Gowanus Brewery

Hop Garden and Strong Wheat Update by Jeremy
July 23, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, hops, strong ale

I have been quite busy setting up a new business, so this little hobby of mine has been riding the pine.  There is news to report, though.

All three of my hop plants–the Willamette, Centennial, and Cascade–are growing well, if not quickly.  If you zoom in on the picture posted here, you might be able to see a single, solitary bine inching up the back fence and a few feet of bines creeping up the hop trellis in the middle on the left.  They are quickly proving to be hardy and happy.  In the last week or so, they started growing at a pace of about an inch a day.  Plus, the Willamette and Centennial are starting to send out side shoots, a sign of good health I believe, though I do have to clip those to force the plant to focus on growing upwards.

The Strong Wheat is also progressing nicely.  I’ve had about six 12-ounce bottles by now and each one is better than the last.  Unfortuneatly, the carbonation is on the high side and actually may prevent me from aging the beer as long as I’d like to, if it continues to build.  The last thing I want to be dealing with is a shelf full of syrupy-beer bombs.  There will be more on this brew in the future when I find time to do a proper writeup.

Gowanus Strong Wheat Ale – Bottled by Jeremy
June 21, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, competition, strong ale, wheat

Last night, I bottled the Gowanus Strong Wheat Ale and stole another taste.

It was even better than before.  The flavors have all mellowed since before going into secondary, as they should have.  Another round of fermentation started after transferring the beer and lasted for over a week.  The wheat and honey and even the hops are all noticeable in the flavor and aroma.  The color has darkened a bit and the body isn’t quite as thick as it was before.  In fact, it reminded me a slightly thinner, more drinkable version of the Smuttynose Wheat Wine Ale that I reviewed months ago.  And, with a final gravity of 1.024 and an alcohol by volume of 10.1%, it packs an alcohol wallop in the nose even without carbonation.

I made a lot of this beer and, after bottling, now have 47 bottles on hand.   Eleven of these bottles are larger than 12 ounces, too.  I have four short Sierra Nevada Pale Ale 24-ounce bottles, three regular 24-ounce bombers, and four tall 16-ounce bottles from some cheap Polish beer.  If I had used all standard-size bottles, that would be 56 bottles total–my largest haul yet!

I’m in the process of designing a label for these bad boys.  Achieving the right level of bad-assery is proving a challenge.  Of course, I plan to leave some unlabelled to enter in competition later in the year.

Gowanus Strong Wheat Ale – Transferred to Secondary by Jeremy
June 20, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, competition, strong ale

I transferred the Gowanus Strong Wheat Ale to secondary a couple weeks ago and stole a taste while doing it.

Tasting a beer like this at such an early stage obviously won’t tell you much about how it will taste six months down the line, but it is still fun to do because you get can get some broad outlines of how the beer will turn out.  For example, I could really taste the honey here, unlike in the Gowanus Strength German Wheat.  The color was caramel-ly, although it’s hard to tell in this photo, and looked similar to the Smuttynose Wheat Wine Ale.

I will be bottling soon and I’m already looking forward to another taste test!

Gowanus Strong Wheat Ale – In Primary by Jeremy
May 31, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: all-grain, beer, brewing, strong ale, wheat

The brew day for the Strong Wheat was a long one, but everything worked out amazingly well.

The only unknowns for the day seemed to revolve around volumes: How much of my pot would 19 pounds of grain take up? (About 1 gallon) How much water would all that grain hold onto at lauter? (About 2.75 gallons) How much water can I boil off per hour? (About .75 gallon)

In the end, I collected 7.5 gallons of wort instead of 8 and boiled it down to 5.5 gallons instead of 5. The original gravity was approximately 1.100, which equates to a mash efficiency of about 68%, and, after adding the yeast starter, my total final volume is about 6 gallons.

By the way, my 1-liter yeast starter packed more than enough punch to jump start fermentation on this beer. Knowing there might be substantial blow off, I split the 6 gallons evenly to two 5 gallon carboys, and, as you can see in this picture taken about 6 hours after pitching, there was already a lot of foam developing; after 12 hours, it was being forced out of the air locks.

Gowanus Strong Wheat Ale – Recipe Rewrite by Jeremy
May 10, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: all-grain, beer, recipe, strong ale

Many thanks to the members of the New York City Homebrewers Guild and to Friar Smith for helping to refine this recipe.

Based on their advice, I’m reducing the total amount of Liberty malt and hops, as well as adjusting the hop schedule. It was suggested that these ingredients might be overpowering and I want to ensure that this brew is still recognizable as a wheat ale when all is said and done. Also, Friar Smith made me aware that, at least in his experience, a little honey goes a long way, even at half the volume I intended to use. So, I’m cutting that down as well.

8 lb. Wheat malt
8 lb. American 2-row
2 lb. Flaked wheat
1 lb. American victory
1.5 oz. Newport (13% AA, 60 min.)
1.5 oz. Argentina Cascade (3% AA, 15 min.)
1.5 oz. Argentina Cascade (3% AA, 0 min.)
1 lb. Basswood Honey (boil flameout)

Mash 145-155 degrees Fahrenheit, 120 minutes; boil 90-120 minutes; age six months.

