Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The English (Not So) Mild

I promised to write about the beer I made at Hopman's Homebrew shop on November 3rd, and here I am to do so! I downloaded a recipe from an internet site (Brew Monkey)for an English Mild. An English Mild is a brown ale that is light in alcohol content but malty and roasty and full of flavor. This is a beer that weighs in at 3 to 4.5% alcohol by volume and is a light brown in color. There really are few commercial examples in this country to cite, so I won't. Suffice to say that it is a flavorful alternative to your megebrew low-carb offerings.

When I brewed this beer, I had to double (approximately) the ingredients list to make a ten gallon batch, as the recipe was for a five gallon batch. I was brewing this beer approximately an hour's drive away from home in a parking lot. This is to say that I needed to carry everything I needed with me to Hopman's brewshop. I forgot the hops and the two half-gallon yeast starters I made the day before! I did bring everything else I needed, though, and since I was in the parking lot of a homebrew shop, the hops weren't hard to find (in fact, Rick Hopman gave me the three ounces of English Kent Goldings I needed for the recipe. Thanks, Rick!).

When it came time to heat my sparge water, I second guessed myself and somehow, came up a couple of gallons short on the volume. I can only say that this was a teaching session and I was very busy both brewing and answering questions from curious would-be brewers who were there to learn a bit about the hobby. I screwed up on the calculation and as a result ended up with only about eight gallons of liquor! I could have added some water to the liquor tank and heated it to 170 degrees and added it to the mash tun to gain the expected volume but instead I decided that everything happens for a reason and boiled the volume I had for a stronger but less voluminous batch of beer.

After boiling, I had some problems with my equipment. The homemade screen I use to strain the hops from the wort (unfermented beer) clogged on me due to a kink in the hose near the outlet. Imagine as your hero explains to the adoring crowd that he prefers to use whole hops for their filtering properties and when asked if they clog the runoff, replies, "Nope. Never had that problem". Then watch horrified as the device he proudly points to as something that will do the job quickly and efficiently-that he made himself-clogs and slows to nary a dribble as the runoff commences! Oh, ignoble Law of Murphy! This caused me to have to ladle the wort through a screen into the kegs I was using for transporting the beer home. This certainly was a dangerous practice because it increased the chance that an infection could occur! Remember, this is cooled wort and is susceptible to bacterial invasion at this point. I had little choice, so I did what I had to do and went home with nearly eight gallons of unfermented beer.

When I got home I tranferred the wort to glass fermenters and pitched the yeast starters. The original gravity of this beer was 1.064. This is perhaps twice the normal gravity of an English Mild (normally between 1.030 and 1.038)! I guess the resulting beer could be considered a Strong Ale but really, since it was brewed as a Mild, I think I'll call it an Imperial Mild! Strong versions of normal beers are often categorized as Imperial beers, following an old habit begun when the English brewed strong Stouts for the Russian court, called Russian Imperial Stouts. Nowadays, one can find any number of American craft brewers producing Imperial Stouts, Imperial IPAs and other stronger versions of normal beers. Imperial Pilsners are the current rage.

So, to cut to the chase, I racked the finished beer into a keg and force-carbonated half of it on Saturday. I tried it an hour or so later. It is fantastic! My new favorite beer! I bottled the rest of it-37 12 oz. bottles-on Sunday. It is carbonating naturally now, in the bottles. This one is a winner, folks! I don't know how I'll enter it into any contests, with it's unusual character but I'll have to find a way because this beer needs to be recognized as the star that it is. Strong-at about 6.5 to7% ABV-but so flavorful! I'm certain that it will age gracefully, too.

I'll file this one under the heading of Serendipity. I may call it Kismet Imperial Mild. Or, how about Serendipity-Dew?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Teach a Friend to Homebrew Day

Although I didn't publicize it as I should, Saturday was Teach a Friend to Homebrew Day. I know, I know, you all forgot. That's OK, you can send the present you got for me now, it's never to late to give the gift of beer, you know. No, actually, the holiday was created to expand the hobby of homebrewing to as many people as possible. The holiday is scheduled for the last Saturday every November so be ready for it next year, OK?

This year I assisted Rick Hopman of Hopman's Homebrew Shop, in Waterford, MI. He held a demonstration behind the store on Walton Avenue, in the back parking lot. Rick did a great job of promoting the holiday and setting the site up for the various brewing demonstrations that were done. Three brewers did batches of all-grain beer that morning, two members of my homebrewing club, The Pontiac Brew Tribe and one member of CRAFT homebrew club. One IPA, one English Mild and one American Barleywine was made "from scratch" so-to-speak! Two other brewers made kit beers, from extract. A great time was had by all.

The cool brew sculpture in the bottom photo is Dale Marquart's rig. He won a blue ribbon at the State Fair for a Belgian Trippel this year! You can see Beerme, himself, wearing the purple sweathirt and hoisting a glass of Rye-rish Red Ale in the top photo, and also checking the mash temperature in the photo on the right.

I'll try to remember to promote this holiday a bit better, next year. Tune in for a report on the English Mild that wasn't. Update expected in a month or so...

Election 2006

I waited to post this because I didn't want to influence any of the Brazillion readers of this blog in any way prior to the actual vote. Now that the election is almost over (all but the lawsuits and the phased redeployment of our Democrat brethren), I think I'm safe.

First, there is no one (really) who is more disappointed in the Republican government we've had over the past ten years or so, than little ol' me. They have been terrible on spending, less than libertarian in pushing projects like No Child Left Behind and the new Medicare debacle, while wimping out on much needed reforms in social security and school funding (how about vouchers, people?). All that said, it is equally certain that Democrats would have been and will be much, much worse in all these areas. At least Republicans talk the talk, even though they limp around a bit when trying to walk the walk. Democrats don't even say they're for the things I want government to do-or more importantly, not do.

So there really is no choice but to vote mostly Republican again. I'll hold my nose and vote for a watered down Mike Bouchard over a raving liberal nutcase like Debbie Stabenow; for a slightly weak candidate for governor over our current socialist, Ms. Granholm; for a number of other less than ideal candidates because they're infinitely better than their opposition. I will post my protest vote in other ways, however.

I am largely libertarian in my political views. I rarely feel safe in voting libertarian, though, because I feel as though I'm wasting my vote and might help to elect some of the morons the Democrats want elected. So I have decided that, until a third party I can see as electable comes to be, I will cast my third party votes for the boards of regents for my state's public universities. In this way I might be able to get some libertarian-minded people elected to public posts and maybe have their "foot in the door", so to speak.

As for the various proposals on the ballot today in Michigan, they were largely no-brainers for me. Prop 1-Yes, Prop 2-Hell Yes!, Prop 3-yes, Prop 4-Hell yes!, Prop 5-Hell NO!

That about sums it up. Hope you all voted and hope you Democrats only voted once!