Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The bird, flying in the face of common sense

Well, then. Were you, dear readers, aware of the persistent, vicious rumors that have recently been circulated by nefariously pessimistic ne'er-do-wells regarding a supposed deficit - some going as far as to use the alarmist term "shortage" - of the medicinal, antibacterial, and lusciously sticky-icky fragrant flower we all hold near and dear to our beer-loving souls, better known as hops?

Whatever. Let's brew an II2PA2 (that's a double imperial India Pale Ale. Squared.) Introducing:


As in: Flip it. Flip the bird in the general direction of all the malaise surrounding the condition of our economy, and not only as it pertains to beer. Enough already with the moaning about the rising cost of ingredients, and the lack of purchasing power of our dollar at the pub or the grocery store or the homebrew supply shop. We're separating the proverbial wheat from the chaff here. All the chips are in. My metaphor engine is at full tilt: Put your money where your mouth is, literally. Are you in or are you out? Do you, or do you not, value the quality of the beer you drink, on par with the other litany of comestibles you shove down your piehole on a daily basis? If you've started scouring the liquor store shelves for sale tags, feel free to stop reading. It's time to stimulate that karmic economy with a sip of something oh so very delectably bitter:

As in: Flying in the face of all that's reasonable and decent in this world, I decided to break an unplanned and seemingly endless streak of brewing nearly hop-free beers. Between some yeast-driven Belgo-American types, tame and grainy wheat beers, a malt-dominant scotch ale, a spice-heavy holiday ale, and autumn's stable of darker, balanced, and hop-shy British impressions, we've probably earned our rations for the big hop payback I claimed last weekend at Brewcraft. (I should quickly digress to comment on the tension that seemed to creep into the normally fun process of recipe formulation once the discussion turned to how I planned on clearing the store's shelves of all available top-tier hops. Naturally, they didn't even have the ones I'd planned on using, so it turned into a strange sort of alpha acid wheeling dealing sort of thing, where I outlined the bittering units needed to complete my mad plan (90!) and then haggled with Eric to make sure they weren't comprised entirely of harsh and grapefruity garbageblossoms.)

You see, among my numerous personality quirks that would make any therapist feel like a kid in a candy store is my compulsion to act on the most illogical of ideas. While other local masters of the brewing art are happily crafting unique new beers that dispatch with any reliance on hops in exchange for more experimental bittering and aromatic ingredients (like Moonlight's Brian Hunt, whose current releases Working for Tips* and Out to Lunch** are creating quite the stir), it was almost a guarantee that I'd develop the odd itch to discover what everyone's whinging on about and brew something ridiculously hop-aggressive, with such a blatant disregard for cost, efficiency and decency that's it's the homebrew equivalence of visiting the melting polar icecaps by a privately chartered jumbo jet. With the air conditioning on full blast.

When the best laid plans of a ProMash report are dashed before you've even left the store with your ingredients, it sets the stage for my favorite type of brewing day, as it's been proven over the years that equal parts improvisation and disaster typically makes for a fantastic finished product. Sparing you the details of all the bits of drama that unfolded as things didn't go exactly as planned, I will, for those of you brave enough to try to replicate this affair in your own home, relate one procedure which will undoubtedly alter the results from the attached chart. Despite my most lucid calculations regarding the evaporation rate of the kettle boil, at the end of 90 minutes there was a gallon more wort than had been anticipated. So, while we pitched just under 5 gallons in the primary, I set aside the remaining gallon and cooked it down on the stove for a couple more hours until it's volume had been reduced to about 1/4, allowing for even more bitterness extraction along with some nice Maillard (mallard? ha!) coloring which has left the blended wort a beautiful, rusty red.

Of course, that was before it started to ferment, cloud up with the wicked weather of an unholy sea of yeast and hops detritus, and proceed to blow the lid off the carboy about a half dozen times until I finally gave up and let it breathe naturally. The video below is a good demonstration for the novice brewer when it's best to allow for better blow-off during high krausen:

So, thing's are going swimmingly. I didn't bother to take a gravity reading, so don't ask for one. Look for an update in the next couple weeks as it graduates to the keg.

(FYI - The soundtrack from the above video is Wah Wah Man by Young-Holt Unlimited.)

And if you thought this post was simply a foil to test run some new audio and video scripts, shame on you. Every time I mention this beer, I hear a red-tailed hawk cry off in the distance...

* Whose acronym bears a striking resemblance to another, quite fitting common acronym.

** Please let this be an Eric Dolphy reference.

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