Chocolatastic Porter – Brewing with pure caco (Part 1)

As I told you in the post about our cocoa tablet from raw cocoa beans, we brewed two different Porter style beers using that tablet. In this first post I’m going to describe the first of them, which we named Chocolatastic Porter. First I will describe what was our idea, then the ingredients we chose and, finally, the process we followed.

While designing this beer our idea was to get a Porter that would remind us drinking chocoloate, but in beer form. For this, we first needed to get a cocoa flavour as intense as possible. We would like also to add some adjuncts that go well with chocolate (cinnamon, vanilla) and keep some residual sweetness. As cocoa is bitter, we should restrict bittering hop additions. Regarding yeast, as we wanted cocoa to shine, we would need a clean yeast to ferment the wort.

Cocoa tablet from raw cocoa beans and lactose

Evidently, the first ingredient was obvious, the cocoa tablet we had previously made. We needed to choose the amount to add. For that, we did a little research reading articles about brewing with cocoa and chocolate, finding some real nice ones like this from Cat Stewart, or this one from Chris Colby (sorry, this one only for Brew Your Own subscribers). Considering all these articles, we decided to add about 100 g (3.5 oz) from the cocoa tablet for 10.5 liters (2.77 gallons) of beer. Following Chris Colby’s advice, we also decided to add lactose to get that residual sweetness we were looking for, 150 g (5.3 oz) the last 15 minutes of the boil.

Boiling the wort

As for the malts, due to stock issues we picked two different base malts, Pilsen malt and Maris Otter, coupled with various special malts usually used for Porter beers. Some biscuit malt to get some complexity, chocolate malt for obvious reasons (colour and flavour) and flaked barley to get some body and help with foam since we were afraid fats from cocoa could detriment foam stability.

Regarding hops, we finished the amount we had of Chinook using it for bittering and we used some Northern Brewer for a flavour addition at 15 minutes before finishing the boil, choosing this variety because we thought it could go well with this style due to its earthy and woody atributes. To get a clean fermentation we trusted the always reliable US-05 from Safale. Finally, we also used a cinnamon stick and two vanilla beans, soaked for some days in the minimum volume of vodka to cover them. We added this vodka at bottling.

For the water we used for brewing, we only added some calcium chloride to get a mash pH of 5.5 and additionally to boost calcium and chloride to help with yeast growing and to increase malt flavour, respectively. You can see the final recipe and a summary of the process for this brew below.

Our two Porters brewed with cocoa, fermenting

CHOCOLATASTIC PORTER

MALTS/GRAINS
1.50 Kg (3.31 lbs) (51.2%) Pilsen malt (Grannaria) (3.9 EBC)
0.70 Kg (1.54 lbs) (23.9%) Maris Otter (Crisp) (5.0 EBC)
0.33 Kg (0.73 lbs) (11.3%) Biscuit malt (50.0 EBC)
0.15 Kg (0.33 lbs) (5.1%) Chocolate malt (900.0 EBC)
0.10 Kg (0.22 lbs) (3.4%) Flaked barley (Thomas Fawcet) (3.0 EBC)
HOPS
10.00 g (0.35 oz) Chinook (13.00% AA) leaf (boil 75 minutes, 31.5 IBUs)
10.00 g (0.35 oz) Northern Brewer (11.20% AA) leaf (boil 15 minutes, 12.9 IBUs)
ADJUNTS/OTER
102 g (3.60 oz) from the tablet of cocoa from raw cocoa beans (boil 15 minutes)
150 g (5.29 oz) lactose (boil 15 minutes)
1 cinnamon stick, soaked in vodka for 1 week (vodka added at bottling)
2 vanilla beans, soaked in vodka for 1 week (vodka added at bottling)
YEAST
Safale US-05 (1 sachet, previously rehydrated)
THEORETICAL DATA
Volume: 10.5 L (2.77 gallons)     OG: 1.057     FG: 1.017     ABV: 5.3%     IBUs: 44.4     Color: 49.1 EBC     BU/GU: 0.774     Efficiency: 65.00%
WATER PROFILE
Ca: 109 ppm; Mg: 3 ppm; Na: 7 ppm; SO4: 14 ppm; Cl: 141 ppm
MASH
67.0ºC (152.6ºF) for 60 minutes, mash out 75ºC (167ºF) for 5-10 minutes
BOIL
75 minutes

