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Monday Brews: Reviewing Ben Franklin’s Honey

I’m back from a series of mini-vacations. In that time my Ben Franklin’s Honey Ale was able to carbonate and mature enough to try it out. So today I will review my second beer, Ben Franklin’s Honey!

Brewing Ben Franklin’s Honey

Bottling Ben Franklin's Honey while enjoying Alberti Amber!

Bottling Ben Franklin’s Honey while enjoying Alberti Amber!

I’ve mentioned this beer before so I won’t go into depth here but I wanted to mention a few things.

The first is that brewing my second batch of beer was much less intimidating than the first. Everything was easier. Everything went better. And the overall amount of time and effort that was required fell a lot.

The second thing I wanted to mention is that I recently learned a little about lagering. This seemingly has nothing to do with Ben Franklin’s Honey, however, I only learned about lagering due to a conversation that was started because of Ben Franklin’s Honey. Why do I mention this? See more below.

The third thing I wanted to mention is that timing is an important part of brewing beer. Due to the amount of time is takes to brew/ferment/carbonate it is important to choose a date by which you want your beer to be ready. Then work backwards. So assume you want a month in the bottles. Then add in a week in the carboy. Then add a week in the fermenter. All told for a simple ale you’re looking at a month and a half minimum. That’s how far in advance you need to brew before your desired release party.

So completing my second brew has taught me a lot about the process and what it all involves. And I now have a great summer beer to enjoy over the next couple months!

Tasting Ben Franklin’s Honey

Last night I had the privilege of sharing the first tasting of Ben Franklin’s Honey with three friends over a game of Ora et Labora. My friends were willing to give it a try. The collective opinion: Enjoyable!

This beer is a pretty light beer that tastes “summery.” It comes in around 5% alcohol. It has a light and clear color. The honey flavor was not overwhelming, which was good.

Overall I would say this was an enjoyable brew. I have plenty more to enjoy and may bring a few to GenCon. I will hold off on rating this beer until I have had a few more. But if this brew is like the Alberti Amber, which got much better after maturing in the bottles for a month, then this will be a fantastic beer come August!

Ben Franklin’s Honey’s Successor?

So above I mentioned lagering. This leads me to my next brew. I am planning on brewing an Oktoberfest!

The problem with lagering is that it is slow and needs to ferment at a cooler temp than a typical basement. My luxury is that I have an extra refrigerator in my basement. So I can probably adjust the temperature on the fridge to a point that might work for lagering.

Since I can try to lager, I now have to make sure the timing will work. If lagering takes 6 weeks and maturing in the bottle takes a month, then I have 2.5 months before it will be drinkable. So if I want my Oktoberfest to be available at typical Oktoberfest time (September), then I need to get going on it.

If I brew within the next two weeks I should be able to have a decent Oktoberfest ready on time. Oktoberfests are one of my favorite beer styles. Perhaps it’s partially due to the season in which they show up since I really love late summer/early autumn. Perhaps it’s because I would love to attend the real Oktoberfest in Germany. Whatever the reasons, I am planning on brewing/lagering an Oktoberfest for this fall.

Have you been brewing? Any tips you’d like to share about lagering? I’m planning a post about the lagering process and how it compares to brewing ales and your tips could be included. Thanks for reading!

The Monday Brews 6-3-13

Well, we’re off to the start of a great week! And since it’s Monday, that means I get to talk about beer! It’s been a while since I discussed my brewing adventures. They’re just not as exciting as board game design. But I’ll get you all up to date on what I’ve been up to.

Alberti Amber

My first taste of Alberti Amber

My first taste of Alberti Amber

As you know I bottled my first beer about a month ago. That was my Alberti Amber. It is named after Leon Battista Alberti, a 15th century Italian renaissance man who invented the Alberti cipher.

I have now been able to enjoy the beverage and I was asked to give a 140 character “Tweetable” review of the beer. After the first bottle, which had been in the bottle for about two weeks, here’s what I had to say:

I have since had a few more and I can tell that maturing is making them better.

