A Year in Beer

Wow, that year went quickly, on which more later.

I’d wanted to try my hand at brewing for a while, but was put off it by the (accurate) fear than ninety percent of the work was washing bottles and cleaning pots. Then, last winter, as a newly-minted father of a baby with an age measured in weeks, life consisted mainly of sterilizing bottles and not sleeping. I made an offhand comment to the effect that if I was going to spend so much time boiling glass I might as well make beer. Ariane gave me a starter kit, and a year later I’m about seventy liters in and think I have a reasonable clue what I’m doing.

I’ve finished two extract batches I’d call pretty good, recipes below.

Smooth Valley Traffic Jam Ale (No. 2)

The brewery’s named after a blues club I used to fantasize about opening on those days when everything about research seemed utterly pointless, itself named after a literal translation of the name of the region of Zurich I live in (Glatttal). And the beer is named after one of the things the Glattal is known for: the stretch of the A1 that runs past Wallisellen is the busiest road in Switzerland.

  • Steep 100g Carapils (5 EBC) + 250g CaraAroma (350 EBC) crushed caramel malt for 30 minutes in 5L at 80°C.
  • Bring to a boil, add 1000g dry malt extract (6 EBC), boil 60 minutes. Add hops:
    • At 0 minutes, 15g Pacific Jade (14% AA) pellets
    • At 30 minutes, 15g Amarillo (10% AA) pellets
    • At 40 minutes, 15g Citra (15% AA) pellets
  • Add another 2000g dry malt extract, top up to 5L, boil an additional 5 minutes. Take off heat and cool rapidly to ~34°C.
  • Add 15L cold water (16°C) to yield 20L at 20°C
  • Pitch Safale US-05 yeast (11.5g dry, rehydrated for 30min before pitching)

IMG_0812This yielded an measured original gravity of 16.0°P. This seems high; given the content I’d have expected less than 14°P, so I’m not sure I trust this measurement (and the result certainly didn’t have more than 7% ABV). Fermented for 10 days at about 24°C, bottled on 3 March. I intended to mix in 140g of cane sugar for carbonation before bottling, but due to a measurement error ended up with 170g: this is a good deal fizzier than I intended.

It’s pretty malty, too — the caramel malt adds a lot of body. The hops are there, but very subtle. The maltiness also masks the 6-7% alcohol content, so Traffic Jam can be a little surprising to drink.

Smooth Valley Straight 16 (No. 4)

Straight 16 is a proposed departure route for Zurich Airport, the first few kilometers of which are shown on the label.

straight-16

Since that red line continues out over some breathtakingly expensive real estate, I don’t suspect the proposal will ever come to fruition, so two 380s a day will keep making their hard left turns over the garden. No worries, they’re a lot of fun to watch.

IMG_0821 (1)

What? Oh, yes, the beer. This is basically the same recipe as Traffic Jam (since I’m working with the same ingredients), but lighter both in color and gravity, the better to enjoy during the summer, and will different hops (since all of these came in a sampler pack put together by my brew shop, which is why all the quantities top out at 15g.)

  • Steep 250g Carapils (5 EBC) + 50g CaraAroma (350 EBC) crushed caramel malt for 30 minutes in 5L at 80°C.
  • Bring to a boil, add 800g dry malt extract (6 EBC), boil 60 minutes. Add hops:
    • At 0 minutes, 15g Centennial (9.6% AA) pellets
    • At 30 minutes, 15g Mandarina Bavaria (8.1% AA) pellets
    • At 40 minutes, 15g Simcoe (14.4% AA) pellets
  • Add another 1700g dry malt extract, top up to 5L, boil an additional 5 minutes. Take off heat and cool rapidly to ~35°C.
  • Add 16L cold water (16°C) to yield 21L at 20°C
  • Pitch Safale US-05 yeast (11.5g dry, rehydrated for 30min before pitching)

Measured initial gravity 11.5°P, which is more believable. Fermented 12 days at about 23°C, bottled on 1 May with 145g of cane sugar for carbonation for the batch. This one is a good deal lighter, but the relative lack of malt means some of the fruity ester taste from the yeast comes through (or, as a friend of mine said, “that tastes a little Belgian”).

What’s next?

IMG_0864For now, more of the same, as I’m using up the pile of ingredients I have. Continuing the trend of naming these after mildly annoying things about Wallisellen, the next one (which went into bottles last week) is called November Fog, and is pretty much the halfway point in the parameter space between Traffic Jam and Straight 16, but with more hops (to balance out the high gravity of the boil), and fermented at the 17°C I can provide in the new cellar. It went into the bottle on 28 November, so if it’s drinkable, it’ll get a post here in Feburary. If not, we’ll pretend it never happened.