Vanilla beans and cinnamon stick soaked in vodka

In the morning of the brewday we boiled water to remove chlorine and we left it cooling until the afternoon, when we adjust the water profile adding calcium chloride as I previously mentioned. We mashed with 12 litres (3.17 gallons) of water and the crushed grain, stirring well before putting the lid on. Initial mash temperature was 67ºC (152.6ºF). After half an hour we open to stir the mash again and temperature had decreased to 65ºC (149ºF). After one hour the temperature had dropped to 63ºC (145.4ºF). While we stirred the mash one more time, we added 7.7 litres (2.03 gallons) of almost boiling water for the mash out, keeping a temperature of 75ºC (167ºF) for 5-10 minutes before we removed the bag with the grains. Pre-boil gravity was 1.041, a little bit higher than the theoretical one (1,036), probably due to a finer crush.

We made the hop additions showed in recipe above during the boil, and just after the last one, we added cocoa and lactose, stirring well to add dissolving both. After 75 minutes of boil, we started to cool the wort with our cooper immersion chiller. When the wort reached 19ºC (66.2ºF) we transferred it to a demijohn that we left in the fermentation chamber, set at 17.5ºC (63.5ºF), while we rehydrated the yeast. Maybe we should have boiled more vigorously because we ended with 1.5 litres (0.4 gallons) more than planned. That left us with a wort with an original gravity of 1.050, being the theoretical value 1.057. Not too much of a difference, but we have to keep on working to fine tune our equipment.

Chocolatastic Porter before bottling

Twelve hours after pitching yeast, fermentation was vigorous, with a good krausen formed. Cocoa aroma was evident, with a hazy appearance typical of active fermentations. Beer temperature was 18.5ºC (65.3ºF), with the fridge still set at 17.5ºC (63.5ºF). On the second day, krausen was even thicker and beer temperature was higher, 19.5ºC (67.1ºF). On the third day, fermentation signs started to disappear, the krausen was gone and beer temperature dropped to 18ºC (64.4ºF). We left it that way for a few days and, after two weeks from brewday, we transferred the beer to another demijohn to left some trub behind. We took a sample to taste it and it was quite good, with a pronounced bitterness and a more than evident cocoa flavour.

One week later we found some time to bottle. At this point, apart from adding sugar for carbonation in the bottles (enough sugar for 2.2 volumes of CO2), we added the vodka in which we had soaked the cinnamon stick and the vanilla beans. As you can see in picture above, the amount of vodka must be the minimum to cover whatever you want to use, so its effect is negligible in the final beer. We have tried this method of soaking in vodka several times with different ingredients and I think the result you get from it is pretty good. In this occasion, we kept the cinnamon stick and the vanilla beans in vodka for a whole week, and judging from the colour and aroma of the vodka it was more than enough. We bottled 27 bottles of 33 cL (12 oz), with a final gravity of 1.013 and an ABV of 4.9%. This FG was higher than normal due to the lactose we added, since this sugar cannot be fermented by the yeast we pitched. In future posts we will tell you the process for the other beer we brewed with the cocoa tablet (a Porter with tangerine juice) and the result for these two beers.

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Vossaøl tasting (Norwegian farmhouse ale fermented with kveik yeast)

This time last year, intrigued by reading several blogs, especially Larsblog, we decided to brew our first beer fermenting with kveik yeast. If this name doesn’t ring a bell, you can read our entry about brewing a vossaøl, a Norwegian farmhouse ale, emulating a traditional method. You should be able to find a lot of information about kveik there.

Our kveik fermented vossaøl between juniper bushes

First of all, let me clarify one thing. As you can see in the entry about the brewing of this beer, we split the wort in two. Each of them was fermented at slightly different range of temperatures, one of them at 30ºC-35ºC (86ºF-95ºF) and the other at 25ºC-30ºC (77ºF-86ºF). Once we tasted both beers, we weren’t able to find any differences between them, both were pretty similar beers at least for our palate. We even performed a triangle test with a friend and none of us was able to identify the unique sample. Taken this into account, the following characteristics should apply to both beers fermented at different range of temperatures.

