Inspired by Latvian mythology.

Saule (goddess of the sun, patroness of the unfortunate)
4.9% ABV, 20 IBU
2.5 gallon batch
4.25 lb Pilsen malt
12 oz light Munich malt
4 oz Melanoidin malt
.75 oz Tettnanger at 60 minutes
2 oz crushed juniper berries at 10 minutes
.75 oz Tettnanger at 0 minutes
White Labs San Francisco Lager Yeast

Crisp, clean, with an herbal, lemony finish.

Jumis (god of the harvest and fertility)
7.5% ABV, 49 IBU
2.5 gallon batch
3.5 lb 2-row
2.5 lb cherrywood smoked malt
1.25 lb dark Munich
12 oz CaraMunich
.875 oz Centennial at 60 minutes
.5 oz Centennial at 15 minutes
.625 oz Centennial at 0 minutes
1 oz Chinook, dry hop for 3 days
White Labs Dry English Ale Yeast

Malty, smokey, piney.

Well, it’s in the bottles.  And it’s pretty damn good.  Granted I tasted it flat and somewhat lukewarm, but it’s got a great balance between chocolate sweetness and lavender herbalness.  The chocolate plays off the roasted malt, and the lavender off the hops.  Carbonation and more time in the fridge should definitely help this become great.

Also, it’s my first time making labels.  I figured since it’s a special brew, I should do it up a bit.

For those who don’t recognize the writing on the label, it’s the only love letter Homer ever wrote to Marge (“It’s more of a love postcard from some brewery he visited.”), from “Bart the Lover” in Season 3.  Click through to read the text, or find the video on YouTube – Homer’s reading is classic.

To celebrate Jacky’s upcoming birthday in September, and her momentary return from Mexico (one week out of a five month trip), I’ve started a Lavender Chocolate Stout.  I’ve been planning a beer with lavender for quite some time – the initial plan, and likely the next brew with Clint, was for a pale ale with lavender and lime – which makes this quite momentous for me.

I initially thought of doing a really strong imperial stout, 9-11% ABV, but revised this based on my ultimate decision to emphasize the lavender and chocolate flavors over alcohol.  And, of course, I simply didn’t have enough time to let a high alcohol beer develop well enough for an early September debut.  (The last joint brew with Clint, for example, a 13% barleywine, is still mellowing out 6 months later.)

So, since I had decided that ABV would not be a primary consideration, and because the lavender was largely an experiment (the information readily available online that I could find is nearly zilch), I decided to not risk anything with the base recipe.  As such, I started with a clone of Rogue’s Chocolate Stout (itself a delicious beer).  Cut in half for a 2.5 gallon batch, and with some tiny modifications, resulting in:

  • 3 3/4 lb amber malt extract syrup
  • 1/2 lb Crystal malt 80
  • 1/4 lb Chocolate malt
  • 1/4 lb Flaked oats
  • 1/4 lb Roasted barley
  • 2 oz Cascade hops (1/2 oz at 60 min, 1/2 oz at 15 min, and 1 oz at 5 min)
  • White Labs WLP001 California Ale yeast
  • 4 oz Ghirardelli ground chocolate and cocoa (at 30 min)
  • 1/2 oz lavender, cut about a week prior (at 10 min)
  • Irish moss and yeast nutrient

The smell of the wort right out of the boil is pretty amazing.  The chocolate and lavender seem very well balanced, with a good mix of sweetness and herbal spiciness.  It’s currently bubbling away, and will be racked to secondary in 5 days.  At that point I’ll decide whether or not to “dry hop” with more lavender.  More to come…

This morning I finally got around to bottling Jacky’s cider, which of course went into the carboy in early December (or was it late November?).  It tastes great, with a really nice tartness and a very light body.  I conditioned it with piloncillo, which will hopefully add a bit of molasses character to the final product.

Then Clint came over and we botted our winter barleywine, which of course was originally supposed to be a fall barleywine.  Originally we planned for something overloaded with pumpkin and all the spices you associate with it, but we got lazy (and I got busy).  So then we said “Oh well, let’s do a winter barleywine” and so we kept the malt and hop bill and just changed the adjuncts to: molasses, apples, orange peel, ancho chiles, canela, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice.  Then today we conditioned with piloncillo and dark sugar as a last ditch effort to cram in as much richness as possible.  The unconditioned beer is really great: light body (owing to our use of champagne yeast for a secondary fermentation to really eat up the sugar) and very rich flavor, leaning heavily toward the apples and orange peel, with a spicy kick in the throat at the end.  This one should be very tasty.

Upcoming projects:
A super secret beer I’m hoping to brew in the next week for a late March event, at least so that I can deliver bottles in some stage of conditioning.  Something with a very high ABV, but with a twist of some kind. Brainstorming to come.

