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2014 Muscadine Wine Tasting

Muscadine Wine, my first wine, bottled October 2014

Muscadine Wine, my first wine, bottled October 2014

My last taste of this wine was a little over a year ago, in February 2015. It was my first attempt at wine. I began the batch with foraged muscadine grapes in August of 2014 and was bottled about 2 months later. The ABV, if I read the hydrometer correctly, was right on 16%. It was fairly hot at bottling. I opened a bottle in February, 2015 when it was about 3-1/2 months in the bottle and the notes were basically that it was still kind of hot, but had a nice color, light body, and fairly dry flavor that I would not have guessed was muscadine.

It is now March 4, 2016, so the wine has been bottled for almost a year and a half. While still slightly warm with alcohol and a little tannin, the nose and color are still nice and the body light. The thing that really jumps out immediately, though, is that the flavor has very noticeably softened. It is definitely more drinkable now! I don’t expect muscadine wine to last a decade, but this one is improving and I think it may benefit from even a little more time…but I have no idea when it will “peak” or turn the corner and head downhill. Tonight, however, I’m having a glass of wine that I’m pretty happy with!

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Racking Jackfruit Cider to Secondary

Racking jackfruit cider

Racking jackfruit cider

Fermentation on the jackfruit cider has finally slowed dramatically…possibly finished. I seem to be a bit short on containers, but I worked it out. I racked from under the fruit and from the fermentation bucket to a big, glass dispenser.

An unorthadox container and a little simple  filtration

An unorthadox container and a little simple filtration

Then I racked from the glass dispenser to a gallon size jug and the rest into a 1/2 gallon jug (which is only about half full).

Sitting in secondary to clear

Sitting in secondary to clear

Once fairly clear, I’ll rack again for bulk aging and eliminate as much head space as possible.

Currently, the smell is fairly strong and not very appealing. The flavor is very hot with plenty of alcohol. The fruit turned pretty slimey and nasty.

Limp, slimey, fermented jackfruit

Limp, slimey, fermented jackfruit

I don’t know how this will be in the long run, but I will age the heck out of it and maybe it’ll turn into something interesting…maybe even good!

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Racking Yooper’s Gingerbread Oatmeal Stout

Equipment for racking

Equipment for racking

Racking time for Yooper’s Gingerbread Oatmeal Stout. Because there is trub, grated ginger, spices and half a vanilla bean in the mix, I’m filtering out any bigger particles with a santized nylon mesh bag. I tied the bag onto the tip of the siphon’s tube.

Filter bag tied in place.

Filter bag tied in place.

The racking went smoothly. I was considering bottling today; however, I though I saw a bubble in the airlock after I finished racking and sealed the new container. I’m going to give it some more time, just because I don’t want to rush it.

I did take a hydrometer sample and the SG is actually below the regular stout that I already bottled. A little nervous about that, but there is more going on here that can account for it. The original version finished at 1.019 and the gingerbread version is at 1.016.

Hydrometer sample. 1.015 @ 70F=1.016

Hydrometer sample. 1.015 @ 70F=1.016

The color is a little light for the style, but not a problem for me…it’s not going into a competition. The clarity looks pretty good. Currently, the aroma is strong fresh ginger. The flavor is initially dominated by the fresh ginger, too. The flavor turns more gingerbread in the finish. It’s not sweet…which is good. I didn’t want to create a sweet beer. I believe there is potential for a nice brew here. I think the ginger will fall back with age and bottle conditioning and allow the vanilla and other spice notes to come through.

Sippin' sample!

Sippin’ sample!

A little more trub in the bucket than I expected…smell was amazing, though!

Trub, ginger, spices, vanilla bean half.

Trub, ginger, spices, vanilla bean half.

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Bottling Day! Yooper’s Oatmeal Stout and a Little Cider

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Left: cider. Right: Yooper’s Oatmeal Stout.

