Monthly Archives: December 2011

Homemade Sourdough Pretzels

It’s not really beer, but it’s sort of related, right?

I’ve been talking the big talk about how I’m going to learn to make my own soft pretzels, and yesterday, I did. It took a bit of searching online to try to find some consistency in recipes, and in the end, I borrowed a bit from here and there, as none of them really gave me what I wanted.
sourdough-starterI began with a fed sourdough starter – meaning I took it out of the refrigerator and bled it and fed it each day from Tuesday until Friday, on which day, I made a dough from 5.5 cups of flour, the 2 cup starter, and 1 cup of hot water mixed with 2 Tbs of margarine, 3 Tbs of brown sugar, and 2 tsp salt. It made a really stiff dough, and there was a lot left on the counter when I was done. I need to work on getting more of the flour in the dough next time.

I let it rise all day, giving it about 8 hours to rise. I ended up putting it down by our wood stove to give it some more heat, I think at 68F it would have taken all night too.
finished-sourdough-pretzelsAfter rising, I cut the dough into egg-sized balls, which we then rolled out into the standard pretzel shapes. These were boiled in water that had a hefty amount of baking soda added, and I boiled each pretzel for at least 60 seconds (I wanted them really chewy). Be careful when you do this – they like to try to stick to the bottom of the pot. They were then heavily salted, and placed on cookie sheets.

They were then baked at 450F for 30 minutes, approximately. Recipes varied with time, so I checked on them every 10-15 minutes.

They cooled on a rack, and we devoured them with great delight, slathered with mustard.

To sum up:

  • 2C fed starter
  • 1 C hot water mixed with
    • 2 T margarine (or butter)
    • 3 T brown sugar
    • 2 t salt
  • 5.5 C flour

Boil each pretzel for 30 seconds (or more) after floating. Salt, then bake at 450F for 25-30 minutes.

Brewday: American Saison

I’ve had a long-term love/hate relationship with Belgian beers, but this year I fell in love with Saisons. They’re often everything you don’t find in a typical Belgian beer, hoppy, dry and bitter [Note: I know there are some Belgian beers like this, calm down]. I made a Saison last fall (2010) with the Wyeast 3711 strain, and found it enjoyable, but nothing like the ECY03 strain. I made an admittedly over-the-top Saison this summer (be careful with your ABV calculations with a beer that attenuates 90%+), which was really good once the heat of the summer went away, and since that keg kicked, I’ve been planning it’s return.

This summer’s Saison was around 8% ABV, which is too big for me, especially in the summer, so today’s Saison is targeted for 5.4%. The Saison I made this summer was bittered with Columbus hops, and dry-hopped with Centennial. Today’s was bittered with Centennial, and got a flameout addition of Centennial and Amarillo. I’m planning to keg-hop it with whole-leaf Cascade hops, but we’ll see about that when it comes time to keg.

Since East Coast Yeast is so hard to find, I made sure to save my yeast from this summer, and last week I washed it and made a starter. Sure enough, there was life in the starter after less than 24 hours. I crashed and decanted, then fed it with some cooled second runnings this morning to wake it back up. That yeast did not disappoint, and within an hour there was a krausen forming in the starter.

As there’s Brettanomyces in this particular blend of microbes, I’m not sure how long I’m going to let it sit in primary before packaging it, only my nose can tell. I’m looking for a little Brett character, but not too much.
american-saison-brewdayToday also marked the first brewday with outdoor temps below freezing. It was 10ºF outside when I started, and we peaked at around 20ºF mid-day, which didn’t do me much good, because by then, I was trying to use the outdoor ambient temps to cool my wort. A good reminder that I need to get a manageable hose set up indoors to run my wort chiller through the seemingly longest season of the year in Maine. The steam dumping out of the boil kettle is from wort that’s not even close to boiling yet.

Recipe: 2011 Saison w/Brett (ECY03)
Style: 16C-Belgian And French Ale-Saison

Recipe Overview

Wort Volume Before Boil: 7.0 US gals
Wort Volume After Boil: 5.25 US gals
Volume At Pitching: 5.25 US gals
Final Batch Volume: 5.0 US gals
Expected Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.041 SG
Expected OG: 1.051 SG
Expected FG: 1.010 SG
Expected ABV: 5.4 %
Expected ABW: 4.3 %
Expected IBU (using Daniels): 44.5
Expected Color: 5 SRM
Apparent Attenuation: 79.9 %
Mash Efficiency: 70.0 %
Boil Duration: 60.0 mins
Fermentation Temperature: 76 degF

