A Blog about Thijs de Vries

A blog

Brewed the Sour Brown

So I’m trying to do a better job at documenting my brewing. As you can remember, I recently tried a sour brown ale. I have been tempted to try my own. I finally broke down and brewed a batch. My goal was to make a seven gallon batch and put two gallons to be fermented spontaneously outside, and the other five gallons to be fermented with Roselare yeast from Wyeast.

The recipe is as follows:

7 lbs of American Pilsen malt 6 lbs of Munich malt 8 oz of Belgium Special B 4 oz of roasted barley 1 lb of dark candi sugar 1 oz of German Perle hops

Since I used a large amount of Pilsen malt I decided to do a protein rest. I ended up mashing with 3.5 gallons at 130 degrees (I was aiming for 120) and than adding 2.5 gallons of 200 degree water after half hour. The temperature seemed to stabilize at 150 degrees. I mashed for 1 hour before sparging. I let the first running drain before sparging with 6 gallons of water. I ended up with about 9 gallons of wort. My brew pot is only 10 gallons so I had to watch it like a hawk for boil overs. After half an hour of boiling I added the one and only hop addition of Perle hops. I let it boil for another hour and a half before cooling down.

Unfortunately my Wyeast bag did not inflate. I am giving it till Wednesday to start bubbling in my fermentor. I probably will use ordinary Lambic yeast instead of Roselare since the local brewing store does not seem to have any. For the wild yeast I took a bucket and wrapped some cheese cloth over the top. This id tricky since I have to monitor the weather and bring it inside and cover it when it rains (it’s gonna rain tonight). It will be interesting to compare my sour brown in a year with the cultivated yeast versus the wild yeast of Sunderland.

Green Monsta Ale

I tried the Green Monsta Ale from the Wachusett Brewing Company. This beer is excellent. Very nice malt profile with a nice hoppy finish. The color is a nice pale copper color. This may be my new favorite summer ale. Plus it’s named after part of my favorite stadium. The perfect beer for a baseball game.

Northampton Brewing Company

Yesterday me and some friends went out to try some beers at the Northampton Brewing Company. I tried Daniel Shays Best Bitter, the Black Cat Stout, Maggie’s Wee Heavy, and the Steamer. In addition I was able to pick up some food there.

The first beer, the bitter was a great example of how a British bitter should taste. It was bitter but nothing like an IPA. The hops seemed English though they were a bit more subdued than I’d like (I’m also a bit of a hop head though). The carbonation was nice and low, what you would expect from a British beer. Definitely a refreshing beer.

The Black Cat Stout was an alright beer. It was a tad bit more smoked than what I would expect from a stout. I also thought it needed a bit more roasted bitterness and was a tad sweet for my taste. I’m also a sucker for dry stouts though.

The Maggie’s Wee Heavy was close to what I would consider the perfect Scotch Ale. It has a very malty taste to it with very little hop bitterness, aroma or flavor. It was a tad bit sweet but that is also part of the style.

The Steam beer makes a great spring beer. Has a nice crisp taste to it. Hops a subtle but there and the beer has a nice grainy taste to it. This beer was my favorite for the evening as it was the most refreshing of the bunch.

I highly recommend visiting the Northampton Brewing Company if you live in the area. The beer is exceptional and the food is excellent.

You Can Do Better Massachusetts

I stumbled upon this article about the breweries per capita for each state. We are unfortunately low in concentration compared to other states. In an ideal world there would be a brewery per town. Fortunately we are not exactly low on the scale either. I would be more curious to see a more detailed map to see how western mass stands. I feel we have quite a few microbrews here. I can head over to Amherst for a pint at the Amherst Brewing Company or drive down to Noho for a beer at the Northampton Brewing Company. We also have Opa and Opas, Paper City Brewing, The Peoples Pint and probably a few more in this area. My goal will to help Massachusetts grow its brewery count by one. I need to figure out a brewing repertoire to sell. I’m a bit partial to IPAs but realize I cannot sell exclusively hoppy, bitter beers. I’ll have to compete with other breweries in the area. This is all in the future though, I will have to work a few years to build up the nest egg required to build a brewery. I’m 26 now, if I have my own brewery by the time I’m 40 I will consider my life a success.

Monk Cafe Sour Brown

So I had the great pleasure of trying Monk Cafe Sour Brown yesterday at the Dirty Truth in Northampton, MA. For those of you who don’t know, the Dirty Truth is an awesome little bar in Northampton which has one of the best beer selections I’ve ever seen. They have a wide selection of beers on tap and they server food. They are starting to become one of my favorite bars in the area.

Anyways, back the the beer I was trying. I’ve had lambics in the past and never could get over how sour they were. To me a lambic just does not taste like a beer, it is sour and has more of a wine like taste. This made me reluctant to try the sour brown but I was curious on how the darker malts would impact the taste.

I ended up being pleasantly surprised. Though the beer is a tad sour, it is by no means overbearing. It has a very nice malt sweetness to it and has an excellent wine like flavor. I highly recommend that everyone try a sour brown if they can get there hands on it, even if they have been scared away by lambics in the past. Lambics and sour browns are similar in that they use wild yeast to ferment the beer. This causes the beer to take on a more sour taste than beer that uses cultivated yeast.