 

Okay, so somehow I was thinking 3.8 gallons on the Yooper’s Oatmeal Stout (plain), instead of 2.8 gallons. So, I overestimated the number of bottles and caps I needed. More importantly, I overestimated the amount of corn sugar I needed for priming. Since I have had some overcarbonated batches in the past, I was hoping to go on the low side of the scale (1.7 vols) for this batch. Instead, I wound up in the mid-range (2.0 vols). Unfortunately, all the work and high hopes for this batch may have just been ruined by a mental fart. I’m sure it will be drinkable, but is much more likely to overcarb now, based on my history. I’ll try to get it right on the gingerbread flavored batch when I bottle it.

The 4.59% ABV is a little lower than the 4.85% expected, but no problem. The hydrometer came out at 1.021…a tad higher than anticipated, but it had not really changed in awhile, so it should be done. Looks good, smells good, and tastes good.

I wound up with 29 bottles and the last one was a ounce or so short. I marked that one with an “X”, so I would know to use it first. All bottles are marked “YOS”. Additionally, I have 9 bottles capped with “Oxygen Absorbing” caps. I was short on regular caps and my closest local home brew shop isn’t open today; plus, I was planning on cellaring a number of bottles anyway, to see how well they age.

Finally, I had a half gallon of cider to bottle. This is my little experimental batch of White House brand “Fresh Pressed” apple cider and East Coast Ale yeast. The color and clarity are good. Strangely, it appeared to be holding some carbonation in the carboy. Was my airlock stuck somehow? The last bottle was a little short, so I have 4 bottled and one uncapped and in the refrigerator. I may have to give this batch just a few days at room temperature and then refrigerate it. Not enough to mess with pasteurizing. The flavor is a little tart and a little sweet, but a tad bland, in general. I have heard of people dropping a pellet of hops in a bottle…hmmm. I think I’ll do that with the open one and try it!

So, I added a little fresh cider to top off the short bottle and dropped a couple Kent Golding pellets in the bottle and capped it. I’ll leave it at room temperature. Adding the cider should effectively prime and slightly sweeten the finished product.

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Day 163 Tasting Fermentation Samples

 

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale, just a little evidence of activity on top.

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale, just a little evidence of activity on top.

This evening, I replaced the blow-off tubes on the fermentation bucket and one gallon carboy of McQuinn’s Robust Porter. While I was at it, I decided to take a small sample of the  Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale and the porter. I am trying to continue learning to evaluate the potential of a beer “in process” by looking at, smelling and tasting  samples. It continues to be a challenge, as I learn how the different styles of beer are supposed to look, taste, and smell.

I am more familiar with some than others. I have preferences that affect my evaluation. These are challenges that I need to work on. For instance, I have never had a Scottish pumpkin ale. I have had a few pumpkin ales and a couple of Scottish Ales, but not enough of either to evaluate them beyond my own opinion. The same goes for the porter. I don’t think I have had a porter since I started homebrewing. I have brewed a couple of stouts and a couple of nut brown ales, but this is my first porter. And the stouts and browns were extract brews, not whole grain.

That being said, the Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale looks like it will be okay to bottle this weekend. There was just a little evidence of fermentation…just about done. (see above photo) The color is a nice amber and it appears to be fairly clear.

Scottish pumpkin ale sample held to light. Nice.

Scottish pumpkin ale sample held to light. Nice.

The alcohol is forward in the smell and flavor; however, the aroma has a nice spice component and the flavor and body are very good. I expect the alcohol warmth will tone down in the bottle conditioning process and the flavor will shine through a little more. The spice and pumpkin are not overpowering, but are well balanced. Now I just have to imagine getting the carb right. So, while I don’t have any experience tasting a Scottish pumpkin ale, I can reasonably predict that this brew should be pretty amazing. (I hope I’m right!)

As for McQuinn’s Robust Porter, I’ve done a little research on the style and I think I have an idea what it should be like when ready to drink. At this point though, with only a few days in fermentation, it’s hard to make a judgement. I think the color is in the right range, the aroma is pretty good…I get the roasty grains.