For this beer, I have to use a modified mash schedule. That’s because mash efficiency tends to be lower for higher gravity beers, which requires collecting more wort than usual. High gravity beers also require substantially larger yeast starters that have volumes in the .5 to 1 gallon range and must be figured into your final volume. With those two factors in mind, this is the plan:

  1. Collect Water: In the primary kettle, add 6 gallons water and bring to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. In second kettle, add 4 gallons of water and bring to 170 degrees.
  2. Add Grain and Heat: Add grain to primary kettle, heat to mash temperature of 150 degrees. Hold for 120 minutes.
  3. Mashout and First Sparge: Raise temperature to 170 degrees and collect 4 gallons wort.
  4. Second Sparge: Add the 4 gallons of water from the second kettle. Collect 4 gallons wort.
  5. Boil: Boil 8 gallons wort down to 5 gallons, adding hops and adjuncts at appropriate times.
  6. Pitch Yeast: Pitch .5 gallon yeast starter for final target volume 5.5 gallons.

This brew will represent many homebrewing firsts for me. I’m anxiously looking forward to getting started on it.

Gowanus Strong Wheat Ale – Recipe by Jeremy
May 6, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: all-grain, beer, naming, recipe, strong ale

Six months from now–when it’s once again dark and dreary–it will be time to indulge in this new brew, the Gowanus Strong Wheat.

You need at least six months aging time for a strong ale, which according to the BJCP guidelines, is “usually the strongest ale offered by a brewery… Normally aged significantly prior to release. Often associated with the winter or holiday season.”

Although I haven’t fully committed to the proportions, the final grain bill will closely resemble the following:

8 lb. American 2-row
8 lb. Wheat malt
2 lb. American victory
2 lb. Flaked wheat
2 lb. Basswood Honey
1 oz. Newport (13% AA, 60 min.)
1 oz. Newport (13% AA, 45 min.)
1 oz. Newport (13% AA, 30 min.)
1 oz. Argentina Cascade (3% AA, 30 min.)
1 oz. Argentina Cascade (3% AA, 15 min.)
1 oz. Argentina Cascade (aroma)

This will (theoretically) produce a wort with a starting gravity near 1.115 and a final alcohol content in the neighborhood of 12%. Because the alcohol content on this style of beer tends to be so high, it’s common to see them referred to as barleywines or barleywine-style ales. Of course, this particular beer would be best described as a wheat wine, owning fully 50% of its total weight to malted and flaked wheat.

This isn’t strictly about big beer and big alcohol. I’m interested in pushing the limits on my technique and equipment and continuing to experiment with wheat beers. It’s also an opportunity to experiment with a new adjunct: honey. I’m adding honey to provide some complexity and to unify the overall beer aroma and flavor, but it will also provide additional fermentables and color. This particular type of honey is supposed create a lingering flavor similar to green ripening fruit.

Dogfish Head Fort – Reviewed by Jeremy
February 29, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, review, strong ale

Fully caught off guard by the Dogfish Head Fort. Fully.

This is not just a raspberry beer, which was my and my girlfriend’s thinking when we pulled it off the shelf. For that matter, it’s not just a beer. I would call it a cross between a strong ale and a fruit beer. It’s basically a barleywine-style ale, but with a ton of raspberries tossed in.

A ton, literally.

The brewers at Dogfish Head added over a ton of pureed raspberries from Oregon and Delaware in small batches during fermentation to allow for “more of the true berry flavors and aromas to be present in the finished beer.” I can’t say whether the amazing concentration of sour raspberry pucker is attributable to the brewery’s small-batch technique or the sheer quantity of raspberries, but Dogfish Head has definitely succeeded in packing an unusual amount of flavor into this beer.

Bottled in 2007 and served cool, the aroma and flavor of the beer I had were both dominated by the 18% ABV alcohol bomb this beer packs. Behind that, it’s tart and sour. It pours a cloudy brown and red and has a medium body, with essentially no head and little carbonation. Overall, the Dogfish Head Fort is strong and would be great for a celebration, but is too much to get into for no reason at all.

See community reviews at BeerAdvocate and RateBeer.

Smuttynose Wheat Wine Ale – Reviewed by Jeremy
February 24, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, review, strong ale

This Smuttynose Wheat Wine Ale is my first wheat wine and I have to say I liked it more than the more-popular barley wine-style beers I’ve tried. In the interest of full disclosure, this bottle actually had dust on its shoulders when I picked it up earlier, so any shortcomings are probably the result of sitting too long on the shelf. That being said, the beer smelled great with a sweet nose that was almost raisiny, and definitely malty. Oddly, there wasn’t any hint of hops up front. It tasted sweet and bitter, but much less so than, for example, Brooklyn Brewery’s Monster Ale, a barley wine-style beer that just about knocks your teeth out. Both the nose and flavor pack a mean alcoholic note that, unlike everything else, appears not to have mellowed over time. The Wheat Wine Ale was red and amber and slightly cloudy. It was viscous and slick, with little carbonation and less head. Overall, I think this would be really good after a huge spicy plate of pasta or a big steak as a sipper, but it’s too intense to drink without that sort of company.

This is one of Smuttynose’s Big Beer Series, so the recipe is subject to change from year to year. There are some notes, though, at the Smuttynose site regarding earlier versions of this brew. It’s interesting to note that this beer is probably, unless the recipe’s really changed since then, dry hopped and I noticed barely any hop characteristics. Plus, it has medium toast French oak chips, which I didn’t look out for but makes sense after the fact. The first batch, brewed in 2005, also had pilsner malt, golden promise, cara wheat, wheat malt, cara hell, and cane sugar. It called for warrior hops for bittering, liberty for flavoring and aroma, and horizon for dry hopping. And the alcohol by volume was 11%.

The BJCP doesn’t seem to have a category for wine ale specifically, but it would probably fall under Strong Ales. See other reviews at Beer Advocate and Rate Beer.