One of the things that I was worried about was during fermentation my basement was a little too cold for the yeast to throw the kind of party they like to throw. So the result is that this particular Amber Ale is a little sweeter than normal. I actually think it helps to give the beer a little character.

Overall I’m very pleased with how it turned out. I may try to brew the same thing again and see how much different it would taste.

Ben Franklin’s Honey

I think this one will be good!

I think this one will be good!

My second beer is currently in the carboy. It has been in there for just over a week and is therefore ready for bottling.

When this was in the plastic fermenter it was really bubbling like crazy. Bubbles were coming through the fermentation lock every two seconds. For the Alberti Amber at its peak bubbles were coming through every five seconds. The faster bubbling could be due to the large amount of honey in the brew. All that sugar was really giving the yeast something to chew on.

So the brew is sitting patiently in the carboy, just waiting to be bottled. I may try to get that done tonight since I’ve got a busy week. I sure hope it goes better than with the Alberti Amber.

The bottling process seems to be the worst part about brewing. You have to peel off the labels of the bottles, unless you buy new bottles. You have to wash the bottles. You have to boil the sugar that will get added to the beer so that it can carbonate within the bottles. You have to transfer the beer from the carboy back to the plastic fermenter. I suppose you don’t “have” to transfer it, but it’s easier if you do. And then you have to fill and cap about 45-50 bottles.

That’s all part of it though. I hope this turns out to be an awesome summer beer! Hopefully I won’t drink it all before summer officially starts.

Brew #2: Bumblebee Honey Ale

Now that I’m a homebrewer and it all comes so easily to me I figured that I might as well brew up another batch while the first is carbonating in the bottles. So I stopped at my local brewing store (Wine & Hop Shop) and picked up a kit called Bumblebee Honey Ale.  I chose a honey ale for several reasons:

  1. I enjoy New Glarus’ Cabin Fever Honey Bock and Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss
  2. My wife enjoys honey beers.
  3. Brewing beers my wife enjoys helps justify my brewing endeavors.
  4. It’s almost summer and a honey ale would be refreshing on a hot afternoon.

I bought the kit and a couple other things to help with the hydrometer reading and I was ready to brew!

Two pounds on honey in this kit!

Two pounds on honey in this kit!

So on Saturday afternoon while the kids were napping and when I should have been mowing the lawn I brewed instead! This beer has a 45 minute boiling time. The 1 oz. of Cascade hops get added at the start. Then after 35 minutes a half ounce of the Czech Saaz hops are added. And finally after 45 minutes the rest of the Czech Saaz hops and the two pounds of honey are added.

Before I brewed my first batch I was incredibly nervous. Everything seemed so complicated, so detail oriented, and seemingly required perfection. This time around I just got to it.

Awesomeness in a pot!

Awesomeness in a pot!

One of the lessons I learned the first time around is how to better control the heat from the turkey fryer. During the first batch it kept foaming up. This time I was able to recognize when that would happen and I turned down the heat to avoid that.

As it was boiling my daughter woke up and came outside. When she got a sniff of the wort she said, “Ooh, yummy!” I’m not sure what to read into that. But I was happy that it smelled good to her. Later though, when I added the Czech Saaz and it smelled more hoppy, she changed her opinion and said, “PU!”

Overall this second brew went very well. I was able to refine my process and speed things up. I didn’t make as many mistakes. And I had a lot more fun. It’s already bubbling like crazy, which is a joy to watch. Seriously, I could sit in my basement and watch bubbles move through the fermentation lock for an unhealthy amount of time. I even took a video of the bubbles.

So the beer is fermenting nicely in the plastic Ale Pail. Next weekend I’ll switch it over to the glass carboy. I’m hoping to have this beer bottled and ready to go by the end of June. I may even bring some to GenCon in August (unless I drink it all by then)!

The only question is what I should name it. I am naming all of my beers after Renaissance men since I consider myself to be a mediocre one. My first beer I named after Leon Battista Alberti. I’m thinking I might go with something like “Ben Franklin’s Honey” for this one.  I hope it turns out to be delicious, no matter what I name it!

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