German Wheat Malt 4lb 3oz (41.1 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Pale Ale Malt 4lb 0oz (39.2 %) In Mash/Steeped
German Munich Malt 2lb 0oz (19.6 %) In Mash/Steeped

US Centennial (8.5 % alpha) 0.75 oz Loose Pellet Hops used First Wort Hopped
US Centennial (8.5 % alpha) 0.75 oz Loose Pellet Hops used 15 Min From End
US Amarillo (5.0 % alpha) 1.80 oz Loose Whole Hops used 1 Min From End

Yeast: East Coast Yeast 03 – Farmhouse Saison

Mash Schedule
Mash Type: Full Mash
Schedule Name:Single Step Infusion (66C/151F)
Step: Rest at 151 degF for 90 mins

12/25/11: Gravity reading of 1.004 (92.5% attenuation)
12/26/11: Kegged with 1/2 cup priming sugar

Tasting: Old Ale


Last December I brewed the first beer I’ve ever intended for really long-term aging, an Old Ale. This recipe is based on the recipe that was built on HomeBrewTalk for their 11-11-11 swap beer. The idea is to have lots of people brew the same recipe, and to swap it in a year with other people to see how similar or different they are. As I modified the recipe, I didn’t enter in the bottle swap.

Appearance – Crystal clear, burnt gold color, with a bright white head that subsides fairly quickly.

Smell – Wow, this is when you know it’s not your average beer in hand. Loads of oak and vanilla in the nose, along with sweet caramel notes, and a bit of aged aroma (mustiness?).

Taste – More oak and vanilla, some fruitiness – raisins and dates, as well as sweet caramel. The brett comes through a little more, though the oak is really dominating at it’s current age. It’ll be interesting to see how this changes with time. Alcohol hits at the finish, but it’s very, very smooth for 12% ABV, but you can tell this one’s got a kick.

Mouthfeel – Low carbonation, which works well for the booze. The low finishing gravity keep the caramel notes from getting too sweet, which makes this one a really nice sipper.

Drinkability & Notes – Really pleased with the results of this batch. The oak is a little much right now, it’s hard to get past

Tasting: No Sparge Oatmeal Stout


I’m going to make an effort to review more of my beers online, as I’ve posted a lot of recipes, but never any follow up after that. Well, rarely.

I brewed an Oatmeal Stout in November, trying for the first time the no-sparge method described in Brewing Better Beers by Gordon Strong. This recipe is one of the recipes he put together for this method. As always, I simplified the recipe to meet my own inventory, but it’s pretty close.

Wort Volume Before Boil: 6.08 US gals
Wort Volume After Boil: 5.28 US gals
Volume At Pitching: 5.28 US gals
Final Batch Volume: 5.02 US gals
Expected Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.048 SG
Expected OG: 1.055 SG
Expected FG: 1.013 SG
Expected ABV: 5.5 %
Expected IBU (using Daniels): 28.6
Expected Color: 45.4 SRM
Mash Efficiency: 50.0 %
Fermentation Temperature: 64 degF

UK Pale Ale Malt 12lb 0oz (75.0 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Flaked Oats 1lb 8oz (9.4 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Medium Crystal 1lb 0oz (6.2 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Chocolate Malt 12.00 oz (4.7 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Roasted Barley 8.00 oz (3.1 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Light Crystal 4.00 oz (1.6 %) In Mash/Steeped

UK Golding (5.5 % alpha) 0.80 oz Loose Pellet Hops used First Wort Hopped
UK Golding (5.5 % alpha) 0.60 oz Loose Pellet Hops used 30 Min From End

Yeast: London Ale III

Appearance – Dark, dark black, slightly red at the edges, but hard to find in a standard glass. A nice, rich head shows up. I like most of my beers carbonated to a British standard, meaning low, so the head that does come out isn’t really huge, but it would be if you carbed it to American standards.

Smell – The aroma is rich chocolate and coffee, with a little bit of fruitiness from the yeast. Very enticing.

Taste – The flavor really delivers on what the aroma hints at, but with none of the sharp roastiness that you normally get in a stout. This is because of another one of Gordon Strong’s recommendations, which is not to mash the dark roasted grains, just to add them in at vorlauf. The malt really comes through, and while I don’t know for sure, I’d say the intensity of the flavor is a factor of the no-sparge. I’ll have to make it again with a standard batch sparge to know for certain.

Mouthfeel – Solid carbonation, but not too much, which makes for a real easy drinker. The substantial amount of oats in the recipe make for a very full body, despite it’s relatively standard gravity. A nice session beer.

Drinkability & Notes – Really pleased with the results of this batch. There is not much I would change if I brewed it again, other than to try making it with a standard process, to see how much difference the no-sparge method really makes.