Friday, October 19, 2007

American brown ale

Last Sunday I brewed for the first time since I've been back from Germany. I had wanted to earlier, but August and September were way too hot. My apartment isn't air conditioned, and when beer ferments above 80 degrees (s0me say above 70) off flavors can develop. I decided to make one of my favorites, the Mahogany Mirror Ale, an American brown ale, from Al Korzonas' book Homebrewing. Incidentally, in my opinion if you are only going to read one homebrewing as a beginner it should be this one. Papazian may be a bit more fun to read, but when I want to look something up, or find a simple and trustworthy recipe this book is always the first one I pull off the shelf. The American brown as a style has the hop profile of an American style pale ale and the maltiness of a British brown.

By today the bubbles in the airlock had slowed to less than one per minute, so it was time to add the dryhops. There are several reasons for waiting until this point of the fermentation to add the dryhops. One is to prevent contamination. By now the beer is somewhat acidic, has a fair amount of alcohol, and most of the fermentable sugars have been consumed. All of this reduces the chance that introducing the hop pellets will cause an infection. Another is that the purpose of dryhopping is to add aroma. If fermentation is still vigorously occurring the escaping carbon dioxide will carry the aromatics from the hops with it right out the airlock. Lastly, hop pellets sink after a few days. Normally I use whole hops for dryhopping and this isn't a problem, as the whole hops float, but this time I wasn't paying attention at the brewing store, and wound up with pellets for the dryhopping. If the pellets sink at a time when dead yeast cells are falling out of suspension the pellets can get covered and won't contribute as much to the beer. By waiting until most of the fermentation is over I hope I've avoided some of this. Here we have the beer after adding the pellets.
Now I just have to wait another week or so to bottle.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Cleaning up the garden

Last year when I left for Germany I just left the garden as it was. I didn't cover the beds with mulch or a a cover crop. Bad idea. This is what it looked like when I returned. For perspective, the wire fence around the perimeter is about 3 1/2 feet high. The weeds were taller than me. After much weeding its now cleaned up (mostly) and I did a fall planting of salad greens (spinach, lettuce, arugula and chard) in mid September, which are now coming in great.
I was a bit worried about the late planting, since most of the garden books said to plant by early August for a fall harvest, but it's turned out fine so far. This fall has been unusually warm here, so I may as well take advantage of it. Now I just have to plant the garlic...

my first post

So from August 2006 to August 2007 I was living in Oldenburg, Germany while working at the university there. This was great, Oldenburg is a wonderful town and I met lots of nice people, but there were somethings that I missed. My wonderful girlfriend Laura and our incredibly bad dogs of course. But I also missed gardening and brewing. I kept thinking of things I'd like to grow or beers that I'd like to brew. During this year Laura became somewhat obsessive about her knitting blog. I had never paid much attention to blogs before, but then I started looking around and found some with really neat stuff, and began thinking that maybe posting would help organize my projects. Anyway, I plan on mostly posting about my gardening and brewing projects (hence the clever title), probably with some superfluous shots of the dogs thrown in for fun.