Buccoleon Strong Ale

belgian-strongpcThis is a classic Belgian dark tripel. If you have tried Brouwerij Van Steenberge’s Gulden Draak, you know what I mean. Buccoleon Strong Ale is a tribute to that world-class beer.

Brewed with Belgian Strong Ale yeast, it offers flavors of raisins, plums and pears, together with spicy hints of cloves, rum, and nutmeg. Starting with a Pilsner malt base; wheat malt, cara-wheat, crystal malt, biscuit/aroma malts and caramely golden syrup provide a flaky crust for this virtual fruit tart. The yeast leaves its distinctiver mark.

As it is not a Gulden Draak clone, it is a bit drier and a little more bitter. Its original gravity of 24.5 Plato (1105) still leaves a lot of residual sweetness, so it is refermented in the bottle with Champagne yeast and no added bottling sugar. Age this one at least a year.

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Gulden Draak is named after the golden dragon at the top of the belfry of Ghent. The story of how he got there is fascinating. Buccoleon was the dragon’s name. He lived in the swampy ground around Aleppo, one of the chief cities of the Saracens in northern Syria. He was such a tender-hearted old dragon that he was called The Weeping Dragon. He wept bucketfuls of tears when Belgian crusaders and the Saracens fell to fighting. Where his tears fell, beautiful flowers began to grow.

A crusader took their bulbs back to Belgium, where they became famous for being the most beautiful tulips of all. Hearing about their fame, Buccoleon, whose scales had turned to gold because the crusaders had left, flew to Belgium to see for himself. He decided to stay!

Rum Raisin Brown Stout

rum-raisin-brown-stoutpcThis is a beer that answers the question “What would it be like to brew up a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies?”

In the past, the term “stout” referred to a beer that was extra strong. Thus, we had Porter, and we had Stout Porter, which eventually became just Stout for short. Interestingly, what is now known as Stout is oftentimes rather low in alcoholic content while Porters tend to have an ABV of 5.5% to 6% or more. But historically, Stout was any beer that was as strong as the drinkers that were expected to consume it.

To make this brown stout, start with the ingredients for cookies: wheat malt, oats, sultana raisins. Add to this Maris Otter base malt, crystal malt, a touch of caramel rye malt, and some Cara Munich. Mash at a fairly high temperature to encourage the production of unfermentable sugars that will keep the brew more sweet and full-bodied. Magnum and Amarillo hops are assertive without being overpowering. Add golden syrup at the end of the boil to contribute more caramel flavors. Ferment with a fruity yeast such as London Ale. Soak sultanas in dark rum until they are soft, then whirl the mixture in a blender. Add some to the primary fermenter, and another batch to the secondary, along with a hint of vanilla extract.

The result is not so much a beer that tastes like oatmeal raisin cookies as it is an oatmeal raisin cookie that tastes like beer.

Corny Comet Cream Breakfast Ale

Corny CometCPC
A cream ale for breakfast. Not meant to replace your double espresso, but rather to stand beside it, bracing you for the day to come.

Cream ale emerged in the late 19th Century United States when ale breweries, faced with immigrant competition from Bavarian brewers bringing lager to the market, devised a light and refreshing, yet bold concoction that combined the crisp, dry flavor of a lager with the rapid fermentation characteristics of an ale. In many of these renditions, a substantial ABV approaching 5.5% was a feature.

This cream ale uses 22 IBU of Comet hops, a variety that tastes and smells remarkably like pink grapefruit. Breakfast cereal included: organic corn grits, and steel-cut oats, along with some nice caramel notes from a variety of crystal malts. Starting gravity is 15 Plato, boosted by a late addition of rice syrup solids. White Labs WLP080 Cream Ale yeast blend provides crisp yet round fermentation notes. Dry hopping with Comet offers grapefruit aroma.

This is a fruity breakfast drink; cream of corn grits with fruit and oats, delivered with the full mouthfeel of an ultimate smoothie.

Ebulus Cervisiam Delectamentum

EbulumCDepending on where you live, it’s not to late to get out in the woods and gather some elderberries. They make a nice wine of course, but they also make a tart and fruity beer. An elderberry braggot (beer and mead hybrid) is also a tasty possibility. The berries are the fruit of Sambucus species. In Europe, they come most commonly from the Dwarf Elder (Sambucus ebulus.) This tree was known as the Ebull in ancient times, the term taken from its Latin name. The beer made from elderberries is called Ebulum, and appears as a recipe in books from the early 1700s. The Oxford Dictionary defines ebulum as a name for elderberry wine, but London & Country Brew III (1743) says “make a white Ebulum with pale Malt and white Elder-berries.” This was possibly a barley wine.

Elderberries have a long history of medicinal use, with a reputation for successfully treating colds and flu. For this purpose they are usually made into a syrup. The raw berries are somewhat toxic, and so they are cooked. Elderflowers also have medicinal and culinary uses, notably as a background flavoring for the cordial Sambuca.
Sambucus-berries

This Ebulum has a Chocolate Surprise. In addition to the pale malt (in this case Maris Otter) in traditional recipes, this one has chocolate malt, an English blend of crystal malts, and Dingeman’s debittered black malt. It is spiced with elderflowers, grains of paradise, and cinnamon, finished with Muscovado sugar at flameout. A touch of lactose added just before bottling creates a full mouthfeel and a bit of residual sweetness that balances the berries’ tartness.

