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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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Day 131 Making My First Starter!

 

I’m planning on purchasing supplies tomorrow to make a Citra Saison and attend a “class” put on by SouthYeast Labs. So this evening, I’m trying to make a yeast starter from the Belle Saison yeast that I’m hoping to have successfully harvested recently. I prepared a small wort using a half cup of old liquid extra pale liquid malt and a quart of water. I boiled the wort for ten minutes. The SG is about 1.045. After the boil, I cooled the wort to about 85F and transferred it to a sanitized half gallon carboy, into which I had sprinkled about a half teaspoon of yeast nutrient. Of course, all utensils are sanitized.

Small batch of wort plus a little yeast nutrient.

Small batch of wort plus a little yeast nutrient.

The next step was to pour off much of the liquid from the jar of harvested yeast, give the remains a swirl, and add the yeast to the wort. I then used my oxygen tank to oxygenate the wort for about a minute. [Edit: I know know that I should oxygenate BEFORE adding the yeast to keep from breaking up the yeast buds. Thanks, SouthYeast guy! And the SG shouls be between 1.032 and 1.040…mine was a bit over.]

Oxygenating the wort, after pitching the yeast.

Oxygenating the wort, after pitching the yeast.

I then installed an airlock and moved the carboy to a heating pad set on “low”…the same temperature at which the beer will be fermenting. This is supposed to help the yeast acclimate. A short time will tell if the yeast harvest was successful.

Ready for a little yeast building on the warm heating pad.

Ready for a little yeast building on the warm heating pad.

The day before I brew, I plan to cold crash (refrigerate) to get the yeast to flocculate (fall out of suspension), so I can pour off most of the starter wort and pitch mostly yeast (This limits the impact of the starter wort flavor on the beer). I hope this process is successful. I’m a bit anxious…new milestone!

1:00 a.m.  The starter bottle seemed a little cool to the touch, so I wrapped the heating pad around, it like a jacket, so it gets more surface area contact. I also drew off a sample of the Hi-Nelson Saison w/Hibiscus and ran it from the little sample glass to a 12 oz beer glass, back and forth a couple of times to open up the aroma. Nice color, good nose and it drinks like a nice wine in it’s uncarbed state.

Sample of Hi-Nelson Saison w/Hibiscus held to the light.

Sample of Hi-Nelson Saison w/Hibiscus held to the light.

8:30 a.m.   following morning. Encouraging sign…airlock activity on my starter! Now the question is: How do I determine the number of yeast and if I have enough to pitch a 5 gallon batch of beer? Sanitized my oxygen hose and gave the starter about a 30 second infusion.

7:15 p.m.    Sanitized a cap and around the top of the starter carboy and replaced the airlock with the cap, loosely. The starter went into the refrigerator to cold crash. The procedure is supposed to cause the yeast to flocculate (fall to the bottom). So, now the question is: Did enough additional yeast form or should I repeat this step tomorrow and push my brew day back?

12 Noon third day: decided to use some new knowledge from a yeast class and see if I can give my harvested Belle Saison yeast a stronger growth cycle. I have made a new starter wort, added a half teaspoon of yeast nutrient and chilled it down into the mid 80’s F. I oxygenated the new wort. Drained most of the previous starter wort and pitched the yeast into the new wort. I also grabbed a second washed yeast jar from the fridge and drained most of the water off of it, swirled and pitched that yeast. This new batch is in my new flask with sanitized foil on top and set on the heating pad on the lowest setting.

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Day 105 Bottling Tepache and Murray’s SEC #3

I got up this morning and decided to take care of racking and bottling the (pineapple) tepache. I racked into two 1/2 gallon carboys. One was full and the other was a very short partial. I went ahead and got a sample for checking the SG. It was 1.040 @74F, so correct to 1.041, down from an OG of 1.090. That calculates out to 6.43% ABV, with plenty of sugar left. I will call 1.041 my final gravity. I racked to 12 oz bottles and filled 7, a little more than I anticipated, but not more than I was prepared for!

Racking the tepache for bottling.

Racking the tepache for bottling.

