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My office is about a block from Wynkoop Brewing. It’s also a block from Falling Rock and about six from Great Divide. But this story is about Wynkoop.

I went there for lunch about a month ago, and had some of their chili beer, called Patty’s Chile Beer. It’s got a great chili smell and a slight pepper taste, but almost no spice to it. It falls under how I describe most of Wynkoop’s beer: a very balanced flavor that doesn’t go far enough for my palette. I love what they do there, and what Wynkoop has done for beer in Denver, it’s just not my favorite. Or second favorite. Or.. anyway.

One day, we'll use this many ghost chilis in one batch.

A few days later, I got to try some of Nick Nunns’ chili beer. It had some zing to it. It made me realize that you can make a great beer with veggies in it. So, Kell and I set out to make our own.

I did some research on spices, looking into the Scoville Scale, and started doing math. Side note, per Nick’s suggestion, I think I’ll make a Scotch Bonnet Scotch Ale one day. Anyway, we wanted to make it spicy. Not unbearable, but not for the faint of heart either. The goal was to make a beer as spicy as a jalapeno.

I had to contact my buddy James, who’s getting a PhD in Chemistry, for the extremely complex formula to determine concentration. Super complex:

C1V1 = C2V2

C stands for concentration, V for volume. Crazy, huh? (I’m being sarcastic, fyi)

Armed with this equation, and the incredibly inexact Scoville Scale example ratings, I was ready to do math.

Initially, we took a Serrano pepper, food processed it in a pint of water, and tasted. We assumed a Serrano pepper, ground up, would equal 1 tsp. The scale suggested that Serrano peppers have a Scoville rating between 10,000 and 25,000. There are 96 teaspoons in a pint. Math:

Low:
10,000 Scoville * 1 tsp = 96 tsp * x Scoville
xlow Scoville = 10,000/96 = 104

High:
25,000 Scoville * 1 tsp = 96 tsp * x Scoville
xhigh scoville = 25,000/96 = 260

Veggie water?

So, diluting 1 Serrano pepper into a pint of water would result in the water having a Scoville rating between 104 and 260, or the equivalent of a Peperoncini. And to test, we tasted the water. Having tasted a Serrano seed previously, which made my mouth burn a bit, this solution wasn’t very spicy. It appeared the math was correct.

Now we wanted to add peppers to the boil. At first, we were overly cautious. I didn’t trust the math, even though we’d just proven it’s reliability. We determined how many points one Serrano would add to a 5 gallon batch, using 12,000 points as an assumed rating for a Serrano. Why? No reason. There are 768 teaspoons in a gallon, or 3,840 in a 5 gallon batch.

12,000 Scoville * 1 tsp = 3,840x
x = 12,000/3,840 =  3.125

One Serrano pepper in a 5 gallon batch would increase the Scoville rating by 3 points. For some reason, we didn’t really believe this. We thought it would be much higher than that. So, we added 6 Serrano peppers and hoped it would be spicy at secondary. Mind you, that’s a total rating of almost 20. A bell pepper has that rating.

The other night, we transferred the beer to a bucket and tasted it. It had a slight chili flavor, but had no spice. Surprise! The math was correct. To get it to the spice level we wanted, assuming the math was correct, we would need about 800 more Serrano peppers. (12,000 * x = 2,500 * 3,840 )

Being cautious, intelligent men, we took the obvious next step.

Habanero

We added Habanero.

Unlike the weak little Serrano, the Habanero has a Scoville range of 100,000 to 350,000. They’re also a little bigger, so we assumed an initial volume of a tablespoon. Exact science here, obviously. Therefore, each one would increase the rating of the beer by

Low:
100,000 * 3 = 3840x
xlow = (100,000 * 3 ) / 3840 = 78

High:
350,000 * 3 = 3840x
xhigh =  (350,000 * 3 ) / 3840 = 273

We added 5 Habanero peppers, which gave us a total rating, including the 18 from the Serrano, of between 408 and 1,383. A jalapeno has a rating between 2,500 – 8,000. We’re close.

We tasted along the way, adding only one pepper at a time, and the last taste was definitely spicy, but not unreasonable. We just finished bottling it, and it has some heat. It appears the math was mostly correct, especially considering the inaccuracies of the scale and my ability to measure things. In about 10 days we’ll see how it turns out.

 

Habanero in the food processor

For the recipe, I tried to do something close to a pale ale, substituting most of the hops for peppers. I didn’t want anything too hoppy, or too anything, as the pepper was the ingredient I wanted to accentuate. And, it being a first attempt, we went with extract.

Chili beer attempt #1

  • 7 lbs Light Liquid Extract
  • 1 lb Vienna
  • 1 lb British Light
  • 1/4 lb Torrified Wheat
  • 1 oz Perle at 60 min
  • 6 Serrano peppers at 60 min
  • 1 oz Fuggle at 30 min
  • California Ale Yeast (WLP001)
  • 5 Habanero in secondary
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Back in January, we invited people over to eat some bacon and brew some beer. It was awesome. So we’re doing it again. 10 months later.

Last time we brewed an extract clone of Bell’s Best Brown. It turned out great. I think we might still have some to share, actually.

