Oct 15 2010

Bacon Beer? Yeah, THAT Just Happened

My Iron Brewer beer turned out great, but simply bringing together the three disparate ingredients of centennial hops, vanilla beans and smoked malt wasn’t enough. No, sir.

I made 7 gallons of that beer and racked 6 gallons into a standard fermenter, but the last gallon went into a glass jug.  That gallon jug fermented alongside the rest, but it had a special purpose: bacon.  I had been joking about adding bacon to a beer for quite some time, but this was one of the few batches I’ve done that it actually makes sense to add the bacon to.

The beer already had a good amount of bacon-like flavor in it due to the Bamberg smoked malt that I had brewed it with originally. So, in order to maintain the swiney goodness the bacon brings, I decided to dry hop the beer after the lagering was done. (Or, as James at Basic Brewing correctly called it, dry porking.)

I cooked up a half pound of natural smoked bacon and cooled them on paper towels in the hopes of sopping up as much of the fat as possible. I actually cooked the bacon in the oven to keep the grease at an all time low.

After they cooled a bit, I chopped up the bacon very fine and put them in the beer. Interestingly, and unsettlingly, the strips of bacon rehydrated in the beer and appeared almost raw again. Mmmmm.

I’m planning to let the bacon float around in the beer for about a week at room temperature before I crash the beer down again. After talking to Garrett Oliver at the GABF about his Reinschweinsgebot bacon beer, he advised that I fat wash the beer. (Yeah, I just name dropped. I’ve got no one to blame but myself.)  Fat washing is not unlike what we brewers do when making an eisbock.  Once all that fat congeals (I know, SEXY) and floats to the surface, I’ll rack underneath it and get a beer with all of the bacon and none of the fat.

It is still dry porking right now. I’ll update with tasting notes later.



Aug 22 2010

Smoked Baltic Porter – Iron Brewer Competition Beer

I’m in the third round of the Iron Brewer competition, which was started by Peter from Simply Beer.  The concept is really interesting and, much like the Iron Chef show, there are mysterious ingredients that you need to use in the batch.  

In Round 3, the required ingredients are:

1)       Centennial Hops

2)      Vanilla Beans

3)      Smoked Malt

In all honesty, smoked beers are the only styles that I haven’t gotten my head around just yet. But I decided to homebrew all of the BJCP styles a few years ago and I needed to get to these challenging beers eventually. This friendly competition is the perfect reason to get my feet wet. 

So, in looking at the possible beers I could make, I immediately thought of a smoked porter or brown ale. But that honestly made too much sense. I know a few of the other brewers in this round and they make very good beer. The pressure was on so, I decided I needed to do something bigger and more foolish. In other words, I needed to go big or go down trying.

In looking at the hot trends, Great Divide and Surly brewing both make a smoked Baltic porter. That proposes a few problems. I didn’t have any frame of reference for concocting a recipe, I had never tried either beer, and Baltic porters are actually lagers which take longer to make and age than the timeline of the Iron Brewer round allows. For all those legitimate reasons NOT to make it, I decided I had to make a smoked Baltic porter.

Looking at the broad breakdown of the Surly Smoke, I used that beer (which, again, I’ve never tried) as the springboard for my Iron Brewer entry. It veered away from the traditional Baltic porter ingredients in favor of American 2-Row malt and some amount of flaked oats.  I decided to use those grains but, also, to pull in a more traditional base malt like Munich and the required smoked Bamberg malt. I could have gone small on the Bamberg, but I wanted the smoke to be apparent and not hidden behind the other ingredients.

After that, using the centennial hops for bitterness and the vanilla bean at the end of the boil were simple decisions. And, although I could have made the smart move and gone with a San Fran lager yeast for a faster steam-like fermentation, a chose the Saflager 23 since I had little time to build up a huge liquid yeast starter.

So the final grains where American 2-Row, flaked oats, smoked malt, chocolate malt and Munich malt.

The mash was uneventful and lasted 70 minutes at 150 degrees.

Mmmmm. Rolling boil.

It was pitched into a 6 gallon carboy and shot with pure oxygen before pitching the yeast.

The recipe is listed below, but I’m not sure what final tweaks I will put on this batch. Depending on the taste of the beer, post-fermentation, I may add some oak, which would complement the vanilla. I might siphon off a gallon and dry hop that with bacon, as well. 

Recipe: Smoked Baltic Porter
Style: Other Smoked Beer

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 5.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 17.50
Anticipated OG: 1.075 (Plato: 18.15)
Anticipated SRM: 37.4
Anticipated IBU: 52.2
Brewhouse Efficiency: 69 %
Wort Boil Time: 60 Minutes

9.00 lbs. Pale Malt (2-row)
2.00 lbs. Munich Malt
5.00 lbs. Smoked (Bamberg)
0.50 lbs. Flaked Oats
1.00 lbs. Black Patent Malt

One Step Mash Held at 150 F for 65 minutes
Batch Sparge

60 Min Boil
15 Min One Whirlfloc Tablet
10 Min 1/2 tsp Wyeast Brewer’s Choice Nutrient Blend
10 Min One Vanilla Bean (Sliced in half, scraped)

1.75 oz. Centennial Pellet 8.00% 60min.
0.50 oz. Willamette Pellet 5.00% 15 min.

2 Packages of Saflager S-23
60 Sec of pure oxygen
Starting fermentation at 53 F
Diacytel rest when 80% fermented
Lagering as long as I can


May 7 2009

Oak-Aged English Pale Ale Batch 2009 – Barrel Brigade – “OE”

Another communication to friends about the latest homebrew.  This one turned out well, but won’t prepare them for the carnage of the Coconut Curry Hefe to follow this. – jb

This one a little bit of a change up.  The “OE” is an oak-aged English Pale Ale.


I was shooting for a mild, session beer (one that was a little lower in alcohol and could be enjoyed in higher quantities) and something that I could wood age.  This might be closer to being a Special Bitter than an English Pale Ale, but I try not to get too caught up in the styles to the point where I feel like I need to hit a certain malt mix or starting gravity. 


In terms of what style category this would fit in, it would fall into the Wood-Aged Beer category.  That is a big, ugly category that tells you very little of what to expect of the beer because, well, it can’t.  It is simply a beer that is aged on wood, and the base beer could be an IPA, or a Brown Ale, or an Imperial Stout, etc, etc.  The only beers that would not be included in this category, if you wood them up, are ones which require wood-aging as part of the style guidelines like Flanders Reds, Lambics, and the like.


This one is interesting.  Next to sour ales, wood aging beer is a new fascination of mine, and they often go hand in hand.  But it is easy to overdo.  I only aged this one on American Oak for 2 weeks, and I am happy with the flavor that came of it.  Obviously there is a woody flavor, but some hints of vanilla, too.


This one is over-carbonated for the style (perfect for an IPA, overdone for an English Bitter), and not to the point of distraction, but it does point out the thinness of the session-type ale.. 


Let it warm up.  You’ll get a lot more out of this if you take it out of the fridge, and let it sit on the counter to warm up for 15-30 minutes before you pop the top.


Feedback is ante for the next.  The caps say “OE”.  It is called “Barrel Brigade” after the crazy people who go over Niagara Falls in a barrels.