From the sample, I also had a good taste and I like it. It has a nice sweet and tangy flavor…I don’t want to say “sweet and sour”, because it really isn’t sour. I think “tangy” is a closer description. The cinnamon and piloncillo (raw sugar) are very pronounced. I’m not really noticing the clove…may add a little more next time. So, this is where I have to decide when to pasteurize. I have only pasteurized once before and I’m a little concerned with getting the batch pasteurized with moderate carbonation, but not letting them go to being over-pressurized. I don’t want bottle bombs! I have seen cider build pressure more quickly than anticipated and with the amount of sugar left in the tepache, I think I may just give it one full day and check it by opening a bottle and pouring a tiny sample and then capping it with a fresh crown. So, will check back tomorrow morning.  ***Update 8:15 a.m. 5/6/14 :  Quick sample yields good carb, but needs just a little more. Fresh cap on the test bottle and will check again later today and pasteurize. Moving on…while I have the equipment out and sanitized, I went ahead and bottled the 1/2 gallon of Murray’s super Easy Cider.

Bottling Murray's Super Easy Cider #3.

Bottling Murray’s Super Easy Cider #3.

I was a bit short on 6 bottles, but I got 5 and a good SG/tasting sample. The FG on this batch comes out to 1.007, after temperature correction. I’m having trouble locating my notes with the OG for this batch. Maybe I didn’t include it in a journal entry? Oh well, I believe the OG was 1.053, so if that assumption is right, an ABV of 6.04% is what I come up with. There’s not too much residual sugar, so it may not carb. I’m not too concerned about it…pretty sure there’s no fear of bottle bombs, though. The color and flavor are nice. It still has apple flavor…not too dry. I’m happy with it. I found a good deal at the store today on a commercial apple juice product called “White’s Fresh Pressed”.  In 1/2 gallon plastic bottles, they were buy one, get one free. Ingredients are just apple juice, no additives. They say it’s not from concentrate and the apples are sourced from Virginia.  I bought one bottle for the kids and one for hard cider. I used the refractometer and got an SG of 1.048. That’s a tad low for my liking, so I added about a 1/4 cup of honey and bumped the FG  to about 1.056 and transferred the juice to a 1/2 gallon glass carboy into which I had pitched 5 to 6 grams of Safale s-04 yeast. I gave it a good shaking to dissolve the yeast and aerate the juice. Update: 8:15 a.m. 5/6/14 : Confirmed fermentation is active. Pineapple Tinker was started on Dec. 10, 2013  and bottled on Jan. 20, 2014. I stuck a bottle in the refrigerator a few days ago by mistake…so, I figured I might as well go ahead and try it.

Pineapple Tinker, about 4 months in the bottle.

Pineapple Tinker, about 4 months in the bottle.

So, it’s very fizzy on the pour and eventually settles to steady streams of Champagne-like bubbles rising through a clear, pale yellow liquid. The aroma is definitely pineapple and the flavor starts like a Champagne on the front end and transitions to an almost coconut taste briefly and then pineapple with a dry finish. The deceptive thing about this drink is that the ABV is 13.39%!!! It started at 1.112 OG and FG was 1.010, so it’s packing a velvet punch. Should be interesting to see if this changes in another 6 months or so.

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Day 103 The National Big Brew Day & Racking Tepache

 

National Big Brew group toast!

National Big Brew group toast!

The day started out early with getting to the local brewery by 9 a.m. to set up for The National Big Brew event. I did my second BIAB all-grain brew. This beer has some interesting hops: Cascade, Simcoe, Falconers Flight and dry hopping with Nelson Sauvin. There was not a name for this beer, so they had a naming contest. I think mine was the runner up, but I’m going with it anyway: Major Nelson IPA. I love the camaraderie and access to a wort chiller…easier than the ice bath! I was one of about 5 or 6 brewers set up inside the brewery. It was a nice day and  many brewed outside, but it was hot out there!

The Outsiders.

The Outsiders.

New for this brew, my brew buddy let me use her aerator gizmo to aerate at the end…much more effective than rocking and swirling. The process went smoothly…no surprises.

BIAB set up for Mashing in.

BIAB set up for Mashing in.

I started off with a little over 5 gallons of water and, after the saccharification step and mashout, I added 2 gallons for the boil. After the boil, my OG was 1.058 and I did not top off. I wound up with about 5-1/4 gallons anyway…sweet! The recipe estimate for the OG was 1.066 (but their actual was 1.046, so I’m happy with where I would up. I’m estimating that my FG will be around 1.010 with a 6.3% ABV.  Lets see how it turns out!

In line for using the wort chiller...I'm next!

In line for using the wort chiller…I’m next!

Boiling!

Boiling!

