I don't know that this past Saturday could have gone a whole lot better. Dozens of different beers to taste, both homebrew and commercial. Meeting new homebrewers & beer enthusiasts & new fellow beer bloggers. Making something I've never made and having it not blow up. Delicious BBQ, fun people, and perfect weather. Do Saturdays get much better than that?
KC Hop Head invited Boulevard's Director of Marketing (Jeremy), who stopped by for a while to chat. I was focusing on getting the wort for my braggot going, so I didn't get to chat with him as much as I'd liked, but we did have a chance to talk for a bit. I am pretty excited about the direction the Smokestack series is taking; Boulevard's developing a quality beer reputation for Kansas City through that line, and I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes.
In the short term, it's going the route of the malty Bavarian lager known as Doppelbock. Jeremy brought over a bottle of the Seeyoulator for everyone to taste. And oh my was it delicious. It had the malty flavor and warm alcohol feel of a doppelbock, but with a twist - it was aged on cedar, lending a subtle hint of that bright, citrusy moth-repelling wood in both taste and aroma. We joked about expectations of closet linings and dresser drawers, but there was nothing in the Seeyoulator smacking you with a cedar board. Instead, you get a little citrus from both the hops and cedar, along with just a hint of cedar-y spice. Fabulous. It's a little lighter in color than your typical doppelbock, but in no way is it detrimental to the beer itself. Once these hit the stores, pick up some to drink now and some to age.
Anyway, back to brew day. For the braggot, I made 4 gallons of wort (with 5 ounces of hops!) and added 9 pounds of honey (about 2/3 of a gallon). That's a lot of sugar. (my recipe was a combination of Ken Schramm's recipe in The Compleat Meadmaker and some directional guidance from his session on Brewing Network). It also has 3 ounces of Cascade and 2 ounces of Centennial hops. It smelled delicious during the boil. This stuff should be high in alcohol and pretty hefty, hoppy, and sweet - akin to a strong barleywine or a very hoppy dessert wine. I'm curious to try it, but I'll have to wait quite a while. Braggot takes about 3 weeks to complete fermentation and is ready to drink in about 6 months, but changes and smooths with age.
The mead was so easy, I'm inclined to make a bunch more. You really do just mix honey and spring water with some yeast nutrient & energizer, then add your yeast. That's it. There's a lot of stirring involved, but that takes about 5 minutes. How is homemade mead not more popular?
In less than 5 hours, I had 10 gallons of fermentable honey-based goodness. We shared some more beer, chatted a bit more, then headed home. In all the excitement and commotion of the day, I forgot to take the Original Gravity on BOTH items, so I have no idea where they started out. I'd even bought a fancy-pants pH meter to make sure they were at a suitable acidity for fermentation and forgot about that too. That's the thing with brew day - it's easy to forget steps, ingredients, or other aspects of brewing. I didn't drink much during brewing (just little samples) to keep my head on straight, but in trying to remember all the details in the process I forgot a big one. Ah well.
Mead can commonly get stuck in fermentation for a variety of reasons - poor yeast, low acidity, not enough nitrogen, or a variety of others. You can do a lot to avoid a stuck fermentation by doing a Stepped Nutrient Addition the first three days of fermentation - basically removing a bunch of CO2 through stirring and adding Diammonium Phosphate and a yeast energizer (basically yeast food). Today was my first addition after fermentation. I think "yeast energizer" is an understatement. As soon as I put it in (1/2 tsp DAP and 1/4 tsp Fermaid-K), I got this:
Looks like we're off to a good start...