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Brew Day! Steinpilz Gose

Dried porcini mushrooms, salt , hops (Willamette), and acidulated malt.

Dried porcini mushrooms, salt , hops (Willamette), and acidulated malt.

This has the potential to be really good, if I get it right…but it may sound pretty gross. I’ve brewed a beer today in a German style that is relatively obscure, but making a big comeback. The style is called “Gose” and is pronounced “goe-zuh”. Rather than go into a lengthy description, here’s a link that covers the history and details very well:

http://www.germanbeerinstitute.com/Gose.html

If you just want the brief version, it’s a beer made from barley and wheat malts and has a slightly sour and salty taste, usually with coriander. No, that’s not the most appealing description; but it really is quite good. Very refreshing. Every drink makes you want to take another! So, here’s where I push the limits even more: mushrooms! Instead of coriander, I’m flavoring my gose with dried porcini mushrooms. In German, porcinis are known by the name “steinpilz”, so, my beer is Steinpilz Gose. Stay with me now…the slightly salty/sour flavor, I believe, will go well with a savory pairing like the earthy flavors of the dried porcinis. I did a little tasting ahead of time…lighter beer with  few drops of porcini “tea” added. Actually, it was interesting and tasty! The trick will be getting the balance right. I want an earthy background note…not an aggressive flavor that would readily be identified as mushroom.

There are a few ways that I have read about to achieve the savory/sour component. Traditionally, lacto bacillus is used at some point (which varies, depending on who you ask). Another way is to create a sour mash ahead of your brew day…a little involved for my skill and equipment profile. And the lacto can be tricky, too. I settled for the use of acidulated malt.

I brew using a method referred to as “BIAB”, “Brew In A Bag”. The “mash-in” step is pretty standard…the milled wheat and barley malts are brought up to 149F and held there for 60 minutes.

Wrapped in a blanket and a "survivior" blanket to hold mash temperature.

Wrapped in a blanket and a “survivior” blanket to hold mash temperature.

Instead of draining the grains and going on to the boil, however, the acidulated malt is added and the temperature held at 149F for an additional 45 minutes. The reason for doing this is that the acid in the acidulated malt could inhibit saccharification (the conversion of starches to sugars. After the second mash step, the brew proceeds as normal.

Getting the water amount right has been a little tricky for me, but I wound up with 5-3/4 gallons of wort, after the boil. The original gravity is substantially higher than the target, though…1.054 instead of 1.045. Not a huge deal…more alcohol, but I just wonder why? Was I supposed drain and remove the first round of grain and just mash the acidulated malt? (As opposed to adding the acidulated malt to the existing grains and mashing ALL of them for the additional 45 minutes.)

Anyway, chilled the wort, aerated it,

Aerating with an oxygen "stone".

Aerating with an oxygen “stone”.

and pitched the German Ale/ Kolsh yeast. There’s not a lot of headspace in the carboy…I’ll have a blow-off tube ready, just in case.

About 5-3/4 gallons in primary fermentation.

About 5-3/4 gallons in primary fermentation.

When it’s done, I think a friend of mine is going to keg half of the batch to see how that compares to bottling. I’ve had an issue with overcarbonation that I can’t seem to figure out. My beer hits an optimum point and then, another month or more, and they start to get overcarbed. I’m looking forward to seeing how that “gose”! (Sorry.)

Update 2/22/15: Had to install the blow-off tube this morning. I guess those yeasties are happy!

Blow-off tube...yeast is chowing down!

Blow-off tube…yeast is chowing down!

 

 

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Interlude: Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale

While I’m waiting for the next step in my home brew cider odyssey, I am indulging in a single bottle of Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale. While I am not the beer gourmand that I once was (meaning I used to drink a lot more beer), I do appreciate a good craft brew.

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale

Here’s where I spill the beans about my beer epiphany. In the Summer of 1983, I took a 6 week trip to Germany with my future wife. We stayed with her parents, who were living in Stuttgart for a couple of years. Up to that point, my experience with beer was pretty limited and basically was your typical binge and purge college experiences with Miller Beer. And then I arrived in Germany. West Germany, at the time. The regional beer was Dinkel Acker and my first one was a revelation in unpasteurized flavor and hops.

Eventually, I learned that there were, in addition to the regional beers, local beers that were specific to even the smallest town. I also learned that a 1/2 liter beer in one town, was NOT necessarily the same in the next town over. Where I am from, there was a limit of about 5% alcohol in beer. One could drive to a neighboring state and purchase beer with a slightly higher alcohol level, but none of it was particularly good. In Germany, the beer did not have a standard alcohol percentage . It varied from beer to beer, without warning! Sometimes I could drink a liter and have a small buzz; while other times, I would a 1/2 liter and have a serious buzz going! And it all TASTED GOOD!!!

My understanding is that it wasn’t until 1978 that Jimmy Carter signed the law that allowed legal home brewing. Is that widely known?! I’m no Jimmy Carter fan, but he DID have one major accomplishment as President! By 1983, the “micro-brew” phenomenon was still in its infancy in the United States. After only 6 short weeks traveling West Germany and visiting surrounding countries, I returned to the United States and, at some point, bought a six back of Miller Beer. I almost did the comedy classic “spewing of the beverage” when I took my first swig. Had someone switched my beer with a bottle of dog urine?!  I couldn’t drink it! (Sorry, Miller Beer.)

Over time, as budget permitted, I would seek out imported beer that was, while pasteurized, still very good. Eventually, the micro-brews started taking off. Home brewers were finding a new audience and stepping up. Soon, even the beer giants started offering some more flavorful beers. I did settle into a regular domestic that was okay and affordable and I drank plenty of it. Then, the doctor said that needed to stop! So now, I rarely have any alcohol and never more than one serving. But could that serving be more worthwhile? Well, craft brews are numerous now, but they can be pricey. What could be more affordable? One look at the internet and you will see that home brewing is still VERY popular and there are people who are seriously absorbed by it!  After an initial investment of about $100 to $150 though, basic brewing really isn’t too hard and the actual ingredients make home brewed beer fairly inexpensive. (I’m hoping my town will have a brew shop soon! Until then, I’ll drive the 15 miles or so to get my supplies.) I was actually pretty happy without alcohol; however, an abundance of crabapples has led me down the path to brewing. (I have all the jelly and crabapple butter I need for the next year.)

While out and about today, I came across the Weyerbacher Pumpkin Ale, brewed in Easton, Pennsylvania. Since I just cooked up several quarts of pumpkin puree and have been reading a bunch of brewing forums lately, it caught my eye. So, while I am far from a gourmet who is qualified to critique someone else’s product, I do know what I like.

At $3 per bottle, it's all about quality, not quantity.

At $3 per bottle, it’s all about quality, not quantity.

Technical points aside, since I wouldn’t know what I was talking about; I like this Weyerbacher Ale.

It’s a little bitter, but not overpoweringly so. It’s a pretty color and has a nice aroma. I guess I get the spices a little, but they aren’t assertive. I don’t know if actual pumpkin was used in the process, but I get the overall idea.

Nice color on the Pumpkin Ale.

Nice color on the Pumpkin Ale.

Did that sound pretentious enough? Well, at $3 per bottle, I felt obligated. Anyway, this ale is something I would like to replicate sometime in the future with a brew of my own, just a little less bitter. Okay…enough for tonight. I think I’ll drink the other half of my beer and hit the sack. (My tolerance has really dropped over the last few years!)

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