I pitched the yeast, a Mangrove Jack West Coast, at 3 p.m., when I arrived home. I did not rehydrate it first…I have been told that it doesn’t really do much other than maybe speed up the fermentation kick-off a little. As of 8 p.m., I’m not seeing any action yet, but I am confident it will happen; probably overnight.

Draining the pineapple (using my BIAB bag)

Draining the pineapple (using my BIAB bag)

After cleaning up from my beer equipment, I checked on my Tepache. The level of fermentation was looking pretty good, so I strained the pineapple skins and core out and I sanitized a one gallon carboy. I added a 12 oz bottle of room temperature Strawberry Blonde Ale to the carboy and added the tepache liquid to it.

Tepache, racked for a couple more days, with a beer.

Tepache, racked for a couple more days, with a beer.

The brewer/fermenter in me said,”Airlock that baby!” So I did. By 8 p.m., I had a nice foam on the top and it looks like a little action in the airlock. This doesn’t have to ferment way out…probably just another day or two. If I decide to bottle any (it would only be around 6 or 8 bottles for all of it), I would definitely need to pasteurize, to avoid bottle bombs There’s going to be a LOT of residual sugar. I’m really enjoying this little experiment!

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Day 102 Tepache at 48 Hours, Updates on Others

(Pineapple) Tepache at 48 hours.

(Pineapple) Tepache at 48 hours.

 

Okay, at 48 hours, I am just barely starting to see minimal signs of fermentation beginning in my tepache. The liquid is very sweet and dark from the piloncillo, raw Mexican sugar.

If I want this to be alcoholic at all, I need to let it go longer. I have been doing some reading and have heard others talk of allowing their tepache to ferment from a week to over a month. Some say that it will tern to a spiced pineapple vinegar if you leave it in the refrigerator for a long time. The home brewer that let his ferment for over a month, like a beer wort in primary fermentation, said his fermented out dry and tart. So, it sounds like the trick is to check it regularly until it is the flavor you prefer. For me, I’m guessing about a week.

I’ve also heard people debate adding beer to the mix. Several said they did not prefer it…some said it was too bitter. I still think I want to try it with my strawberry blonde. It isn’t too hoppy or bitter, but I think it might cut the sweetness a bit. I’m estimating Sunday or Monday will be in the range to take the next step. That will be to strain, add some water and a beer and then let it go until around Wednesday? Then, it’s into a pitcher in the fridge.

Moving on to my longer term projects. The pineapple-mango melomel is nice and clear and conditioning in a one gallon glass carboy with very little head space. I’m going to let that continue…I don’t know…another 6 or 7 weeks? My plan is to then bottle it and age until the Fall of 2016. That’s a looooong term little project.  The other in-process project is another Murray’s Super Easy Cider, 1/2 gallon. It seems to be going slowly, but it keeps going. I can still see little bubbles at the top of the cider and rising from the bottom. The liquid is pretty clear, so as soon as it stops with the bubbles, I’ll get it bottled.

Pineapple-Mango Melomel (left) and Super Easy Murray's Cider (right)

Pineapple-Mango Melomel (left) and Super Easy Murray’s Cider (right)

I’m hoping to participate in the “Big Brew” this weekend, which will coincide with a national event. I plan on doing an all grain BIAB IPA (India Pale Ale). I’m looking forward to that!

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Day 101 Tepache, a Pineapple Cider/Beer Kind of Thing

Cutting up a pineapple.

Cutting up a pineapple.

I had an exchange awhile back with a guy on an online forum and he introduced me to the idea of making a Tepache. I had never heard of it before. It’s pretty rustic. You ferment pineapple with raw sugar, cinnamon, cloves  for a couple of days and then strain it and add water and a beer, ferment a couple of more days and then chill and serve. I grabbed a recipe off of Pinterest…I’m sure there are plenty of variations out there. This one called for:

1 fresh, ripe Pineapple, cut into chunks

8 cups of Water 20 oz Piloncillo (raw sugar). Brown Sugar is an acceptable substitute.

1 stick Cinnamon and 3 whole Cloves

Cover and leave in a warm place for 48 hours. Strain and add 1 cup of water and 1 beer. Let stand for 12 hours. Strain (Not sure why at this point…maybe it will become obvious or still seem redundant when I get to this point?). Add another cup of water and serve over ice. (I would chill it before putting it over ice.) Bottling? Probably not without pasteurizing it. Here’s the recipe  I started with, for reference…giving credit where due!  www.familyfoodandtravel.com/2013/12/tepache-pineapple-drink.html

 

I started into the recipe and cut up my pineapple. Since I have a fermentation bucket, I decided to use it, instead of a bowl or pitcher. And a lid with an airlock just seemed practical and safe.