Stripping two kilos of elderberries from their elaborate stems is tedious work. Drinking the results after a year of aging is a delectable reward.

Malta Macho

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Malt-flavored soft drinks are popular in Latin America, where they go by the name Malta. The drink originated in Germany, where it was called malzbier. In that early version, the beverage was fermented to less than 2% ABV, then bottled and pasteurized, leaving considerable residual sugar. Modern commercial versions use corn syrup, malt extract and artificial carbonation.

This recipe calls for an all-malt approach with no fermentation, and adds a bit of herb tea to expand the flavor sensation. Easy to make, it is prepared as fully non-alcoholic syrup, and carbonated with club soda. The recipe is inexact with regard to herbs, so experiment with proportions to suit your taste.
The accompanying photo shows a malta made with two grams of whole Fuggle hops for every four liters of beverage. They have not been boiled with the malt, and so the flavor and aroma are prominent, but the bitterness is quite mild. The sweetness is there, but is subtly balanced by the hop addition.

To create a drink with even more complex flavor, with considerably more effort you can try an all-grain version. Mash base and specialty grains as you would for beer, collecting about 1.5 liters of liquid.

Heat water to 70 C, add cracked caramel malts in grain bag, steep 30 minutes and remove. Drain liquid from grains and add water to bring back to 1.2 L. Heat water to 100 C, remove from heat. Stir in malt extract and herbs. Cool one hour. Dispense 150 ml into each of eight 500 ml swing-top bottles.

Freeze syrup in bottles, top up with soda water, store in refrigerator. When the frozen syrup has thawed, gently agitate the bottles to suspend the ingredients. After 24 hours any grain flour or trub will again sink to the bottom, leaving the flavor and color components suspended. The liquid can be decanted off the sediment to serve a more clear drink.

Barrel Body Winter Warmer

WinterWarmerW
I’m not a big fan of winter. In late October, scraping enough frost off the windshield to make a frozen Daiquiri, I’m dreading the ice to come. White Christmas is great. January skiing is fun. But as a California guy, by February I’m ready to go on a picnic.

That said, one thing that sustains me through the frigid season is Winter Warmer. A roaring fire, a good book, and a righteous, spicy ale make all the difference when the wind blows cold, the snowflakes fly, and the nights are long.

In the old days, folks could huddle around the barrel body of a pot-belly stove to keep warm. These days, even a gas log will do if there’s a fine winter warmer close at hand. Barrel Body Winter Warmer fills the bill.
potbelly-stove-sale

Barrel Body starts out as a pretty straightforward copper ale. A full grain bill augmented with lots of caramel and crystal malt is topped off with Melanoidin malt to boost the red color, and provide plenty of heavy mouthfeel. The recipe adds golden sugar and Belgian dark aromatic candi to raise the starting gravity and tweak the umami.

The baseline spiciness comes from cinnamon and nutmeg. To kick it up a notch, a hint of Voodoo Elixir in the secondary fermenter adds flavors of coffee, chicory, cubeb, gumbo, licorice, sassafras and sarsaparilla.

Safale US-05 ferments this one out full and dry. At about 7.9% ABV, Barrel Body Winter Warmer lives up to its name.

Scott’s Revenge BC Brown Ale

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British Columbian brewers have been trying hard to establish a unique style of beer, in the shadow, alas, of the huge brewing scenes of Washington and Oregon. Those two states, in turn, have led with their own brewing evolution, against the mega-hopped IPAs of Southern California.

The trend in all three Northern areas has been to less aggressively bitter, but no less flavorful beers, including Northwest Pale Ale, with the characteristically citrus-flavored hop varieties now emerging from the Oregon/Washington growing region.

In the 1940s B.C. grew more hops than any other region of the Commonwealth. The Molson Export recipe of that time specified only “B.C. Hops.” But since 1997 or so, there had been almost no commercial hops grown in British Columbia. Recently, however, that trend is reversing, as the demand from craft brewing again makes hop growing a viable industry in B.C.

What does not seem to be occurring though, is the expansion of flavor sensations accomplished by full-spectrum recipe formulations. B.C. beers, though tasty, frequently lack complexity. Scott Beauchamp, manager and buyer at Nelson Liquors in Nelson B.C. has tasted a lot of British Columbia beers, and he agrees. That’s why I brewed a full-spectrum beer using B.C. hops, with him in mind: Scott’s Revenge. The color is really more of a dark amber to copper, and the aroma is dominated by malty notes, with very light hoppiness.

Scott’s B.C. Brown has plenty of caramel flavors from five grades of crystal, plus CaraAroma and CaraMunich malts. Chocolate and Black Prinz malts provide deep roasty flavors.

The hops were grown in Nelson, B.C. and consist of a blend of Nugget, Willamette, Fuggle and Golding varieties. They were lightly air-dried for a week before going into the brew in three additions. Safale US-05 fermented it out nice and dry.

Next season I will likely get a bigger Golding crop, and I plan to try this recipe again with wet-hop and dry-hop additions. Then Scott’s revenge against bland B.C. ales will be complete.