Regarding appearance, although in picture above with juniper bushes the beer looks a little more dark and quite hazy, the thing is that this beer was light golden in color and more or less clear. Haziness in the picture was probably due to yeast in the bottom of the bottle and beer mixing due to movement. Below you can see another picture from the day we made the triangle test, so you can compare.

Triangle test with beers fermented at differente temperatures

After brewing the beer, we contacted Lars Marius Garshol to tell him about our experience and he told us that it was too clear compared with traditional examples, since those are usually amber in colour and that this was probably due to the boil time. Although we boiled for three hours, in this type of beer is not unusual to boil for four hours or more. In addition to this, since lautering takes quite a bit, some parts of wort are boiled form even 6-7 hours. According to Lars, this extra boil time is what justifies the difference in colour.

The leading role in aroma is without a doubt for juniper, with pine and citric notes. These citric notes, along some orange could also be due to the kveik yeast, according to what we had previously read about it, although we can’t be sure. No signs of malt here.

It has a low-medium body and high carbonation, with a very dry finish, almost champagne like, what makes it a very refreshing and easy to drink beer… if it wasn’t because of the powerful flavour of juniper, that predominates even more than in aroma. This flavour is something you either love it or hate it. It is a very characteristic flavour, a mix of pine, resin and citric notes, with a gin-like bitterness. When we brewed it we wonder if the amount of juniper was too much, and once we had finished all the bottles we can say that happened to be true. If we brew this recipe again we’ll lower the amount of juniper for sure. But there’s more, some malt shows timidly and some orangey notes are also appreciable, maybe related to the kveiv yeast. One thing I would like to point out is that, despite the high temperatures of fermentation, there are no defects or off-flavours of any kind, confirming us that this type of yeast are something special.

A lot of people was able to taste this beer, with mixed reactions. Some people liked it and others couldn’t even finish the beer. I personally didn’t dislike it. Even with the strong juniper flavour, which faded out with time, I drank quite a few bottles of this beer quite happy. The fact that it was very dry and easy to drink helped with that.

Without a doubt, brewing this vossaøl following a traditional method was a great experience. Brewing beer like they do in other parts of the world always contribute to broaden our knowledge about beer. We don’t know if we will brew a beer with this method again, since it takes a lot of time, but you never know.

On a final note, the best two things we got from this experience. First one, now we are more interested in working with kveik yeast than ever, particularly with no commercial strains, since those are purified strains. We would like to work with original strains, the same that they keep using in farms in Norway, which usually have more than one strain (some of them even some type of bacteria) and consequently contribute more complex characteristics to beer. And second, juniper. We had learn a lesson on how to use juniper in beer, especially about the amount to use. I think that on an adequate proportion can impart a lot of good things to several styles of beer.

 

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Cocoa tablet from raw cocoa beans

This entry was going to be part of a longer one on which I was going to write also about brewing two different Porter beers, but since it could be too long and hard to read, I decided to make three shorter different entries. Inspiration for this first one came after watching an online video from Stone Brewing about one of their beers, Xocoveza. Actually, the video was more about the story of one of the ingredients of that beer, cocoa.

Raw cocoa beans before roasting

In that video, Greg Koch, one of the co-founders of Stone Brewing, tells the story of cocoa used for Xocoveza, from its cultivation and production in Belize, until its processing in the Stone facilities and its addition during brewday. I thought it was pretty interesting, but it stayed there.

However, a few months later, I came across with another video, this time from a Spanish cooking blog, in which they described how to make home chocolate form raw cocoa beans. This new video made me remember the first one and I started thinking about the possibility of doing something similar at home. After wondering how it could be made for a while, I decided to do it, combining the information I thought was interesting from both videos.

Roasting at about 120ºC (248ºF), after 30 minutes (left) and after 60 minutes (right)

First thing I had to do was to find raw cocoa beans. It is not too difficult to find them, but they are not too easy to find either. Finally I found what I was looking for in a Portuguese online shop and, after ordering them, I received raw cocoa beans at home a few days later. However, a few weeks passed by until I was able to find some time to start with it. During those weeks, I researched some extra information about the matter and started to summarise what was useful from the videos I talked about.

