Holiday Ale

Well I hate Christmas, and all the other “Hallmark Holidays” surrounding it. Rushing around visiting people you luckily only have to deal with maybe twice a year, yeah thats always a JOY. So I decided to make something to at least help take the edge off of it. A cranberry infused holiday ale.

As is normal we started with a simple recipe and then twisted it up a bit. I found a simple partial mash recipe online and we deviated from it just a bit, well probably a little bit more than that. For our main base malts we used 2 cans of Liquid malt extract. One Briess Golden, the other a Briess Bavarian Wheat. The only specialty grain used was 1lb of Crystal (25L). Also around 2lbs of honey was added to the boil, this beer has the potential to be as sweet as me!

Since only a small amount of grain was used, I was able to steep it on the stove in a medium sized pot. I kept it at a temp of around 160 for 25 minutes before adding it to our electric brew kettle, which already had some water heating up in it. I then sparged the grains with some hot water and continued to bring everything up to a boil. Once a nice boil was achieved both cans of malt extract and the honey were added. That cooled the kettle down just a bit and I waited till it came back to a boil before it was hop time.

Our hop schedule was fairly simple on this beer since it wasn’t going to be an overly hoppy beer. A 1 hour boil was planned and the first addition was 1oz. of Willamette. We then played the waiting game for half an hour, and relaxed watching some more 3 stooges(see Pilsner post). At the half hour mark 1/2oz. of Kent Goldings hops was added, along with the peel of 3 oranges and some spices like nutmeg and cinnamon. Boy if this beer doesn’t taste good I’m it coulu just be warmed on the stove and used as an air freshner. Our last addidtion came at ten minutes from the end of boil, which was our last half of the Kent Goldings. The final ten minutes of boil and then removed from the heat.

Upon terminating the boil I added some cranberry. Now I don’t much like fruity beers, and don’t want a whole lot of fruit taste, but I think a little may not hurt. And Cranberry sounded good in a wheat beer. So I only added an 8oz. can of cranberry sauce. I didn’t want to mess with the actual berries, so that seemed like the next best thing. Hopefully it gives just a hint of flavor to our beer.

The mash tun was cooled, then added to our primary fermenter bucket. I filled it back up to 5 gallons with cool water and then let it settle back down to around 75 degrees. A gravity reading at this time was at 1.064, which should leave a fairly high alcohol beer. PERFECT! I added a packet of Safbrew wheat ale yeast, and placed the lid on the bucket and went back to watching my stooges. By morning a good amount of bubbles were forming, and the smell was delightful. Spices and hops really hit my nose when I opened the bucket. Lets see how it turns out in a few weeks.


Mead Making Mishap

I was first introduced to the hobby of homebrewing earlier this year and had no idea what the hell I was doing. I watched people make it and even researched the basics of brewing your own beer. It seemed easy, so I went ahead and purchased a basic equipment kit along with an Amercian Amber ale kit. Lets just say that my first experience in homebrewing was actually my most successful to date as you will find out in this post along with future postings.

After my first kit was brewed, fermented, bottle conditioned, and taste tested I figured it was time to get something else going. As you may know, homebrew kits are fairly pricey and I was looking for something a little on the cheap side…that’s when I came across a simple mead recipe in a home brewing catalog. Simple…very nice! So I ordered up the ingredients (I can’t find the recipe so I don’t know how much of what went into this) and bought three pounds of honey from a local beekeep because I was only going to make one gallon of the stuff. Wise decision on my part.

Having the ingredients in hand, I got down to business. I dissolved the honey in the water and tossed in the other ingredients minus the yeast. I let the concoction of water, honey, and other ingredients cool before I added the yeast and once that was done all I could do was sit back and wait anxiously. The mead started fermenting and seemed like it might never stop. After two weeks it was still bubbling out of the airlock. What the hell, I thought to myself…the recipe claimed it would slow significantly at two weeks and then I could go on with the recipe. Not mine, it just kept going and going.

When it finally did stop bubbling out of the airlock I racked it for the first time, stabilized it with potassium sorbate, and added yet another cup of honey to hopefully sweeten the ‘Viking drink’ out. Then it was more waiting. About a month later, give or take a few, I racked it yet again to rid of any sediment left floating around and continued to let it sit in the one gallon glass carboy for another week or so before bottling. When bottling finally came I had my four wine bottles ready and an abundance of corks because I could only buy a minimum of twenty-five. I was excited…the mead looked good and smelled alright but I just figured it needed some time alone to come together and become a most righteous drink.

Bottling was just as easy and making the mead itself. I siphoned the mead into four wine bottles and corked them with a handcorker…which is simpler to use than you read about. Now it was time to sit back and let my mead age. I had never tried mead up until this point and I was looking forward to the day I could finally try it. As it aged I continually checked on it. What I was looking for is beyond me but I went ahead and did it anyways. As it aged a bit longer I checked on it less and less but still checked on it from time to time.

I figured that by the time October came around this sweet elixir would be ready to test…it was just a matter of when to bust it out. My buddy, Ian, was set to have a Halloween party on the 29th of October and I decided that this would be the best time to crack open a bottle and sample it. People would be there and I would be praised for the intensive labor I put into this mead. Well the time finally came and I showed up to the party dressed as a pirate with a bottle of mead in hand best site. We chilled it prior to sampling and then I saw Ian take the bottle out, open it up, pour a glass, take a sip, and then hand it to me…

I saw no reaction on his face whatsoever so I figured it couldn’t be all that bad. Then I took my sip…huh?!, not what I expected at all. Not sweet enough and it had the overpowering taste of too much alcohol in it. Not a bad thing, because there is never too much alcohol, but it overpowered what I thought would be the pleasantly sweet taste of honey. It was an experiment that I just had to try and I learned that when a recipe says to stabilize after two weeks you should probably just do it because that honey will just continue to ferment and ferment. That and next time I need to sweeten with a lot more honey.

All in all it was a great experience and I look forward to making my next mead…I still have two bottles of this mead left and I’m hoping that it only gets better as it ages. I guess we will just have to wait and see.



Homemade Mead