Lavender-lime pale ale.  A really simple session pale but with lavender oil and lime leaves added.  Proportions of spicing to beer will be a bit tricky, I think.  Hops will have to be light on this one.

Tamarind IPA.  It’s happening, dagnammit!  This one has been in the pipeline longer than any other of my ideas, and I’m finally going to do it this spring.  I’ll have to decide on a really floral hop so as to not add too much to the tamarind’s bitterness.  Or I could just go overboard and make it as bitter as possible.

Another batch of Xoco.  This beer is f’ing awesome.  The exact quantities of xoconostle fruit that we used were never recorded, so that’ll be a bit of a guessing game.  But then it’d be pretty boring to just make the same beer again.  We’ll probably modify the recipe in some way, because really I think the success of this beer is really just that the xoconostle is such a great fruit to use with the typical Belgian yeast flavor.

An undecided summer beer.  Suggestions?

I finally got around to bottling this, after brewing, what, almost two months ago?  The (still not quite finished) result is pretty outstanding.  Flavors are pretty basic: malt, a tiny bit of hops, and a good shot of smoky bacon.  All in all it’s amazingly well balanced – nothing about it screams OMG BACON.  You can’t miss it, but it doesn’t punch you in the mouth.  And the flavors all go surprisingly well together.  The smoke flavor makes the hops into more of a grassy bitterness than any kind of citrus or floral flavor.  And since grain goes so well with bacon anyway…

I can’t wait for this one to finish conditioning.  It’s remarkably clear, at least based on how hazy Mk I was.  With proper carbonation and two more weeks of mellowing, it should be pretty darn awesome.

Up next for bottling is the hard apple cider, which I’ll condition with brown sugar.  Then, of course, comes the spiced barleywine.  Good times ahead.

Yet another beer post.  At least it’s something, right?

Pope of Chile Town is by far the riskiest beer I’ve done to date, and by and large it has failed.  The intent was to make a super strong beer (>10%), something like an imperial pale, and flavor it with TONS of chiles.  Serranos, japoneses, guajillos, and anchos.  I think it was… 30 chiles for the 2.5 gallon batch.

About 2 months after brewing (in summer 2008), it was terrible.  Most bottles had effectively zero carbonation, with others having somewhere between 5 and 10 bubbles total.  (Inconsistent carbonation has been a recurring issue for me, especially on smaller batches.  Still trying to pin down the cause.)  The flavor was primarily sweet, supported by the incredibly thick body, with a good amount of chile flavor and heat.  The worst part about it was the debris, which would never stay in the bottle.  It seemed almost… salty…  Maybe salty isn’t the right word, but it’s a bit more descriptive than disgusting.

Anyway, I just opened a bottle in the interest of dumping out the entire batch (in an effort to clean out the brewing closet).  Amazingly, there was a satisfying fssst, and so I had to pour a bit of it.  Bubbles!  Carbonation!  Then I had to taste it.  Chile!  Chile!  Chile!  And alcohol!  Still a tiny bit of that cloying sweetness, but verging on the maple syrup-ness like William and I experienced with our very old beers.  It was actually pretty damn satisfying, though slightly hampered by the almost overwhelming chile flavor.  That’s when I made my mistake: I poured the rest of the bottle.  All the debris poured out, ruining the beer with that bizarre salty grossness.

It seems pretty lame to have a beer where you can only pour out half the bottle before the flavor gets ruined.  I think I’m just going to dump the rest down the drain, and perhaps shed a little tear in the process.  Maybe I’ll take the bottles actually go fssst and pour half of them into a glass, then drink that and get really toasted.

Update: Only one other bottle had a fssst.  That means the batch had higher than a 90% failure rate (with carbonation being a major component of success).  Ouch.

This is my last brewing-related post for at least the next week.  Yesterday Clint and I brewed up a seasonal barleywine which we’re hoping will be ready in time for my end-of-quals celebration on Feb. 1.  If all goes to plan, it’ll be around 11-11.5% ABV.  We spruced it up with molasses, orange peel, apples, cloves, canela, and allspice.  It smelled pretty amazing during the boil!  It’ll sit for a bit over a week with plain old ale yeast, then we’ll sucker punch it with some champagne yeast at the end to really eat up a ton of sugar and hopefully lighten up the texture a bit.  We’re very excited about this one!

Two new brews into the carboy on Sunday.  Well, one brew and one straight ahead apple cider + yeast dealie.  It’s my first time doing hard cider, so I really have no idea what to expect.  I had initially wanted to make a hard ponche, since this’ll be ready right around Xmas and all and it would actually involve some work and creativity, but Jacky specifically requested a simple fruit cider.  And since she’s coming back after a 3 month research trip, I figured I’d indulge her.  Just this once.

