Adult Playtime

I’ve been working so hard on the electric brewery that I feel like I haven’t just gone crazy with a brew in awhile.  Experimentation, simply throwing out the rules and trying anything and everything, truly is one of the most exciting and addicting aspects of brewing.  Therefore as a reward for myself I decided to step away from my brewery project and take the next couple weeks to think outside the box.

Now by “crazy” I meant of course, that I was going to do a lot of brewing.  Not my usual brewing where I make the standards or work on some refined recipes, but the type of brewing where anything goes and anything could happen.

For this entry I’ve decided to share with you the randomness and awesomeness that came out of these brewing adventures.  Each of these beers is very unique and I will share with you what gives them their unique characteristics, talk about what went into brewing them, and of course update you on how they turned out and what they taste like.

A couple of months ago I went to Mystic, CT to celebrate my girlfriend’s birthday.  While we were there I came across this awesome little spice shop.  Called, The Spice & Tea Exchange, these little shops can be found in various locales around the country.  This place was awesome, I walked in and quickly found fresh ingredients for a witbier I was making.  While that was great, it was everything else that I stumbled upon while I was there that really paid off.  This place seemed to have everything and more.  I left there, after visiting the shop on three consecutive days, with a huge variety of spices and some adventurous ideas about what I wanted to attempt to brew.

Each of the following experimental brews was made using at least one ingredient from The Spice and Tea Exchange.  While it was an adventure and I was very unsure of the outcome, I can safely say that I was very happy with how each of these beers came out.  Enjoy!

You can “Gose Your Own Way”

Cheesy name aside, I have wanted to work on creating a Gose for a very long time.  While Gose is somewhat of a forgotten style, this hidden German gem is a very unique spin on a wheat beer, and certainly contains flavors that no other beers seem to showcase.  I discussed the style known as Gose during my last post regarding 5 “must drink beers”.  As a refresher however here is a little information on the infamous Gose.  Gose gets its name from the water that was used to brew it from the Gose River outside the small German town of Goslar.  Due to mineral compounds found in this river the water profile  has a very high saline content.  The saltiness found in this water transfers directly to the beer, creating a flavor that highlights a unique saltiness.  On top of the unique saline characteristic this German wheat beer also showcases a noticeable amount of coriander and a noticeable but balanced tartness.  While the tartness in these beers have often been created via wild fermentations and lacto cultures, many brewers today use “acidulated malt” in their mash in order to capture that slightly tart character.

The origin of the Gose, the Gose River in Germany.


For my first experiment I created a nice low alcohol, refreshing German wheat beer recipe.  In order to capture that signature tartness I also added a healthy amount of acidulated malt to the grist.  Since I was using the acid malt to alter the beer’s ph level I didn’t balance or neutralize the water being used in the mash like I generally do.  I didn’t want the neutral water to get in the way or affect the tart flavor imparted by the acid malt.

With the grain bill decided I proceeded to do a simple single infusion mash.  Since this was a low ABV with not a lot going on (in the mash) a simple, quick, efficient mash was all I really needed.  Where this beer got really interesting was during the boil where the beer was split into two separate batches.

Gose’s are lightly hopped beers.  The hop profile should be almost undetectable, with just enough presence to balance the malt profile and to work as a preservative.  Therefore I selected a small amount of low alpha noble hops to use early on in the boil.  By using these hops I could keep the overall IBU’s of the beer down, while ensuring that the beers balance and aging capabilities had been taken care of.    Later in the boil I started to have some fun and get a little crazy.  First while most Gose’s are simply a combination of salt and coriander, I decided to add a little extra flavor that I thought would compliment the acidity levels of the beer.  Thus, using some lemongrass from the spice shop I added a generous dose during the last 10 minutes of the boil to both beers.

With 5 minutes remaining I added the key ingredients for any quality Gose, coriander and salt.  For the coriander I chose Indian Coriander seeds which I proceeded to crack before adding to the boil.  I chose the Indian Coriander as opposed to more generic coriander found most commonly due to what I think is an extremely distinct flavor difference.  The common generic coriander seems, at least in my opinion, to taste slightly more vegetal and stale.  In the flip side, the Indian Coriander once cracked is spicy and earthy and very fresh smelling which I found to be much more appealing.

Finally it was time to replicate the salt profile of the Gose River.  In the first batch I added a healthy amount of sea salt from the Murray River in Australia.  When I was tasting the different sea salt options at the shop, I found this particular version to be the cleanest.  The salt profile was distinct but the aftertaste was subtle, which I thought would increase the drinkability of the beer.

An up close look at the lacto infection occurring in one of the Gose fermenters.


In the second batch I decided to go even more extreme by switching out the clean Murray River Sea Salt, for Sea Salt that had been infused with Bhut Jolokia, more commonly known as Ghost Chili.

Another glimpse at the lacto as it begins to die down.


I have had a recent fascination with the creation of a hot beer.  ( You will see more evidence of this later on.)  I have drank plenty of chili beers and always enjoyed them, therefore I thought it was time to figure out a new twist on one.   When I first saw the Ghost Chili Sea Salt, I thought it might be a little to much, however, my fascination with Gose’s and my interest in making a unique chili beer got the best of me and resulted in the creation of a hot version  of “Gose Your Own Way”.


