Tuesday, October 14, 2008

First beer of the fall...

Even though the name of this blog was originally "Piney Grove Homebrew", I've strayed farther afield than just brewing, spending just as much time talking about food, music, and "etcetera".

Well, starting today, I'm getting a little closer to the original roots of the blog. The weather's cooling off (brewing in hot humid North Carolina summers is not anyone's idea of fun), and when it's cool, it's start to thinking about not just drinking beer, but making it.

For the first beer of the fall, I want to take another shot at a beer I made last year, "Maura's Bridal Ale". When I made this last year, I thought it tasted great. It was smooth, with a nice hoppy character. However, it was also way overcarbonated, to the point where every beer was mostly foam it seemed like.
So even though it tasted good, there was a lot of room for improvement.

The recipe grain bill that I started with is as follows:
Maura's Bride Ale (from The Homebrewer's Recipe Guide...)
6 2/3 lbs light malt extract
1 lb crysal malt
1/2 lb flaked barley
1 lb honey
2 oz Willamette hops (bittering)
1 oz Liberty hops (finishing)
1 oz Cascade hops (finishing)
1 oz Cascade hops (dry hop)
1 tsp Irish Moss
1 pkg irish ale yeast (used a smack-pack)
1 1/2 c. honey (priming)

As in life however, nothing went totally according to plan. I didn't have the exact hops I was supposed to, so I substituted like so:
Palisade for the Willamette (using this cool "hop plug"), and Centennial for the Cascade.

And, while I was filling my grain bag with my crystal malt, I ended up accidentally dumping half of it in the sink (d'oh!). I salvaged what I could, but I was still short. I ended subsitituting some 60L caramel malt I had, so I expect that the beer will be a little darker than usual, but hey, that's life.

The actual brewing process went smoothly, with no real hiccups. While I was standing around waiting for the malt and flaked barley to "steep", I decided to take a shot at designing some beer labels. I think any amatuer brewer dreams of selling their beer in the store or in a bar, and I'm no different. Part of that dream is designing your labels (since your beer bottles have to have a label). I'd been thinking awhile about how I wanted my labels to look, and I'd settled on kind of a "paper-crafty" kind of look. I wanted it to look folk-arty, and I wanted it to be neat.
So, I raided the kids' construction paper drawer and went to work. I came up with two designs,
basically a "night" and "day" version of the same view.

When I first started brewing, I lived in Holly Springs, on a road called "Piney Grove-Wilbon Rd" (hence the "Piney Grove Homebrew/Kitchen" moniker). We had just under 8 acres, and I wanted the labels to reflect that in some fashion, and the "view" of the labels is generically the view from my front porch at that house.

I think the labels turned out ok. I need to come up with some little construction paper animals (like cows and pigs and horses) and maybe use different animals for different beers (like cows for a milk stout maybe, or brown cows for a chocolate stout, etc). It's definitely stretching my artistic talent to consider little animals right now, but maybe I can figure out something.
When I first scanned the art, the contrast was not so hot, and the labels didn't "pop". I used iPhoto's "enhance" feature on a whim, and sure enough, they were enhanced.

So here's night:

And here's day:

For both labels, I like how the construction paper gives texture to the picture, and I think it just looks neat.
I think the night turned out better for the first pass, since the contrast looks a little better, but I still like the day. The iPhoto enhance really made a difference on the day label.
Both pics have top and bottom borders so that, after I find a good stencil, I can put text on the borders (like "Piney Grove Brewery" on the top and the beer type on the bottom).

To wrap up, here are some shots of the brewing:

My first hop plug. It's definitely not pretty.

The Piney Grove Homebrewery in all its garage-bound glory:

The brew kettle (above)
My grains and hops (plus the recipe) on the trunk of my car

My malt extracts sitting in pot of warm water.

Spent grains:

The boil in action:


Ian said...


does the honey as the primer add flavor, color. I will be ready to bottle my first batch this coming week and i say the recipe and the honey primer sould neat


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