I’ve been getting the brewing itch more and more lately, and now that Brew Camp is on the scene it is a lot easier (and less expensive) to get quality supplies. The hubby and I needed to move our Fire Crotch Imperial Red Ale to the secondary fermentor which would free up the primary for a new batch. So, Friday night (after a slightly horrific day at work) we sanitized a Half Acre growler (it’s right down the street from Brew Camp! It would be criminal not to pick up a growler!), hopped on our trusty bicycles, and headed north on Damen to the North Center neighborhood.
I heard about Brew Camp through a Thrillist email and was immediately intrigued. You mean there is a place other than Brew and Grow to get brewing supplies? The owners are, as my husband would say, “mad cool” and extremely helpful. They are already involved with various beer events at the shop and the surrounding area so be sure to “like” them on Facebook to keep up-to-date on all the goings-on.
On this particular Friday, the hubby and I were headed to Brew Camp to get ingredients for an IPA. They had just received a shipment from their suppliers so the tiny storefront was completely overstocked with huge malt bags and one-pounders of hops. I was a little nervous since we were only making a five-gallon batch and regardless of how much I like hoppy beers, one pound is just too much. I was relieved to find out that Brew Camp will buy in bulk to allow the customer to measure out precisely the amount he/she needs, at cost. Not bad! And much better than having to buy the 100 Calorie Pack-esque pre-measured one-ounce hop bags. They also keep huge bins of specialty malts where you can, again, measure out how much you need rather than buying two one-pound packs of specialty malts whenever you just need a pound-and-a-half. Smart thinking guys!
While the idea of ripping into those huge bags of 2-row was enticing, the hubby and I are still using extract as a base (save for the one brew we made with the assistance of Spiteful Brewing), although hopefully this will be our last one. We are signed up to take an all-grain brewing class next week at Finch’s Beer Co., and the following week we are slated to take a class at our home brew club to learn how to make our own mash tun. Exciting! But we are trying to brew more in the meantime, so extract it is. We opted for two containers of Golden Light Liquid Malt Extract, a half pound of Light Dry Malt Extract, one pound of Dark Dry Malt Extract, one pound of Briess Caramel 40L Specialty Malt, and a half pound of Vienna Specialty Malt. Hopefully this should get our ABV somewhere around 6% and the color a nice golden amber. We shall see!
Even with my limited brewing experience, I have learned not to get my hopes up about a certain hop schedule until I see what the store has in stock. Case in point, about six months ago the hubby and I had our hearts set on doing a single-hop pale ale showcasing Amarillo hops. But, of course, we learned that there is some kind of post-apocalyptic shortage of Amarillo so we had to improvise while at Brew and Grow. We ended up using Simcoe and while the beer turned out to be quite good, I learned a valuable lesson: save the task of choosing hops until you are physically at the store, looking at the selection. For our IPA, we want a citrusy, piney flavor so we started checking out what Brew Camp had in the fridge.
My original thought was to use Citra, Cascade, and Centennial but, of course, they only had Cascade. One out of three ain’t bad, right? There were quite a few hop varieties in stock that we had never heard of before, so we had fun sorting through them. The hubby was particularly taken with Mt. Rainier which we learned is a fairly new hop variety that exhibits some noble hop characteristics but is higher in alpha acids. It took a lot of effort to convince the hubby that this was not the right hop for what we were going for. I eventually had to promise that we would use this varietal in our next beer, whatever that may be. Boys… We finally agreed on Warrior for bittering, and a combination of Summit and Cascade for both flavor and aroma. We made our purchase, grabbed our growler at Half Acre, and headed home.
Once we were back in our apartment, I opened up my iBrewmaster app to work out the recipe for our IPA. This was another great find from Thrillist. Initially I had some issues with the site; it wouldn’t let me add/save grain. But Joe at the support desk worked with me tirelessly (even going so far as to chastise me when I didn’t respond fast enough on the 4th of July!) until he was able to isolate the bug and fix it. Seriously amazing customer service. And, now that it works, a seriously amazing app! It allows me to put recipes together but also consult already tried and true recipes to gather ideas and see if I’m on the right track. Love it!
So, on Saturday before we started brewing, we racked the imperial red. We had soaked oak chips in brandy overnight (for both sanitation and flavor purposes) and added the chips to a glass carboy. Before we transferred the beer, I took a gravity reading and tasted it. Right now the alcohol is overpowering the flavor profile. This is going to be a big beer; between nine and 10 ABV. This is why we left it in the primary fermentor for 14 days and plan on leaving it in the secondary for another 14 days. We also plan on bottle conditioning for at least 14 days, as well. I can see the potential for this beer and hope that the extra time will allow the alcohol character to mellow out.
After this beer was squared away, we were able to commence with the brewing of our IPA. But you can’t start brewing without a tasty beverage to get you through! The hubby and I cracked open the Captain Fantasy, the growler we got at Half Acre the previous night. I am typically not a Saison fan but as brewers are experimenting with different flavor profiles for this style, I like it more and more. I especially liked this interpretation; it was brewed with pear which added a slight sour, tangy note. The beer had a spicy, Belgian yeast aroma and a subtle pear flavor throughout, although it was especially evident on the finish. It was cloudy with a pale yellow hue and slight, white head. This was a refreshing beer to sip while slaving over a hot stove brewing beer.
Brewing the IPA continued without a hitch and I can’t wait to try it! I don’t think it will be winning any awards but it will hopefully be a solid representation of the style. And if it isn’t? I guess we will just have to try again! What shall I do with all this beer? <> Cheers!