You’ve Been Stung by an African Devil

I wasn’t lying when I said I’ve been on a recent chili beer kick.  During my time at the spice shop I found some chili’s called “Bird’s Eye”, also known as African Devils.  While I had heard of them before, I had never tasted them.  I grabbed a couple of ounces of them and upon returning to my hotel room popped one in my mouth.  I decided right away that I had to brew with these chili’s.  They were hot but flavorful, lingering but manageable.  In other words I figured they would be the ideal chili to make an over the top chili beer with.  Unlike the hot Gose previously discussed.  I decided to make this chili beer in the form of a dark full-bodied porter.  For the base beer I decided to use my friend Pat’s recipe for his “Liberty Tree Porter”.  His porter is a creamy flavorful porter that really highlights body and mouthfeel.  I figured this would be the perfect backdrop for the kick off the chili’s.

A look at the Bird’s Eye Chili, also known as Piri Piri or the African Devil. These peppers sit between 50,000-100,000 on the scoville units.


Since this was a complete experiment I decided once again to do two different versions of this porter.  Both the mash and boil for both versions were identical.  I added several chilis to the boil during the last 5 minutes in order to release the capsaicin into the wort.  Both versions were placed in separate fermenters, and once they were racked over to secondary I began to have a little fun.  The first fermenter I left alone.  The heat from capsaicin tends to strengthen over time as it ages, and I wanted to leave at least one version alone and let it develop overtime.  The other version I tinkered around with and added an ounce and a half of dried ancho chili’s to the secondary.  I de-stemmed and removed the majority of the seeds from the chilis before adding them to the fermenter.  While anchos are chilis I have always found that they have a sweeter more mellow kick and almost provide a slight amount of roastiness to the palate.  My hope was to balance out the kick of the bird’s eye chilis with the more mellow and mild flavor of the ancho.

At this point in time both brews have been bottled and are currently in the aging process.  The straight Bird’s Eye version is a total ass-kicker.  I mean this beer his HOT!  It could easily be on an episode of Man vs. Food as the final challenge of the episode.  While it issmoking hot it is still full of pleasurable flavors.  The beer itself is delicious, however the immense heat will certainly scare many away, and for those brave enough to give it a shot, this beer is the definition of a sipper.

The version blended with the ancho chilis is much more subdued and mellow.  As was planned the anchos counteract the heat of the bird’s eyes, providing a ton of chili flavor that is much more forgiving on the tongue and far less scorching.  Both versions are unique and flavorful, however in terms of a chili beer that I could possible see being added to the rotation, the bird’s eye with anchos is easily the best option.

Bacon makes everything better!

Nobody should be surprised that I had to do at least one bacon based brew during this experimental celebration.  Afterall, it is bacon, and bacon makes everything better.  My good buddy Nate brought some homemade candied bacon to a New Year’s party a couple of years ago, and ever since then I have been inspired to try and recreate that tasty treat in the form of a beer.

When coming up with the recipe for this beer I had to deal with a couple major issues.  First, brewing with actual bacon and dealing with the fat and oils would be a true nightmare and nearly impossible.  Secondly, maple syrup is almost completely fermentable, meaning that the majority of sugars from the syrup would be fermented into alcohol making the beer more potent but also removing the majority of the desired maple flavor.  Furthermore, using large amounts of maple syrup, similar to honey, tends to cause the beer to “dry” out a lot more.

Brewing Candied Bacon. Can’t wait for this guy to be bottled.


In order to avoid those issues and still get the desired flavors I resorted to two specific ingredients.  First I opted to use a rauchbier as the backdrop for this brew.  Rauch’s are known for being very smokey in both flavor and aroma.  Rauch’s can be created using a variety of different smoked malts.  Among the different smoked malts is my personal favorite, cherry smoked.  This malt not only provides amazing smokiness, but also has a very distinct barbeque, almost bacon-like profile.  By using this malt I was able to capture that smokey, BBQ fresh bacon aroma and flavor while also forming a nice solid backbone for the beer.

With the bacon aspect of the beer sorted out I turned to one of my favorite brewing minds, Randy Mosher, for some inspiration.  If you haven’t had a chance to at least flip through Mosher’s Radical Brewing please check it out, it is a blast.  One thing Mosher talks about is the use of fenugreek as a replacement for pure maple syrup.  Fenugreek is a unique spice, although it can also be found in a vegetal form, that is produced mainly in India, Morocco and countries in the Middle East.  The spice has been known to provide a curry-like flavor when added to dishes and is also used in the treatment of diabetes in some cultures.  As far as beer goes it works as a phenomenal substitute for maple syrup.  When boiled the fenugreek provides a potent maple-like flavor and aroma, plus because it is a spice rather than a sugar it does not ferment out allowing the flavor and aroma profile to be retained in the beer.  I will be honest, I was very skeptical of using fenugreek at first.  However, it worked.  While I can still get a slight sense of the spices curry roots if I dig real deep in the beers flavor, the fenugreek absolutely captures the essence of maple syrup.  Couple that with the cherry smoked malt and its bacon-like characteristics and there you have it, a combination of ingredients that would create the flavor of candied bacon in a beer!

These three beers were very fun to make.  All three are either bottled or closing in on being bottled.  I will be sure to post about the final results and share some tasting notes with all as soon as they are done.  If you have questions about any of the recipes please send me a comment, and don’t forget to check out the Spice & Tea Exchange for some awesome products.

Categories: Beer


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