Cut pineapple with water, cinnamon, cloves.

Cut pineapple with water, cinnamon, cloves.

So I added the pineapple, water, cinnamon and cloves to the bucket and I headed to a local Mexican store for the Mexican raw sugar, Piloncillo.

Piloncillo...Mexican raw sugar.

Piloncillo…Mexican raw sugar.

When I went to check out, I spoke to the owner, who was working the register. He strongly advised using the pineapple skins and core only and to NOT use the flesh. “It’s no good.” he said. He was very helpful.   So, I came home and drained my pineapple, peeled the skin and cut off the core from each piece and returned them to the bucket and I put the fruit in the refrigerator to eat later.

Piloncillo, weighed. (As close as I could get to 20 oz)

Piloncillo, weighed. (As close as I could get to 20 oz)

Pineapple skins only...use the flesh for something else!

Pineapple skins only…use the flesh for something else!

The cloves, cinnamon stick and water went back into the bucket. I weighed out and added the piloncillo and stirred it around. It’s going to take awhile to dissolve, I guess, so I popped on the lid and airlock and will check on it later to stir and see that the sugar dissolves.

Ready to ferment...just need to get that sugar dissolved.

Ready to ferment…just need to get that sugar dissolved.

In a couple of days, strain, add some water and a beer, another 12 hours and done. Note that there is no added yeast in the recipe. There is also no campden tablet to kill off anything, so the fermentation will occur with whatever is “resident”.  A little scary, but we are going to give it a shot. Now, for comparison, the Mexican store owner had a commercial bottled version on hand, so I bought a bottle. It isn’t alcoholic, but it should give me an idea of what I shooting for. I opened and poured the tepache into a beer glass. The flavor is pleasant and tastes of pineapple and brown sugar…no surprise there, I guess. It is, however, VERY sweet.

So sweet...needs beer!

So sweet…needs beer!

A commercial version, "Tepachito", non-alcoholic.

A commercial version, “Tepachito”, non-alcoholic.

So, I drank half of it, grabbed a bottle of my American Wheat Citra Citrus and I topped off the glass. Voila!…did I just create Mateo’s Tepache Shandy? Why yes…yes I did!  Anyway, still a tad sweet, but it’s much better. That’s it for tonight…now for the wait. But this is a shorter process than I’m used to. I should be drinking this batch this weekend!

Mateo's Tepache Shandy!

Mateo’s Tepache Shandy!

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Day 99 Racking the Pineapple-Mango Melomel

Pineapple-Mango Melomel, ready to rack out of primary fermentation.

Pineapple-Mango Melomel, ready to rack out of primary fermentation.

I racked the Pineapple-Mango Melomel today. Because there was so much pulp in the liquid, I put a small, fine-meshed bag over the siphon tip.

Siphon tip with mesh bag.

Siphon tip with mesh bag.

This worked well, to a point. Unfortunately, when I got about 2/3 down, the siphoning practically stopped and there was obviously quite a bit of liquid left.

Siphoning with the bag.

Siphoning with the bag.

So, I sanitized a bowl and a grain sock and strained the rest. I then siphoned the rest into the carboy.

I wound up with a nice, full gallon.

One gallon of strained Pineapple-Mango Melomel.

One gallon of strained Pineapple-Mango Melomel.

It’s cloudy, but it should clear eventually. I did get a small sample and stuck it in the refrigerator to clear and chill…I’ll taste it later.

Chilled sample...nice flavor. Good pineapple color.

Chilled sample…nice flavor. Good pineapple color.

I put an airlock on the carboy and I labeled it with the name and today’s date. I was thinking I would be leaving it for several weeks, but after a couple of hours, there are clear layers forming on the bottom. It might be that I let it clear for a week and then rack it again for the longer term.

Sediment layers forming quickly.

Sediment layers forming quickly.

I also checked on the Murray’s Super Easy Cider (third 1/2 gal batch) and it is still seeing action in the airlock, as well as visible action in the bottle. I can see effervescence at the top of the liquid and bits rising from the bottom and falling from the top.  I guess  the cider has several more days to go.

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