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Starting Blueberry-Muscadine Wine

Day one: Blueberry-Muscadine Wine, ready for the 24 hour rest.

Day one: Blueberry-Muscadine Wine, ready for the 24 hour rest.

During the height of blueberry season, I got an amazingly good deal on a case of them. We ate some, I made an experimental, very small batch of jam, and then I stuck the rest in the freezer. Now that we are at the height of muscadine grape season, I have foraged several pounds of wild grapes. In doing a little research, I found this article: https://winemakermag.com/461-making-blueberry-wine-tips-from-the-pros  The majority of what I am doing comes directly from their recipe, so go read their article. If you are really interested in winemaking, you might like their magazine.

This is my second attempt at wine. You can find my entries on my first wine on this blogs entries starting about this time last year. It was a straight muscadine wine and I used Montrachet yeast for that batch…as I am using for this batch. The result, is a surprisingly dry, medium to light body wine that is a bit heavy on the alcohol (I overdid the sugar a bit), but not nearly as sweet as you normally find in wines made from muscadines. The color is between a blush and a red. I am pretty pleased with it. So, for my second wine, where I am going to change from the referenced recipe slightly, I’m using 3 pounds of wild muscadine grapes, instead of grape concentrate, and I’m using 11 pounds of blueberries. The blueberries were almost completely thawed, but still cold.

In preparing for the recipe, I did purchase an acid test kit ($8.95) and some blended acid powder from the local homebrew shop (LHBS). I also bought a package of Montrachet yeast. I did not add citric acid to the sugar water and I am not using the teaspoon of tannin. I am also substituting Campden Tablets, crushed, rather than the powdered sodium metabisulfate. The tablets are easy…add one per gallon, so five in this batch.

One tablet per gallon: 5 tablets. Easy!

One tablet per gallon: 5 tablets. Easy!

Campden Tablets to kill off any resident bacterias and wild yeasts.

Campden Tablets to kill off any resident bacterias and wild yeasts.

Capmpden Tablets, crushed in a mortar & pestle.

Capmpden Tablets, crushed in a mortar & pestle.

I’m also skipping the potassium sorbate. I may be wrong, but the Campden Tablets are potassium metabisulfate, and I think using them covers it. (As well as the sodium metabisulfate.) Theses chemicals can get to be a little confusing for those of us who were Liberal Arts majors, rather than Chemistry majors! Anyway, I think I have things covered.

Today was all about crushing blueberries,

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crushing muscadine grapes,

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mixing 9 pounds of sugar with hot water,

Sugar and water.

Sugar and water.

…and then adding the crushed Campden Tablets. I added enough water to rinse the crush bucket and bring the total volume to 5 gallons. (Top photo)

Tomorrow, I will deal with the yeast nutrient, pectic enzyme, test the acid and adjust it, if needed. Then I will pitch the yeast. After that, over the course of the primary fermentation, I will need to stir the “must” at the top of the bucket down into the liquid twice daily. I don’t plan on making a separate entry everyday, just to say that I stirred the must! I will document tomorrow, and when I rack, bottle, and eventually taste the wine. So, I’ve done the steps required for today. I’ll be back!

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Day 68 Nothing Brewing…Feels Weird

Since I bottled my hefeweizen, and scrambled for bottles to do it, I have nothing brew-related going on. Everything is in the bottle conditioning phase. It just feels weird! I did open a few bottles tonight…um…just to check their progress. Yeah, that’s it. Anyway, I started off with my Nut Brown Ale that I received as a Christmas gift-kit. It was bottled 10 days ago and is surprisingly drinkable already. Compared to my previous English Nut Brown Ale, A.K.A. Fawlty Brown Ale, it is a bit more bitter. The color and clarity are good and the carbonation may get better, but is pretty good already. In addition to the kit, I also received some Irish moss and gypsum. I believe they did their jobs! No doubt that this beer will improve with another couple of weeks in the bottle, but my first bottle out of this batch says it’s a success.

Nice clarity and color

Nice clarity and color

Nut Brown Ale

Nut Brown Ale

The second bottle of the evening was a 22 0z bottle of the Belgian Strong Dark. I believe my last taste of this beer was described as having a fruity component and maybe caramel, but not the roasted coffee or chocolate flavors. This beer has been in the bottle for 24 days and has since mellowed a bit on the caramel and it has lost that fruit from before. I’m not an expert at the critique thing for beer and I don’t have the right words to describe this flavor. Is this what people describe as “biscuit”? I will need to get some more experienced feedback on this one, but whatever it is, it’s good…at least, I think so!

