Now I know how the squirrel feels. With the warmth of summer still hanging in the air like the last note of a concert before the applause, the days growing darker but the cold not yet drawing the heat away. Somewhere inside a dead tree or burrow is a pile of acorns and nuts that looks impossible to ever eat through. Rows and rows and rows of food ready for months away when there’s nothing to do but enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Even though I’m only brewing in one-gallon batches I am beginning to see my stockpile of beer grow. I understand now the irrational accumulation of wealth that doesn’t find enjoyment in spending but instead on just building up more and more. Don’t get me wrong, I like drinking beer. But I love the sight of rows of bottles all containing months of work and waiting, each one a different flavor and with potential for either liquid gold or drain cleaner. Sure, these’ll all be gone soon but I have a feeling I will never have an empty beer cabinet again. And unless I keep up with production my stockpile will grow and grow and grow, until I have a warehouse like the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. And that won’t be a bad thing.
If you can’t read everything that’s on the shelf we have:
1. Strong Wheat ‘n Rye – mostly I’m keeping this last one to see how it is by the end of the year. It’s pretty intense now and I’m hoping it mellows.
2. Dubbel Trubbel – same goes for this one. Right now it tastes like dark caramel and blue cheese. I guess that’s good? And it’s hella strong.
3. Stout – Meh. Didn’t have enough priming sugar or it needed a yeast boost, so is a little bit flat, but not bad for a stout. Could be creamier.
4. Jaggery English Ale – this is just barely ready. Had one last Friday and it shows great promise. Hop flavoring is low and is shows luxurious medium amber color, low hop bitterness, and some residual sweetness from the caramelized jaggery. In a month this will be a fantastic beer.
5. Marlborough IPA #2 – really this should just be labeled a pale ale. This is my reboot of the first Marlborough IPA which has been my favorite of all brews. This time around I used Mandarina hops for more citrus flavor. The review of this beer is below.
6. Harvest Ale – made with roasted butternut squash, brown sugar, and spices. I added more spice at bottling and man is this good! Maybe a little hoppier than I prefer but let’s give it until Halloween.
7. Chaiwallah Stout – yum! Already creamy and smooth and that was just at bottling. I added in more cardamom, my favorite chai spice. The black pepper comes through not as heat but almost a savory rich dark spice. I can’t wait for this to be ready.
8. In the fermenter – Saffron Grapefruit Trippel. Look, it’s getting more golden! And who knows, with such a long primary fermentation, this might get up above 7% ABV so I can call it a trippel without feeling foolish. I’ll be bottling it next weekend.
Now let’s have a sip of beer, shall we? Served up today is Marlborough Pale Ale #2. I loved this the first time around, with its clean and crisp base overlaid with beguiling tropical fruit notes–passion fruit, guava, mango, jasmine. But I wanted a bit more citrusy tang so I swapped out the Matueka hops for Mandarina, which promised mandarin orange flavor, and used a 50/50 blend of Mandarina and Nelson Sauvin in late-boil and two dry-hopping additions. How’s it look? Golden. Delicious. Pardon the cloudiness, I was over-zealous in my pour and got some of the lees in there.
I brewed it with some palm sugar for a little interest in the malt base and a bump in the alcohol content. This beer is ready now, young and confident. The tropical fruit is more muted than the first batch, with a lot of sweet orange flavor. There’s very little bitter hop aftertaste. This is a session beer you could drink by the pint and not have your palate destroyed as with many West Coast IPAs. Am I content? Of course not. I like having more citrus but would like to bring back more of the Nelson aroma and flavor so I’ll maybe do this again with 75% Nelson Sauvin hops and 25% Citra or Mosaic or something. Maybe I’ll even throw in a little grapefruit peel.
This weekend’s brew plan? Wassail Ale. I have a plan for getting a higher alcohol content and rich dark beer – doble doble mashing. Basically you soak your grains, take the wort, and use that to do a second mash. THEN you boil that. Sure, it’s inefficient but grain costs at this scale are tiny and I don’t mind taking the time to mash twice. This has some liquor and spice additions and should be ready to crack open on Christmas Eve if I brew now. But homebrewing always has an element of surprise so let’s see how it turns out.