

I wanted a malty beer with peanut butter.  Something that tasted like bread and peanut butter.

I'm not one to play around with materials that are overly processed or manufactured.  When I started asking around about how to add peanut butter to a beer, most folks pointed me to PB2 which is a peanut butter product that's had all of the peanut oil removed.  Honestly, I've never tried it so I'm not sure how good or bad it is.   I have tried plenty of peanut butter though and I had that in my pantry.  Last year, I made a peanut butter blonde and it was a big hit.  Everyone who tried it loved it.   So this year, I decided to "go big or go home".  Enter PB&J Golden Ale.

Last years beer was a little thin and dry.  It basically tasted like unsweetened Peanut Butter Captain Crunch.  This year, I wanted to go a slightly different direction.  Something with a little more body and maybe a little more sweetness.  I had recently made a Golden Ale for a sour project I'm working on so I took that recipe and made a few tweeks to it resulting in the following recipe:

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 7.49 gal
Post Boil Volume: 6.34 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 6.00 gal
Bottling Volume: 5.76 gal
Estimated OG: 1.057 SG
Estimated Color: 5.5 SRM
Estimated IBU: 16.0 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 76.3 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt                   Name                                                                   %/IBU      
8 lbs 4.0 oz        Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)                       67.7 %      
1 lbs 13.0 oz      White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM)                             14.9 %      
12.0 oz               Aromatic Malt (26.0 SRM)                                 6.2 %      
12.0 oz               Oats, Flaked (1.0 SRM)                                      6.2 %      
10.0 oz               Milk Sugar (Lactose) (0.0 SRM)                        5.1 %      
0.40 oz               Northern Brewer [9.90 %] - Boil 60.0 min        16.0 IBUs  
1.0 pkg               Safale American  (DCL/Fermentis #US-05)          

Mash Schedule:
Name                   Step Temp  Step Time  
Protein Rest         122.0 F       30 min      
Saccharification   158.0 F       60 min      
Mash Out             168.0 F       10 min      

I added the protein rest to the mash for one significant reason which is head retention.  The concern that I heard from everyone before I did last years batch was that because of the oils in the peanut butter the head would be killed.  I'm here to tell you that if you do it right, the head will be fine.  The protein rest is simply to give you a better shot at it.The resulting beer should be a little heavier body ultimately finished at 1.014 which is a little sweeter than last years blonde did.  Once the primary fermentation was complete, I added 2-3lbs of Jiff Peanut Butter and 3.5lbs of fresh Raspberry puree.  

The cool part about using actual peanut butter in this recipe is that, at least in Jiff peanut butter, there is a lot of peanut oil.  The good thing about that is that oil and water don't mix.  Once the peanut butter has sat in the beer for 4-5 days, most if not all of the peanut oil separates from the peanut butter but rises to the top.  When you rack to your bottling bucket you simply rack from below it and leave the oil slick left by the peanut butter.  I've outlined the instructions for how I did the peanut butter logs for the "Dry Peanut Buttering" of the beer after primary termination is complete in addition to the "jelly" I added to this years recipe.

Adding the PB:
1. Rack to a secondary fermenter.  A bucket works best for this because of the large opening.  It would be near impossible to do this in a carboy. 

2. Clean and sanitize a nice sized counter top.  You'll need a little room for this project.

3. Sanitize some cheesecloth and unscented dental floss or butchers twine

4. I used creamy Jif (about 2-3 lbs) but I'm sure you could use just about any cream peanut butter.

5. I made peanut butter logs by scooping large spoon fulls of peanut butter in a straight line in the center of the cheese cloth.  You can get an idea from the pic below how big they are.  This is a nice sized.  I wouldn't go too much smaller or bigger because it works well with the cheese cloth size.

6. Once you have two of these logs completed, you'll simply roll them up.

7. After they are rolled completed, you'll want to sanitize your dental floss or butchers twine. I did this by cutting the pieces to about 6-7 inches long and just putting them into a glass of starsan solution.

8. Use the floss or butchers twine to tie the cheese cloth around the peanut butter.  This step is not necessary but I learned last year that once the process is done, the peanut butter will be left a bit chalky and will break apart and make a mess in the bottom of the fermenter.  You'll loose more beer without this step.

9. Once you've tied both of the logs, you'll want to tie them both together and tie a single piece that can hang outside of the fermenter.  This will make it much easier to remove once the "dry peanut buttering" is completed.

Adding the J:
1. Take 3-4lbs of fresh fruit and puree it in a blender.  Only add as much water as it takes to get the puree.  This will do a couple things.  It will allow you to heat them up for sanitization and will also break things up better allowing the yeast to get to the sugars a little better. I used Raspberries but I'd imagine you could use black berries, blue berries etc.  Basically anything that you'd find on the jelly shelf at the supermarket.

2.  Heat the puree mixture to at least 170 degrees.  When you do this, there will be a foam that will collect on the top.  I'm not exactly sure what the make up of this foam is but I figured it wouldn't hurt to remove it so I did.  Make sure you stay at above 170 degrees for at least 10 minutes.  I go 15 just to be sure.

3.  Once pasteurization has been completed, I treat it like wort meaning that I try to cool it as fast as possible to minimize the opportunity for bacteria to infect it.  I used an ice bath method.  This solution is much thicker than wort so it will cool a bit slower.

4. Because I used raspberries, I didn't want to have to hassle with the seeds in the beer so I used a strainer I picked up at the home brew shop to strain them out.


Tasting Notes:

Very hazy.  It has a nice rose color, almost looks like grapefruit.   Very little head.  Not as much as I had on last years version.  

OMG, this thing literally smells like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, right down to the wonder bread.  The malt really enhances the experience.  The raspberry comes through very nice.  The peanut butter might be a little too heavy but other than that if the challenge was to make a beer that smelled exactly like a PB&J, job well done.  

The taste is not far off from the smell.  The the raspberry still seems to have a bit of a rubber band hint, the peanut butter comes through a little on the strong side but not over powering.  There is a nice sweetness but I wouldn't call it cloying.  Again the wonder bread is very pronounced.  Once the beer has been dispatched to the nether regions the after taste leaves you thinking you're eating a sandwich. I need to try this with a Cheetos back just to get the full effect.  

The mouthfeel is exactly what I was going for.  Very similar to an oatmeal stout.  A little silky, kind of thick which helps with the perception created by the peanut butter.  

What would I do different next time? 
So all in all the beer turned out good.  But I always like to review a beer from the perspective of "what would make it better".  I think I would slow down a bit.  This beer had to be ready for a holiday trip so I was in a bit of a hurry.  I also had to travel for business for a week which limited my time to work on the additions and stretched the time the peanut butter logs were in contact with the beer.  Next time, I'd limit peanut butter contact time to only 4 days instead of 7. I would also probably let it sit longer in secondary after the peanut butter was removed to let it settle out a bit more.  Other than that the grain bill I think was spot on and the raspberry was just enough.  I might also let it sit a little longer in the bottle.   I have a few more saved so I'll report back once they have a little time on them.