Firstly, I put 400 g (0.88 lbs) of raw cocoa beans on an oven tray, evenly distributed. I had previously set the oven at 120º-125ºC (248ºF-257ºF). Once that temperature was reached, I put the tray with the beans into the oven and I kept it there for one hour, spreading them after half an hour looking for a uniform roasting.

Cocoa nibs

Once the beans were roasted, it was time to peel them, one by one. You must be patient because it takes some time. Here, I regretted the fact that I was doing this all by myself without any help. With some of the beans it was easy to separate the hull from the nibs, but others required more time and effort. Probably roasting at a higher temperature would have been a better option to make the hulls more friable. However, being the first time I was doing this, I preferred to be conservative with roasting temperature and time.

Precisely, one of the alleged advantages of this method is the versatility that gives playing with roasting time and temperature to get aromas and flavours as preferred. Next time I will probably keep the time of roasting but I will set the temperature a few degrees higher.

Cocoa paste

Anyway, cocoa aroma in the kitchen was awesome, and flavour from the roasted and peeled beans (nibs) was very strong. Next step was to grind these nibs. To do this, I used the always reliable Corona mil which we used to mill grains before we bought a roller mill. It should be taken into account that this step should be done with nibs at a warm temperature, since that way it is easier to form a cocoa paste. To get a suitable texture, I passed nibs three times through the mill, getting a soft cocoa paste as a result.

Cocoa tablet, ready to use in a brewday

I put this cocoa paste in a square shaped recipient used as a mould, which was kept in the fridge until next day to allow the cocoa paste to harden. Picture above shows the final result. From the 400 g (0.88 lbs) of raw cocoa beans I got a cocoa tablet of almost 300 g (0.66 lbs). So if you decide to try this at home one day, remember that you should account for a 25% weight loss during the process. As it could not have been otherwise, I took a little bit of this to taste it. It was quite bitter and full of cocoa flavour. In future entries we’ll tell you how we used it to brew two different Porters.

 

 

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Oat pale ale, taking inspiration from trips

I’m not going to deny it. Since I started homebrewing, every time I´ve had the opportunity of going on holiday, I´ve made some research on the local beers from the place I was going to visit and the pubs where I could drink them. This has become another attraction for those days. Of course, this also happened with the trip we made in October 2017 to Scotland, a country with a great brewing tradition. Among the beers we were able to taste, all of them of a considerable level, a few of them stood out.

We enjoyed Long White Cloud, the flagship pale ale from the always reliable Tempest Brewing Co, we drank from cask and bottle Gold and Red from the little Skye brewery, from the island of the same name; and we liked very much Green Hopped IPA from Dark Star Brew, with fresh “green” hops infused during conditioning. But if we had to choose one from all the beers we drank, we wouldn’t hesitate to pick Blønd from Pilot, a brewery from Leith, in the north of Edinburgh. We drank this beer for a dinner in a restaurant in Edinburgh and we loved it. Pale golden in color and quite hazy, it has a great tropical hop aroma and flavor, not too much bitterness and a really smooth mouthfeel. A beer to enjoy every sip. I looked for some information on brewery website and I found out that it was brewed with 50% of malted oats and that Amarillo and Galaxy were the hops used. I read also that it was only 4% ABV. Nowadays, this information has been removed from the website, I don’t know why, maybe a marketing decision.

Pilot Blønd label

Once we got back home from holidays, and while I was planning the next beers we were going to brew I remembered this Pilot Blønd and we decided to brew, if not a clone, at least a version of it. Based on information from the brewery we started to work on a recipe. First thing we did was to buy some malted oats, something we had never brewed with before. In particular, we made an order for naked malted oats, that were going to be 50% of the grist for the recipe. For the other 50% of the grain, we chose Pilsen malt from Dingemans we had at hand. For the hops, we didn’t have Galaxy or Amarillo, so we chose to use two varieties we had an amount enough for this recipe, East Kent Goldings for bittering and Citra in whirlpool and dry hop. The next step was to pick a yeast. Some time ago we had ordered three sacchets of Vermont IPA from Giga Yeast, the first of which we had used to brew our first NEIPA. Being a liquid yeast we didn’t want to risk them to spoil, so we decided we were going use that yeast for this oat pale ale. Finally, we had to decide our water treatment. I will explain it later, but we wanted to have a mash pH around 5.30 and a ratio sulfate:chloride of 1:1.