Belgian Strong Dark...interesting.

Belgian Strong Dark…interesting.

The final bottle I opened this evening is the Watson’s Cider…in honor of John Hamish Watson’s nuptials on Masterpiece Theater tonight! Side note: awesome episode. ‘Nuff said. The cider, unfortunately, is not doing so well. This is an all-crabapple (foraged) sparkling cider. This is the only beverage that I have pastuerized, so far. I also was trying to retain some sweetness by not letting it ferment quite all the way out. In the process, I did not let it clarify long enough and too much lees came along for the ride. It’s a little sour in the nose…like mild vinegar. The carbonation is a bit week. If I went back through my notes, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the carbonation is actually going down some. There was quite a bit of sediment in the bottle and the color of the cider is a medium golden, but with a little haze. I know it sounds weird, but the best way to describe it is as if someone drop one or two drops of skim milk into the glass before adding the cider. I did have fun with the label. Since calling it a “cyser”, I have seen the error in my ways…but the labels were expensive and already printed. Plus, “Watson’s Cider” sounds like a personal question.

One of my less successful beverages, but not ready to dump it yet!

One of my less successful beverages, but not ready to dump it yet!

As for the flavor, I definitely get that slight sourness/vinegar taste with an almost dry finish. These days, some people think it’s good for you to drink vinegar, so they’d probably think this was really mild and tasty! I’ll keep pulling one out, now and then to see what’s happening. I’m not ready to dump it yet, but we’ll see what happens over time. If I get desperate for a few bottles to use for something else, these are at the top of the expendable list.

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Day 46. Fawlty Brown Ale is just right!

It has been 1 month and 1 day since bottling the Fawlty Brown Ale and its carb level is perfect! Too bad I only have a couple of bottles left! My family isn’t a bunch of drinkers and they drink even less as time goes on. I didn’t have many helpers drinking my first brew at Thanksgiving…but I drank several over the course of the week. I think I’ve had one or two since then. Anyway, I’m down to four bottles just as it really hits its prime! It was tasty, but a little undercarbonated at Thanksgiving. Now, it’s just right on the carb. I’m not the educated palate that many brewers are, but I’m very pleased with this English Nut Brown Ale! I will definitely be making this one again and forcing myself to leave it alone for a month.

A month and a day since bottling is just right for this beer!

A month and a day since bottling is just right for this beer!

Oh yeah…the fruity bits layer on the Pineapple Tinker is starting to fall and create a layer on the bottom again. I’m assuming that this will continue and in a couple of days I will be racking for secondary. Fermenting in glass has been really interesting!

Having another Watson’s Cider…love the sweetness level and carbonation, but I really should have allowed another day or two to clarify. I was just too scared that it would ferment too dry. Instead, I’ve got more sediment in the bottles than I should and there’s a yeasty flavor in the cider. Not enough so that I won’t drink it, though!

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Day 36 Brewing Dry Stout

Extract, grains, oats and hops for Dry Stout

Extract, grains, oats and hops for Dry Stout

Spent grains and oats

Spent grains and oats

Wort, after grain steep

Wort, after grain steep

The boil was good…no problem with the malt extract and the only hop addition was at the beginning (60 minutes). I moved the wort to a sink with ice water and brought the temperature down to 90F. Poured the wort into a bottling bucket and topped off to 2-1/2 gallon…maybe a little over. I was making sure that I wasn’t measuring the foam, but I may have gone slightly more. The recipe estimated that the OG would be 1.043 and I got 1.036 @72F, adjusted to 1.037 for calibration. This should be a pretty low alcohol brew. The recipe came up with 4.1%. With my lower OG, mine would be 3.54%, if I reach the estimated 1.01 FG.

Last few minutes of the boil

Last few minutes of the boil

I am pleased with the color and the flavor. Now it’s up to the yeast to work its magic! I’m using Safale s-04 yeast. The recipe doesn’t specify and the guy at the brew shop said s-04 would be fine and it is also what I use for some ciders.

Just over 2-1/2 gallons fermenting, not counting foam.

Just over 2-1/2 gallons fermenting, not counting foam.

I pitched half of a packet of the yeast in and sealed it/airlocked. I should have 5 to 7 days in fermentation.

On another topic, I gave the bottles of cider batch #4 a tip upside down and a swirl. Thinking it might wake up the yeast, if there’s any left. That was yesterday. Today, I opened my test bottle. No sound. Poured a very small amount into a glass and resealed the flip top. Color looks good and taste/sweetness are great…but…no carbonation at all. I have read that sometimes it happens 4 or 5 weeks after bottling, so I’ll keep an eye on it. If it never carbs, it will be a nice still cider. I wonder if I could use it in a SodaStream? Hmmm.