Also brewed up BaconBeer mkII.  This one is just simply bacon.  And more bacon.  None of that fruit crap that got in the way with the first batch.  To start: I took Bill’s advice and soaked the bacon (2 lbs this time) in the brew water for a few hours.  This gave the water a simultaneously pleasant and disconcerting smell.  Then I removed and dried the bacon.  Once it was ready, I fried it up, making sure to collect everything that came out of the pan.  I then added the bacon grease to the water and began the boil.  Then went the grain bag, into which I put not only grain but also cooked bacon.  This then soaked in the hot water for approximately 30 minutes.  At the end of the brew, the wort had an aroma of cereal grain and bacon, which, let’s face it, is a pretty awesome combination.  The carboy is currently extremely active, again with the characteristic fatty layer up top.  I hopeful for this one.

Today I submitted my petitions to fully satisfy all coursework requirements.  This means, assuming they’re accepted, that I’m all ready to qualify in January.  Speaking of which, time to get back to writing.  FOREVER.

Last night at a little dinner party, William and I cracked open the last remaining bottles of our very first forays into homebrewing, from July and August of 2007.  Batch #0001 was called “West Coast Pale Ale,” a HomeBrewMart starter recipe.  At the time we noted the beer was very “safe,” that is to say very boring.  Very little alcohol, with very mild flavor (at least it was a balanced mild!).  #0002 was our first “recipe,” “Continual Surveillance,” a pretty good West Coast-style IPA complete with dry hopping.  Decent alcohol (~6.5%), good IBUs, and all around good flavor.

Fast forward 27 months, and these beers were vastly different.  Extremely different from when we tasted them at one year of aging.  Both took on a darker color and gained an interested maple syrup-like flavor.  #0002 was a little brighter from the original hops, but in terms of obviously recognizable hop flavor they were more or less the same.  Alcohol flavor was there, but almost as a component of the maple syrup-ness.  Really, really weird.

As for new beer, we also opened up a few bottles of the new xoconostle brew, a Belgian golden flavored with xoconostle fruit.  Very light body, nice yeasty funk, nice sugary sweetness and nice fruity tartness.  I think we did a pretty good job with this one.

I also made a couple of new salsas last night: a serrano/lime salsa that was delicious, and a tomato/pequin salsa that came out much milder than I had anticipated.  I guess I overestimated the impact that the little suckers would have on a whole batch.

Just about half a year since the last post, and very similar content to report. Rather odd, that.

This past weekend was the 54th annual Society for Ethnomusicology Conference, at which I presented a slightly updated version of my IASPM-US paper, albeit with a different title (“Creative Listening: Playlists, Mixtapes, and the Virtual Ethnography of Virtual Music”). I got some really good questions, including a prompt to consider the ways I’m using the term “consumption” (spoiler alert: I used it really sloppily). That might actually end up being a major part of my qual essay on the same topic – what exactly it means to consume something without the explicit exchange of goods. Then of course there’s the issue of radio, which I’ll need to deal with in some way. We’ll see.

Amazing food was had in Mexico City, including tacos piled sky high with delectable meat (the highlight being carne asada+bacon+onions+charred queso fresco), verdolagas (my new favorite vegetable), and escamoles (which, while very tasty and fun to eat, were a bit too pricey). Other highlights include lamb with beer/tequila salsa and getting drunk from two bottles of Negra Modelo because of the altitude.

VerdolagasHere’s my attempt at pork & verdolagas in salsa verde. Turned out pretty well!

Aquapuke recently performed a new piece, “Aquapuke and the Reefed Victory,” at the first UCSD Grad Forum of this academic year. It was a piece less obviously related to contemporary issues of body/presence/sexuality than, say, “Industrial Transsexual” was. Rather, it drew from the mythology of sirens as seductive/destructive binary, effectively making Clint into the siren to my ocean/sailors. The sailors, conquering the ocean, are lured to and eventually destroyed by the siren, bringing about the realization that their conquest was false, unattainable from the start. Plus it was loud and noisy and I was in fishnets and booty shorts. High art indeed.

The xoconostle beer that Clint and I made is almost ready. The unconditioned beer that we tasted (right out of the carboy, prior to bottling) was incredibly tasty. Very light body, with a great balance between sugary sweetness and fruity tartness. Plus some really great yeasty flavors from the mix of Trappist and Belgian Ale yeasts we used.

And now it’s all preparation for qualifying in the early half of next quarter. Woohoo. Then I can put some of this work aside and move on to the stuff I’ve been loving lately. More to come.

Happy Thanksgiving!