Citra pellet hops for whirlpool

Taking into account everything said until now, the recipe and the process summary looked like this:

OAT PALE ALE (PILOT BLØND VERSION)

MALTS/GRAINS
1.30 Kg (2.87 lbs) (50,0%) Pilsen base malt (Dingemans) (5.0 EBC)
1,30 Kg (2.87 lbs) (50,0%) naked malted oats (3.0 EBC)
HOPS
30.00 g (1.06 oz) East Kent Goldings (5.00% AA) leaf (boil 30 minutes, 28.4 IBUs)
50.00 g (1.76 oz) Citra (14.20% AA) pellets (whirpool 15 minutes, 34.8 IBUs)
50.00 g (1.76 oz) Citra (14.20% AA) pellets (dry hop, 6 days after pitching yeast, for 4 days)
YEAST
Vermont IPA (#GY054) from Giga Yeast (2 golden pitch sacchets, ptiched directly without starter)
THEORETICAL DATA
Volume: 10.5 L (2.77 gallons)     OG: 1.044     FG: 1.010     ABV: 4.4%     IBUs: 63.2     Color: 7.5 EBC     BU/GU: 1.451     Efficiency: 65.00%
WATER PROFILE
Ca: 114 ppm; Mg: 3 ppm; Na: 7 ppm; SO4: 143 ppm; Cl: 147 ppm
MASH
68.9ºC (156ºF) for 60 minutes, mash out 75ºC (167ºF) for 5 minutes
BOIL
60 minutes

Oat pale ale, 48 hours after brewday

In the morning of the brewday we boiled about 18 liters (3.96 gallons) of water to evaporate chlorine. In the afternoon, we milled the grain and we added 50 mL of sulfuric acid 1 N and about 12 mL of 33% of calcium chloride to adjust mash pH and get the water profile shown above. With the water heated at the corresponding temperature, we added the grain slowly, stirring continuously to prevent grain clumps. We put the lid on with the mash at a temperature of 69.8ºC (157.6ºF). We mashed for one hour, opening the lid after the first 30 minutes to stir the grain again. After one hour, the mash temperature had dropped to 65ºC (149ºF). We turn the induction plate on to raise the temperature to about 75ºC (167ºF) for the mash out, stirring one more time. We removed the bag with the grain and heated the wort to boil. We took a sample to measure the pre-boil gravity, 1.030, the same of the theoretical value.

Half an hour into the boiling we added 30 g (1.06 oz) of East Kent Goldings for bittering and when the boil was finished we turned off heat and we added 50 g of Citra that smelled really great when opening the packet, something that it is not always the case. We kept these Citra hops for 15 minutes and the temperature of the wort went from 94ºC (201.2ºF) at the beginning to 87ºC (188.6ºF) at the end of that time. Then we remove hops and started to cool the wort with our cooper chiller, keeping the first liters of water to use them for cleaning. Since the tap water was quite cold (it was December), the wort reached 17.5ºC (63.5ºF) in a few minutes. We transferred the wort to an 11.5 liters (3 gallons) PET demijohn, which we shook to oxygenate wort as much as we could. Original gravity was lower than expected (1.038 vs 1.045) because the evaporation was lower than which we had planned. We pitched directly two sachets of Vermont Ale Yeast from Giga Yeast because they had some time and maybe one of them was not enough. As we had a gose we had previously brewed in the fermentation chamber at a different temperature that the one we wanted for our oat pale ale, we left the demijohn in a bathroom which a steady temperature of about 18ºC-19ºC (64.4ºF-66.2ºF).