This time, we’ll be doing the infamous Rye Dry Stout. All grain baby. All grain.

It all happens this Saturday, 10/23. I’ll start the water boiling around 10am, and have bacon and eggs and other suchness ready to go around that time as well.

If you’d like to join, shoot me an email (pj [dot] hoberman [at] gmail [dot] com), leave a comment, text me, tweet at me, call me, smoke signals… Whatever your preferred method of contacting me might be.

See you Saturday!

 

Graaaaaaains

Rye Dry Stout grains

 

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It’s been an interesting week at Mad Haven (aka the kitchen in my apartment). One beer turned out amazingly well. One is.. scary.

We weren’t able to stick to the schedule I mentioned a few weeks ago. Surprise surprise. But we did brew a lot. It just won’t all be ready this week.

The last batch of the blonde turned out so well. It’s a little belgiany due to no temperature control – it costs a lot to run an AC 24/7. But it’s delicious. I’m going to submit it into a homebrew competition at City O’ City on Tuesday. I’ve posted the recipe before, but here it is again, in extract form:

  • 6 lbs Liquid Light Malt Extract
  • 1 lb Flaked Wheat
  • .5 lb Munich
  • 1.5 lb Vienna
  • .25 lb Crystal 15
  • 1 oz Cascade (5.5%) @ 45 min
  • 1 oz Czech Saaz (5.0%) @ 5 min
  • White Labs WLP001 California Ale

As well as that turned out, the Scotch Ale took a different approach. It appears I didn’t sanitize the oak chips well enough, and some sort of bacteria or mold got into the batch. This isn’t for the faint of heart:

Various people have suggested various things about this batch. My plan is to fill 6 bottles and try them in a few weeks, and then let the rest of it age for a few months. Unless someone reading this is a microbiologist and can see something deadly in there.

Before I saw this interesting infection, Kell and I had tried some off the spigot. And it was absolutely delicious. So, we’ll see what happens.

Hooray Beer!

In other news, Beer Week is upon us. Let me know if you’re in Denver this week!

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While not directly related to this post, I did have some bacon steak at Oceanaire a while back...

So my first attempt at bacon bourbon (for a maple bacon bourbon stout) wasn’t so great. I left the bacon in the bourbon for over a week, filtered it, froze it, filtered it, and tried it.

And almost passed out from dehydration on the spot. It was so salty! Ever take a big gulp of water in the ocean? Add salt.

However, after the Dead Sea-esque salinity dissipated, I did feel great. I felt like I’d just had some bacon. So there’s that.

Here are some pictures from the first attempt:

The tin foil apparatus - keeps the bacon somewhat vertical, and the oil drips through holes in the foil

Baked the bacon at 350˚ until the oil starting foaming. That was the signal.

The bacon is almost oil free. And crispy! Hard not to eat it.

The bacon is in 16 oz of bourbon.

Bacon Drip - filtered through a coffee filter

My next attempt will be different. This was fun, and made the condo smell awesome, but the result wasn’t great. I asked my buddy James, who’s getting his PhD in Chemistry, how to dilute the salt flavor. He said lots of water (probably more than the 5 gallons of wort) or to use dialysis. Not gonna do that.

I then came across a video (sorry – forget who sent this to me) about a bartender who makes a bacon-infused old-fashioned. I like this method, and might try it.

Whatever method I try next, I’m thinking uncured bacon is the way to go.

I’m also thinking about where the bacon flavor we all love comes from. Is it from the meat itself, or from the grease? I might, rather than soaking bacon in bourbon, just dump grease in, and fat wash it after a few hours. Meaning, freeze it, skim off the grease, filter, repeat as necessary.

As has been the trend for the past year or so, Brew Your Own and Zymurgy magazines come out with issues directly related to what I’m working on. Seriously, this happens every issue. When I’m thinking about reusing yeast, they come out with articles about it. Building my own equipment? Article. Bacon beer, and breakfast in beer in general? Article.

I’m relatively sure they’re bugging my condo, and I’m totally cool with that. It does feel good to know that Kell and I are thinking of things that the industry is interested in, before it is written in the publications.

That’s it for now. I still have a pint of the bourbon if you want to try it…

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I’m going to make a maple bacon bourbon stout.

You heard me.

Maple bacon bourbon stout.

I don’t need to explain myself. You know why.

The problem is getting the bacon flavor in the beer. There has been discussion on various forums, and some breweries (Garret Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery) have even made commercial examples. The main options tend to be smoking your own malt with bacon, using bacon bits, etc etc blah blah I WANT TO USE REAL BACON.

So, here’s my plan.

I’m going to put a slotted baking sheet over a regular flat baking sheet. I’m going to make some sort of awesome contraption of tin foil that will keep the bacon somewhat vertical. Like seats, for the bacon. I’ll take a picture when I get this going so that that makes sense. Then I’m going to bake the bacon at 400˚ (random choice of temperature) until it is super crispy. The hope is that this will cause the least amount of grease possible, while still making awesome bacon. For this first attempt, I’ll get normal bacon, not flavored with anything (like maple, pepper, whatever). I’ll also hope for thin bacon for this first attempt. Science!