I am hoping to try and make my own wild beer. I am debating if I should cheat and pick up some wyeast which has a nice blend of wild yeast and bacteria or risk it and try to cultivate yeast from the air. Now that spring is rolling around, it becomes the perfect time to try a wild brew. In the summer you have the difficulty of having to much Acetobacter which will just turn your beer into vinegar. I may try to make a starter outside but I’m afraid wild animals will get to the starter. I feel I should wait for a good week of clear weather so the starter does not get rained into. I will probably use cheese cloth to keep the bugs out.

I have never done this before but I’ve always wanted to use wild yeast. I may start out with an extract batch so that if it turns out to be a complete example, I know I would not have wasted too much time brewing beer. Anyone have any sour brown recipes?

Stuff So Far

Currently I’m in the process of trying to create a nice photo-gallery for all my pictures. I’ve been using SmugMug to host my photos. They work pretty well but I want to have a bit more control over the layout and HTML.

I am about to graduate college with a BS in computer science. When I get a job I may finally be able to fund my hobbies properly. Currently I have a digital Canon Rebel with two lenses, the one that came with the camera and the standard 50mm lens. Since I don’t have a huge investment in equipment I can easily jump ship and go with Nikon once the money starts flowing. I wanna get a full frame digital camera since I enjoy using wide angle lenses the most (I had a nice Nikon one from when I still used film). Getting an excessively live wide angle lens is still cheaper than getting a full frame digital camera (though still obscenely expensive).

I’m also becoming less of a purist and wanna get a few zoom lenses so that I only need to carry one or two lenses at a time. I’ve read a lot of literature that suggests that fixed lenses provide better quality images. I’ve found that the standard 50mm lens is a must have for any photographer, it’s cheap and takes high quality images. That said, I find often a photo is not about the megapixels or the lens but how the photo was taken.

I wanna make it a point of trying to go hiking for the sole purpose of finding good photos. I used to do this a lot but have been strapped on time. Hopefully when I get back in the habit I can create a new gallery once a month. I also hope to get some of my old film picture digitized but I’ve found that getting it done at a photoshop is both expensive and of poor quality. Surprisingly, I’ve found scanning old prints with a scanner seems to work better than getting the negatives scanned at a photoshop. One problem I have is that many of my pictures are slides which I’m not sure would work with a scanner.

If anyone knows a good solution, let me know.

First Blog Entry

Hey guys. Thanks for viewing my brewing blog. I don’t have anything to add for now but if you wanna read my old Livejournal posts, go to here to view my brewing entries. I’m not going to move my old articles here but any new articles I write on brewing will be added to this site.

Enki Setup

So I finally broke down and started my own blog. Before I used services such as Livejournal and SmugMug to share photos and my life story. For awhile now I’ve been been wanting to start a tech blog and figured Livejournal no longer met my needs. I hope to start to develop Ruby on Rails plugins and host them on this site to share them with the Rails community. For now I’m going to give a short tutorial on setting up an Enki blog.

I decided to use Enki since it is Ruby on Rails based and I happen to be a Ruby on Rails developer. From what I’ve read it seemed much more light weight than other blogs. Customization is done through hacking the code. By default Enki is not very pretty, it just gives you the skeleton needed to contain posts, pages and other standard blog stuff. To change this, just hack at the rhtml files and css files to taste. Remember Enki is just a rails app which has the skeleton of a good blog.

I have modified the instructions at Enki website. Essentially my instructions are the same but try to fill in some of the gaps in the instructions. It is assumed that whoever attempts this has knowledge of Ruby on Rails.

git clone git://github.com/xaviershay/enki.git enki
git checkout -b myblog # Create a new work branch
cp config/database.example.yml config/database.yml

At this point you want to edit database.yml appropriately. You also want to edit config/enki.yml. By default it contains the following parameters.

# Configuration options for your blog - customise to taste
# This file contains no secret information, so can be stored in source control (unlike database.yml)
title: My Enki Blog
url: http://enkiblog.com
  name: Don Alias # For copyright notice and ATOM feeds
  email: don@enkiblog.com # Exception emails will go here, and it is used in ATOM feeds
  open_id: # These are used to login to the admin area
      - http://enkiblog.com
      - http://secondaryopenid.com

# Delete the following section if your site will not be acting as an OpenID delegate (http://wiki.openid.net/Delegation)
# If you're deploying with mongrel, make sure you read http://rhnh.net/2008/04/13/nginx-openid-delegation-and-yadis
  server: http://www.myopenid.com/server
  delegate: http://username.myopenid.com

You probably wanna change the title, url and author info. Under open_id you will notice a list of open id urls. You should delete these and add your own open id url. I got my openid from myopenid. If you are unfamiliar with open id authentication, Ryan Bates has an excelent railscast on the subject. You need to have an openid in order to login with the default Enki login. If you want to have multiple users login to your blog, you can probably add multiple open ids to the list but you are probably better off storing users in a database and keeping there open id info stored there.

rake db:migrate
rake spec

Note, after running rake spec, it will notify you on what other plugins you need to install. You can probably just run

rake gems:install

to install the required gems. At this point your blog should be ready to go. You may notice if you go to localhost:3000/admin there is a checkbox that has Bypass credentials check. This allows you to log in without any credentials for development. This checkbox, and the ability to bypass security are disabled in production mode.

Obviously at this point you will want to customize the blog to your needs but you should have the skeleton needed to get started.

Happy Blogging,