Oat Pale Ale just before bottling

Next day, 20 hours after pitching yeast there were no signs of fermentation. Since the fermentation chamber was empty then, we put the demijohn in it, setting a temperature of 18.5ºC (65.3ºF). The activity in the airlock started slowly after 48 hours, increasing its intensity with time. Beer temperature was 19ºC (66.2ºF). By the third day, the airlock activity was frantic and a thin krausen was forming. On the fourth day the airlock activity was almost nonexistent and the krausen was gone. After another two days without apparent activity we added the dry hop charge, 50 g (1.76 oz) of Citra pellest that still smelled like heaven, which gave us hope that this beer would result in something good. Four days later we removed hops and we lower the temperature gradually for 48 hours until it reached 15ºC (59ºF), to clear the beer somehow, although the great amount of malted oats as well as the hops used for dry hop kept the beer with a hazy appearance at that point. This haziness was something characteristic of the beer we were trying to emulate, so no worries.

After three days at 15ºC (59ºF), in the morning of that day we removed the demijohn from the fermentation chamber and we left it in the kitchen to bottle in the afternoon. Final gravity was 1.016, a little bit high (our NEIPA with the same yeast finished at 1.015), with a final ABV of 2.9%. A value a little off from the one we had planned, but nothing to worry about. We added sugar, boiled with a little water and cooled, enough to get about 2.4 volumes of CO2 and we bottled around 9.24 liters (2.44 gallons), 28 bottles of 33 cL. While we were bottling, we took a sample to taste it and it had a really good aroma from dry hopping, as well as a nice flavor, with a nice clean bitterness. This made us be optimistic regarding the final result, once the beer was carbonated. At bottling, the look of the beer was very similar to Blønd from Pilot Beer. In a next entry we will talk about how the beer turned out and if it met our expectations.

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Spent grain walnut biscotti

Those of you who are regular readers of this blog may already know that, once in a while, we use spent grain from brewdays as an ingredient in some cooking recipes. Specifically, we already told you how to cook a veggie burger with spent grain. In that entry you have all the information you need to dry and store your spent grain. Once the grain is dry you have two options. One is to keep it without further processing and another one is to mill the grain to get a spent grain flour. This last option is the one we needed for the recipe we are about to tell you about, a spent grain walnut biscotti. It is something between a sponge cake and a biscuit. To mill the dry grain we used a Corona mill.

Wheat flour and spent grain flour

The recipe for this biscotti, as well as the one for the veggie burger, is based in an original recipe described in the Spent Grain Chef section of Brooklyn Brewshop website, although it has some minor differences. While in the original recipe almonds are added, we chose to use walnuts because we already had them and we also prefer them over almonds. The list of ingredients is as follows:

SPENT GRAIN WALNUT BISCOTTI

1 cup spent grain flour
1 cup wheat flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
0.25 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon butter
A dash of orange liqueur
2 eggs
0.75 cups sugar
0.5 cups of walnuts, sliced
0.25 cups bitersweet chocolate, chopped

Chopped chocolate, sliced walnuts and sugar

The base of this recipe are the two types of flour, from wheat and spent grain, in equal amounts. Both are mixed in a bowl with a pich of salt and baking powder. Apart from this, sugar, butter and orange liqueur are mixed in a blender. Once these ingredients are well mixed, add and beat an egg at a time. Next, add the mix of flours to the blender in thirds, beating between additions until blended to form the dough.

From top to bottom, left to right: mix of sugar, orange liqueur, butter and eggs; final dough; dough loaf before freezing and biscotti loaf after 30 minutes at 180ºC (356ºF)

Finally, to finish the dough, add sliced walnuts and chopped chocolate, mixing well with your hands or a spatula. Once you have the dough, form a log with it and wrap in plastic wrap to put it the freezer for an hour. After this time, remove loaf from the freezer and preheat the oven at 180ºC (356ºF). Once this target temperature is reached, put the loaf in the oven on a baking parchment and bake for 30 minutes. Then, remove it from oven and let it cool for another 30 minutes.

Spent grain walnut biscotti, final result

Finally, reduce oven temperature to 120ºC (248ºF), cut loaf into 1.0-1.5 cm (0.5 inches) thick slices, put them again into the oven and bake for additional 20-30 minutes. Be careful when making slices so they don’t break into pieces.

