Friday, February 23, 2007

Homebrew shops in Norway?

Well, unfortunately there aren't that many options. In fact, there is just one single place where you can get a decent selection of brewing ingredients like malts and hops in this country. Yes, you heard right, just a single shop that sells hops or malts(!).

There are a lot of amateur wine and beer extract shops, but none of these provide anything close to what a non-newbie beer brewer would need. You cannot do without hops, and even malts if you're an all-grain brewer.

Petit Agentur is the place to get your brewing fix. They are located in Bergen on the west coast, something like 500 km away from where I live.

I understand that it probably isn't easy to run a small scale shop like this in a country of only 4.6 million inhabitants. So, I appreciate that there is at least someone who is willing to provide a great service to homebrewers in Norway.

Since I live in Oslo this means that I have to get orders shipped to me via the Postal Service. This is inconvenient especially when ordering sacks of malt. The shipping cost is approximately the same as the cost of the malt itself. For other brewing ingredients and other smaller items this is [almost] perfect.

The alternative for most homebrewers is to do their shopping in Sweden, Denmark or even the US.

But, if you're a homebrewer stuck in Norway this is the place.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Extracts -- good or bad?

Is the use of extracts in beer brewing a good thing?

It is actually quite common for commercial breweries to use hop extracts. Even Belgian Trappist breweries do it(!). And their beers are considered among the best in the world.

In my opinion it is not necessarily a detriment to good beer. Same thing with malt extract, from which you can actually make some damn good beer. But it won't give you the same flexibility as all-grain would.

The reason the big commercial breweries use them is because they strive for consistency -- and hop extract give them just that. It is very predictable. That said they do also put a lot of effort into making beer cost-efficiently. On a larger scale the little things have a big influence on cost. Note that the reason they aren't using malt extract is that it is much more expensive than all-grain, which lets them squeeze the last drop of malt sugars out themselves.

This shouldn't stop them from making good beer though, as there is no defense against making bad beer.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Probably the best aroma in the world

..or perhaps not.

I've had a 60 ml glass of liquid aroma extract that is intended to be used by commercial breweries for a while. Now this is a lot of hop extract. Well, the label does not actually say hops, whatever. The glass has been left alone in the fridge as I have had no idea what to do with it. I haven't been particularly tempted to actually try it out in one of my 25 liter batches. I do quite a bit of experimentation, but this wouldn't count as one that would be worth it.

Today I found a 500 ml can of lager lying around and found that I should give the extract a try.

Well, how much extract to use? I had no idea. I suspect that these glasses are meant to be used in pretty big batches. In retrospect I wouldn't be surprised that we're taking about something like 25.000 liters of, ahem, definitely not the best beer in the world, Danish lager. After all, there isn't that much hop aroma in a bland commercial lager.

The smallest measuring spoon I have is 1 ml and I decided to just go ahead and add that to half of the contents of the can. I did that so that I could dilute the mixture with the remaining beer, if neccessary.

The extract itself isn't particularly viscous like syrup, but is instead more like cough medicine. It smells really strong. There is an intense floral and grassy aroma that melds into an almost unbearable pungent syrup.

I stirred the extract in the 1 ml spoon into the beer. It didn't quite mix with the beer, but instead formed drops of heavier yellow clumps. If you look closely that the image above you can see these yellow drops forming.

The one sip I had from the glass almost made me puke. The experience was just too intense. It was just like drinking gasoline. I decided not to waste the remaining beer.

Well, that's enough experimentation on my part. If anybody would like to try it out in a 25 liter batch please let me know. There's still 59 ml left.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

#40, #41 and #42: Kegged and bottled

This time it came to a fairly short fermentation for all three brews. Both the Bohemian Pilsener and the Belgian Strong Dark fermented quickly and below their FG targets. The India Pale Ale did also ferment quickly, but didn't quite reach the target which I believe is because of a higher than intended mash temperature, complex malts and a cold fermentation.

The Belgian Strong Dark ended up with a whopping 11.3% abv. Wow. The FG was 1.011, which was 5 points below where I thought it would end up. I blame the simple sugars. Spot on with the Rochefort 10, a beer which the sample I had brought images of. I also found the beer to be a bit lighter in colour than I had expected. The same thing happened with the Belgian Amber I did a while back. The liquid candi sugar is clearly not as dark as stated on the bottle. Because this is a really strong beer it should keep for a while, so I bottled all of it. Having a 11.3% beer on tap is not optimal, it would have been fun, but not good for the keg rotation.

I mentioned earlier that there was a sulphurous smell from the Pilsener fermentation. That did go away after a couple of days. In all the fermentation was really quiet, almost no krausen on top and no bubbles through the airlock (because of a leak in the lid I guess). The FG was 1.013, exactly as estimated.

The final gravity for the India Pale Ale was 1.019, which is 3 points above the estimate. There is quite a bit of specialty malts in this beer, and some of them are not entirely fermentable. The aroma is also surprisingly nutty, likely because of the amber malts. The small uncarbonated sample I tried had a slightly sharp bitterness, but was overall not that bitter. And as expected, there was quite a bit of hop aroma. Life is good.