Last night, I also opened my first test bottle (ever) of crabapple cider.

Tiny Bubbles!

Tiny Bubbles!

test bottle, cider batch #1

test bottle, cider batch #1

This one was the tester for cider batch #1…what eventually came to be known as Sherlock’s Cumber, Batch #1. This bottle was primed with Munton’s CarTabs, which I did not use on the full batch. This bottle was dry and had a little less carbed than I prefer. I would have liked it more if it had be a little more “crisp”. Not bad for a first batch though. We’ll try some more at New Year’s Eve and see if the bottles primed with priming sugar are any better.

10:15 pm Stout progress: there is pretty aggressive bubbling in the airlock. It goes of about every 9 seconds, but when it goes, it perks several times. This is only my second time brewing beer and first time using the bottling bucket for fermentation. Cider batches and other beer batch were fermented in a 2 gallon primary fermentation bucket and they all seemed to bubble at increasing, then decreasing intervals, but not with the vigor being experienced this time. Just single bubbles in the past. I guess it could be due to the size of the bucket or the type of beer. Whatever the reason, it seems to be fermenting nicely.

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Day 35 Bottled Cider Batch #4

Bottling Cider Batch #4

Bottling Cider Batch #4

Bottled cider batch #4 today. I haven’t decided on a name for it yet. This one is my first that is NOT 100% crabapple juice. It does include a majority of crabapple juice, but also includes some Fuji apples and some commercially produced Murray’s Cider. The FG when I blended the two carboys and two 22 oz bottles in the bottling bucket was 1.002 at 69F. The adjusted FG, after compensating for hydrometer calibration is 1.003. This batch went through some separate containers and a couple of blendings, but the best OG I came up with was about 1.050; therefore, ABV % of around 6.25% should be a pretty good guesstimate.

Now, I need to track the carbonation to judge when I want to pasteurize this batch. For that purpose, I bottled the last bit of cider into a flip-top 16 oz bottle. The rest was bottled in 22 oz bottles…a total of 12 of those.

Cider Batch #4 Yield is twelve 22 oz bottles, plus a flip top tester to judge when to pasteurize.

Cider Batch #4 Yield is twelve 22 oz bottles, plus a flip top tester to judge when to pasteurize.

Since the test bottle is a little smaller and may contain a bit more active yeast from the bottom of the bucket, than the other bottles, I’ll have to keep a careful watch and make a judgement call.

I believe this batch will be the sweetest I have bottled to up until now. It wasn’t cloyingly sweet, but nice. It should turn out right where I hoped it would! I’ll check the pressure in two days, since that was how fast my last pasteurized batch took to reach full carbonation; however, it’s a steadier 69F in the house lately and I anticipate a little longer for this batch.

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Day 34…Home. Checking Cider Batch #4

Sunday, following Thanksgiving. Home again. Checked one of the carboys from cider batch #4 and got an SG of 1.017, adjusted for hydrometer temperature calibration. The sweetness level is very nice. I will be bottling soon, after combining containers to even out the SG. I’m expecting an ABV of around 4-1/2%. I’ll check for FG just before bottling. Then I’ll have to figure out when to pasteurize.

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Day 31 Cracking 2nd Early Bottle of Cider Batch #2

Tonight, I decided to pop open the 2nd bottle of the early bottles of cider batch #2…the rest of which would eventually be bottled as “TARDIS Cider…Bigger on the Inside”.

Early Bottle #2, Cider Batch #2

Early Bottle #2, Cider Batch #2

Sample pour.

Sample pour.

Since no one else showed an interest, it was all me.

The color was pale, like white wine, the bubbles were fine and the taste was dry, but not crisp. The carbonation was a little under where I would have liked it.

I have heard the experienced cider makers write about adding sweetener, after opening a bottle. I thought that sounded kind of silly; however, as it turns out, it worked really well. Imagine that…I was wrong about something. Don’t tell my wife! Anyway, I added a little Truvia, the flavor perked up, and it was much more palatable to me. I still needed more carbonation, but better.

Better!

Better!

Added someTruvia to make it a little more drinkable.

Added someTruvia to make it a little more drinkable.

It will be interesting to see how TARDIS Cider carbs over time. I have a feeling that the lack of sweetness will still be an issue, either way. So, that should bring us up to date until Thanksgiving, the day after tomorrow.

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