I’ve cooked this recipe several times and it is very tasty, eaten for breakfast or for dessert. The fact of being baked twice and spent grain flour give it a very interesting texture. Also, chocolate, orange liqueur and walnuts make a very nice mix of flavours. I guess you could try this recipe without spent grain flour, but I doubt the result would be so good. I encourage you to cook this biscotti, in my opinion, is a safe bet. Furthermore, you can keep it for example in a glass jar for at least a week without problems. If you decide to cook it, please share your experience with us. And if you have any doubt, don’t hesitate to post them in the comments section.

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Tasting our Kölsch 2017

After posting with the entries about our trip to Western Germany, where we visited Cologne and Dussseldorf to taste their famous beer styles, it is the turn for the tasting of one of our beers with which we tried to recreate one of those beer styles, a kölsch we already told you about its elaboration in this post.

Kölsch 2017

In terms of appearance, the Kölsch 2017 is up to par with the ones we could taste in our trip to Cologne. With a nice golden colour, it’s crystal clear as you can see in the above picture, and a white head of medium persistence. In respect to the clarity of the beer, as you could see in our post about brewing this kölsch, we didn’t add any fining or clarifying agent during all the process. This confirm us that to get a good clarity the key is time, something you can shorten with low temperatures, not being strictly necessary to add any other substances to fine or clarify (irish mosh, gelatin,…).

Before commenting aroma and flavor, a quick note. 17 days after bottling the beer, with enough time to carbonate, we put all the bottles in the fridge and that same day we open the first bottle due to the “homebrewer yearning” sickness. Well, this first bottle, remember it has been only about 3 hours in the fridge, had a considerable sulfide aroma and flavor. The information about the yeast we used in the Giga Yeast website says that this particular strain produces a moderate amount of sulfide… that luckily will dissipate completely with time. So we left the bottles in the fridge, at about 6ºC (42.8ºF), for 3 weeks before opening another bottle. Take this into account if you use this strain to brew a kölsch.

After this time in cold storage, there was no trace of sulfide in the aroma. Instead, a nice subtle fresh hop aroma was present. Carbonation was medim-high, with a crisp finish. In terms of flavor, sulfide is also gone, and malt and hops are in a very nice balance with a subtle fruity touch and low-medium bitterness. All of this, plus the fact that it is clean and dry, make it a very drinkable beer. We had enjoyed it very much, but it had changed for the worse through time, losing hop aroma and flavour, and with an unidentified strange flavour that we don’t know where it comes from.

We are glad with the results, although evidently it is not in the same level as the wonderful kölsch you can taste in Cologne. However, we consider it a good approximation. For those of you interested in brewing it, you must remember the thing with the sulfide if you plan to use the same or other similar strain (time and patience) and try to drink it as fresh as possible because, at least the one we brewed, it doesn’t stand well the test of time. We will probably brew this style in the future due to the fact that it is a very drinkable beer and we like it a lot. We won’t make a lot of changes with grains and hops, but we will maybe play with other yeast strains, for example Fermentis K-97, that left us a very good impression in our gose with apricots (the post about the tasting of this beer will arrive soon).

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A trip to the cradle of Kölsch and Altbier beers – Second part: Dusseldorf

After the first part about Cologne and its Kölsch, we resume our trip to the west of Germany last autumn with the second part, dedicated to Dusseldorf and its reference beer style, Altbier. As we made with the first entry on the trip, first we’ll give you some notes and impressions about the city. Then, we’ll focus on beer, describing the general characteristics of the beer style and expressing our opinion on the different Altbier we were able to enjoy during our day in this city.

Panoramic view of Dusseldorf

Located about 20-30 minutes from Cologne by train, depending on the train you catch, Dusseldorf seems to be a quiet and modern city, maybe with a little less tourism than Cologne, which doesn’t mean that you are not going to meet a lot of visitors walking through the Altstadt, the old town of the city. Although Dusseldorf doesn’t have a magnet for tourists like the cathedral of Cologne, the attractions of the city are distributed in several areas with the Rhin River as an axis of all of them. From its Altstadt, full of restaurants and picturesque corners, a walk near the river passing next to the tall television tower, sometimes the symbol of the city, to the old Dusseldorf harbour is a very pleasant experience. This old harbour, nowadays dismantled, has been restructured in an interesting mix of apartments and office buildings, including some apartment buildings designed by Frank Gehry and some other old buildings which has been restored even with some pieces of modern art. It’s a pity that we could only spent a journey in the city, I’m sure there will be more opportunities to come back in the future.