Porter with a little light...obviously still murky. But it's promising!

Porter with a little light…obviously still murky. But it’s promising!

A small sample of McQuinn's Robust Porter.

A small sample of McQuinn’s Robust Porter.

I enjoyed the taste, but it’s so early, it’s hard to get where it will end up. I feel pretty confident that it will from the one gallon glass carboy, using a sanitized baster, without the rubber bulb. When I opened the top, the was a mass, resulting from the krausen, in the neck that appears to have drained and dried out somewhat. When I tried to go through it for the sample, it dropped into the beer. I assume it will disintegrate and settle as part of the trub.

I still have my crab apple/pear/apple cider bulk aging  and I anticipate that continuing for a couple of months. I also have my muscadine wine bulk aging and I think I may be bottling that within a week or two.

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Day 161 Bottling Caramel Cider

Caramel Apple Cider

Caramel Apple Cider

Caramel Apple Cider…this little batch is going to be my best flavored cider ever. It will be still, rather than sparkling. I bottled 12 bottles from a gallon carboy plus a 22 oz bomber that have both been sitting in tertiary for a while to clear.

I racked the two containers both into a 2 gallon bucket, to combine and then racked from there into bottles.

Bottling from a 2 gallon bucket.

Bottling from a 2 gallon bucket.

The color is beautiful and clear amber. The taste is smooth and sweet, but not cloying. This batch was made with a combination of Pink Cripps apples and crab apples with a little molasses, a couple sticks of cinnamon and several cloves. The OG was 1.102 and the FG is 1.014, and the ABV is 11.55%. I look forward to seeing what this little batch tastes like in a couple of months…I may even hold back a couple of bottles until this time next year! With the high ABV and being so smooth already, this could be a dangerous drink!

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Day 160 Racking Crab Apple/Pear/Cripps/Ginger Gold Cider for Long Term and Pumpkin Ale

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I needed to free up a fermentation bucket, and the cider that I made from crab apples, pears, Pink Cripps and Ginger Gold apples looked pretty clear, so that’s the one I decided to deal with. I racked from the 5 gallon glass carboy into a bottling bucket. From there, I racked to four 1/2 gallon glass carboys, filled to leave as little head space as possible, and capped. These containers were moved to an out of the way dark corner for bulk conditioning/aging.

I wasn’t too aggressive in getting every last drop, since I knew I was nowhere near having enough to fill another container. As a result, I got a good hydrometer sample and a little drinking glass sample. After I took and SG reading, both samples went into the refrigerator for additional tasting later. The immediate taste at room temperature pleasantly seems to have eased up on the tannin astringency that I tasted last time I was able to try a sample. It still needs some time, but it’s pretty nice. It also packs a wallop! The OG for this batch was 1.097 and it is currently at 0.993, which I’m confident will be the FG. That puts the cider at 13.65% ABV! Whew!

I also racked my Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale to the big glass carboy for some final clearing and making sure it’s absolutely finished fermenting before I bottle it.

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale.

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale.

I have still seen a bubble in the airlock up until recently and I don’t want to rush it. I really want to nail the carb on this beer. If I do, I think it’s going to be phenomenal! The body if full, the aroma is awesome, the spice is well blended and not overpowering. Love the color…it does, as my son suggested when he smelled it, remind me of a ginger snap cookie, but not as sweet.

Sample for checking SG with a hydrometer. (And for tasting!)

Sample for checking SG with a hydrometer. (And for tasting!)

The ABV is 7.74% and my volume is only 4 gallons. This may horrify some homebrewers, but I would rather sacrifice a tiny amount of alcohol by volume and have 5 gallons, instead of 4, so I added a gallon of bottled Culligan water. I’m having samples of the cider and the ale as I write this and I’m very happy…and have a nice little warm feeling. >grin<

Samples: Pumpkin left, cider right.

Samples: Pumpkin left, cider right.

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