Once it is super crispy, but NOT BURNT, I’ll break it up into smaller pieces, and soak it in some bourbon. Not sure what kind yet. I’m open to suggestions. The amount of bourbon will be determined by my stout recipe, which I haven’t written yet.

This vat, or at least jar of bourbon with bacon will sit in the fridge for a few weeks. I’m thinking I’ll do this tomorrow (Saturday, March 6th), and let it soak for 2-3 weeks. Hopefully any excess grease and fat will congeal and float to the top in the fridge. This will be skimmed away.

When the soaking is done, I’ll pour the liquid through a coffee filter. Probably two coffee filters. Twice. No fat, no chunks.

Then I’ll add this to the secondary fermentation.

Lastly, I will win.

Thoughts?

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Do I need to brew an amber? I am a fan of New Belgium – 1554 is a crazy good beer, Biere de Mars is awesome, and La Folie is a different experience altogether – but do I need to have a Mad Haven version of Fat Tire to please the masses?

Beer for the masses (aka a picture of a lot of people drinking beer at Oktoberfest)

Beer for the masses (aka a picture of a lot of people drinking beer at Oktoberfest)

There are a lot of beer styles. A lot. My last post was a quick rundown of BeerAdvocate’s styles, and how many beers are listed in each one. It wasn’t very scientific. There are a lot in there that aren’t made anymore. There might even be some that are in the wrong style. And honestly, we could probably narrow it down to 10 categories rather than 90.

I did narrow it down a little. I went into this thinking that ambers would be toward the top of the popularity list. I have no reason for this hypothesis, and I was apparently wrong. Here’s a quick breakdown. Be nice, I know my categories aren’t perfect.

Pale Ale 9064
Lager 6514
Other 4552
Wheat 3841
Stout 3033
Strong 2439
Amber 2140
Porter 1806
Pilsner 1712
Brown 1566
Bock 1457
Light 1418
Scottish 1010
Barleywine 632

It’s no surprise that Pale Ale is number one. For this count, Pale Ale includes all varieties of Pale Ales and IPAs, both American and English, Imperial and regular, double, etc. IPAs are all the rage these days, so obviously there are a lot of varieties. For Lagers, I just grouped all the lagers together. I don’t know much about lagers, so I’m ok with this grouping. Other includes things like sours (which I love!), Oktoberfests, Chile beers, Fruit / Veggie, Pumpkin, and the rest of things that fit in a category named “other”. And so on down the list. If you group Light with Amber, which one might be inclined to do,  the hybrid groupology pushes it to #5.

When I originally set out to grab these numbers, I had an unfounded hypothesis that ambers would be higher. So the premise of this post being somewhat shot, let’s move on.

My blonde is heavyset and a little dirty.

My blonde is heavyset and a little dirty.

I don’t tend to get too crazy with my recipes, at least not yet. They’re generally a little off to the side of their supposed style (the judges agree on that one too, at least), but I haven’t yet delved into the “extreme” side of things. My stout has caraway seeds. My blonde is more.. dirty blonde. My IPA is heavily hopped with hints of ambrosia (the food of the gods, not the weird fruit salad stuff).

I guess my long, drawn out question is this: Do I need to make beer for the masses? Or is the craft brewing world big enough now to support whatever style I make, assuming it’s amazingly delicious. I’m not getting into this industry to sell beer to every person who walks in off the street (though that would help sales quite a bit). I’m making beer because I love to make beer, and I love to share it. So what are your thoughts? Do I need to have the “entry-level” beer? Or can I stick with the bigger, stronger, hoppier, maltier, crazier, sourer, whateverer brews?

P.S. I realize this is was a complete ramble. Congrats on your persistence in getting this far into the post / my brain.

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Rye Dry Stout Recipe

Rye Dry Stout Recipe

The brew day went pretty well yesterday, though I did spill something on myself pretty much every step of the way. Turns out boiling water hurts, even when you spill on your non-waterproof shoes. Who knew?

This is possibly one of the darkest beers I’ve ever made. Also, I could have purchased a few pounds less of the 2-row. Our current mash system is in two buckets (though our next bash will be in a 15-gallon mash tun cooler. YES!). I didn’t even need to really use the second mash since we got so much sugar out of the first one. For the Caraway Seeds, I poured a tablespoon of them on a cutting board, and used another cutting board to crush them a bit. I just added these to the mash for this batch. Depending how strong the flavor is, I might add them to the boil next time.

Final ingredients:

  • 10 lb 2-Row Brewers Malt
  • 2 lb German Dark Munich
  • 3 lb Rye Flaked
  • 1 lb British Black Patent
  • 5/16 lb Chocolate Rye Malt (I meant to do 1/4 lb, but poured a little extra. 1/16 lb extra)
  • 1/4 lb Chocolate Wheat Malt
  • 1 tbsp Caraway Seeds – added during mash
  • 1 oz Perle (8.2%) – added during boil, boiled 60 min
  • 1 oz Amarillo (8.5%) – added during boil, boiled 15 min
  • 1 tsp Irish Moss – added during boil, boiled 15 min
  • White Labs WLP007 Dry English Ale

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