Coasters from the 4 brewery pubs we visited in Dusseldorf.

Focusing now on beer, we got the impression that Altbier, although very prominent, it not as omnipresent as Kölsch in Cologne. This doesn’t mean that Altbier brewery pubs are not up to par with the ones in Cologne. There are similarities between both types, as the decoration and charm of all of them. The family atmosphere and the feeling of being regular gathering places are also common factors.

With regard to beer, Altbier is a clean and usually dry beer, fermented with a specific ale yeast which is able to ferment vigorously at relatively low temperatures for ale strains. So far, more or less like Kölsch. However, you just need to take a look to one Altbier to notice the main difference between both beer styles. Altbier, with a light to dark amber colour, give more presence to malty flavours with the use of darker malts. Bitterness is variable and they don’t usually have hop aroma.

As with Kölsch in the nearby city, it is usual for Altbier to be served by gravity from wooden casks, with servers replacing empty glasses for full glasses until you decide to stop, noting little marks on the coaster with the drinks consumed. The glass in which Altbier is served is also different from the traditional Stangen used to serve Kölsch, with a little more capacity, 25 cL. We don’t know if it is due to this extra volume, but the price of one glass of Altbier is slightly more expensive than one glass of Kölsch, around 1.90€-2.05€ depending on the place.

The last part of this post is going to be dedicated to give descriptions and express my impressions about the beers we tasted and the traditional places where we drank them. As in the post with the first part of the trip, I’ve organized the beers from the ones I enjoyed most to the ones I enjoyed less. Anyway, I must say all of them were pretty good.

Schlüssel

Zum Schlüssel brewery was established in 1850 and nowadays is a subsidiary of a larger brewery located also in Düsseldorf, which in turn is owned by other larger German brewery, which itself is owned by the even larger Carlsberg Brewery in Denmark. As all of the Altbier breweries described here, the beer is brewed on premises. The brewery pub is located in the Altstadt and it is restrained, looking like a typical German brewery pub. The place is full of tables to drink standing up or, especially, seated. Its Altbier is dark amber in colour, clean and very malty, finishing with a very nice sweet touch that I loved.

Schumacher

Schumacher is the oldest Altbier brewery in Dusseldorf, established in the Altstadt in 1838, although it moved to a more spacious place near the train station in 1871, leaving a smaller pub in the Altstadt. Schumacher is still an independent private company. The place is similar to the one from Schlüssel, maybe bigger and with more decoration, with hop plants and paintings about beer motives giving a nice view. Its Altbier is copper in colour, with some hop presence, clean and dry, similar to the one from Schlüssel but with a less sweet finish.

Füchschen

Füchschen brewery looks like a restaurant more than the other places. Opened in 1848, it seems less spacious than others due to the fact that there is less space between tables. We had read about the food being good here, so this was the place we chose to regain strength. And we certainly did it! Satisfying and tasty dishes, good prices, totally recommended… if you are able to find a seat. Its Altbier is probably the lightest in colour of the four and it is similar to the two previous ones, being in middle of both. Sweeter than the one from Schumacher and less sweet than the one from Schlüssel, less bitter than the first and more bitter than the latter. It is, like all of them, a clean and easy to drink beer.

Uerige

Uerige was our first stop to drink beer in Dusseldorf and we loved the place. Probable was the most beautiful of all the beer places we visited, including the ones in Cologne. This place is very charming and it exhales tradition. Regarding its beer, it is the most different of all the Altbier we tasted. It is by far the most bitter Altbier and it has some toasted touches probably from darker grains. It was the Altbier I enjoyed the less, but it could be possible that the fact that we were used to drink Kölsch the previous days had something to do with this. Anyway, an easy to drink beer, as all the previous ones.

With this second part, we finished the story about our trip to Cologne and Dusseldorf. As a final note, I have only one more thing to say. No matter if you travel to Cologne or Dusseldorf, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the nearby city. Train connections are frequent and it doesn’t take a lot of time to travel from one city to the other. Both cities and their beers are worth the trip. Until next time. Prost!

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