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Brew Your Own Hard Cider

September 8, 2012 4 comments

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Fall is a few weeks away and I have a fun and easy brewing project that’s perfect for this time of year.  It requires 3 ingredients, and about 15 minutes to mix and prep for fermentation.  In just 2 weeks, you’ll have delicious homemade hard cider to share with your family and friends.

Some important notes before you begin:

  1. Use apple cider with NO preservatives.  Preservatives will kill the yeast.
  2. If apple juice is the only ingredient, then you are good go.  Cloudy or unfiltered is good, and the fresher the better since it may contain wild yeast that will add to the flavor of your finished product.
  3. Yeast can be purchased at your local homebrew store or online from homebrew sites like Maryland Homebrew or Northern Brewer.
  4. This recipe makes a 5 gallon batch.  You can make smaller batches – use 1 cup of sugar per 1 gallon of cider.  However, you will need to adjust the amount of yeast required.
  5. Alcohol content will range from 5-7 ABVs.  Likely closer to 7 ABVs.  For big kiddies only!
    F…
  6. For best results, consider investing in some standard brewing equipment, especially if you plan to make this recipe again and again.  A standard carboy, a rubber stopper, an airlock (to keep oxygen out), a funnel, and a bottle of santizer.  All of these things can be purchased at your favorite homebrew store.
    ……
  7. Lastly, as with beer brewing, sanitation is of prime importance.  All equipment, including bottles or carboy and anything that touches the inside of the fermenting container should be sterilized or sanitized to ensure no unwanted bacteria mucks up your cider.  You can do this by adding an ounce of sanitizing liquid to a bucket and to the carboy and filling it with cold water.  Then soak all equipment several minutes (3-5) or spray it on with a spray bottle.  You can also boil or put in dish washer immediately beforehand to sterilize.  This step alone can make all the difference between success and disaster.

Homebrewed Hard Cider

Ingredients

  • 5 gallons apple cider, no preservatives – room temperature
  • 5 cups white granulated sugar
  • 1 vial yeast – room temperature
    Champagne yeast is good for drier cider, or use a British Ale Yeast for sweeter cider.

Equipment

  • 1 5-gallon carboy, or 5 gallon container with airtight lid.  Sanitize or sterilize well before use!
    c
  • 1 large funnel (santized!)
  • 1 airtight stopper for carboy, or lids or caps for other containers (santized!)
  • 1 airlock (if using carboy) (sanitized!)
  • 1 cup measuring cup (santized!)

Instructions

  • Insert funnel into top of carboy.
  • Pour in 5 cups of sugar (add sugar before cider so it doesn’t stick in the funnel).
  • Pour in 1 gallon of cider.
  • Remove the funnel, lift the carboy, and swish it around really good to dissolve the sugar, set it down for a minute, then lift and swish again to ensure sugar is dissolved.
  • Add remaining 4 gallons of cider.
  • Rock the carboy to swish and mix the liquid.
  • Shake yeast well and add contents to cider.
  • Rock the carboy to swish and mix yeast with the cider and also to add lots of air into the liquid.  Do this for at least 1 minute to ensure all is well incorporated.
  • Add stopper and airlock (with water added, per instructions) to top of carboy.
  • Move carboy to a dark and cool location with consistent temperature, like a basement or crawl space.  Leave it for 2 weeks.
  • Check regularly to ensure the yeast are active and that gas is not building up too much in the carboy.  This could cause a bit of an explosion if left unattended.

Finished cider can be kegged and force carbonated, or bottled with a bit of sugar to naturally carbonate the cider.  Or drink it uncarbonated.

No matter how you drink it, it will be delicious and it will be brewed by you!

I’ll check back in two weeks with an update.  In the meantime, have you made hard cider before?  Tell us how it turned out and let us know if you have any advice.  If this if your first time, come back and let us know how your cider turned out.   And of course, send questions and comments.

There are also some great videos on YouTube (Check out HomeBrewRecipes) for more info and ideas.

Cheers beers!

“Lucky Dogs” Get Private Tour of Flying Dog Brewery

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A few posts back I had written about the Hubster’s wins in our local Battle of the Bubbles homebrew competition.  First place won the chance to have their beer professionally brewed at the Barley & Hops brewpub.  But SECOND place (aka. the Hubster) won a private tour with 10 select beer buddies at the Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, Maryland.

We have since cashed in on that prize, and he now has his sights set on winning second place again NEXT year!  We had a rare and fantastic opportunity to spend half a day on a personal guided tour with two of Flying Dog’s top brewing experts.  For almost 5 hours, we had access to the brewery, professional brewing information, and of course Flying Dog beers.

Breakfast of Champions

The tour started off with a brewer meet and greet and liquid breakfast in Flying Dog’s tap room.  We became fast friends with our two tour guides – the two Bens.   Ben C. came from the banking industry in PA and worked his way through the ranks to become one of Flying Dog’s top brewers.  Ben S. is FD’s science guy, tasting coordinator, quality control lead and scrabble guru.  He has the awesome responsibility of ensuring that Flying Dog’s beers are always top quality.  I can personally assure you they are both doing excellent work!

We also tried a very unique beer called Keith’s Gose.  Unique because it is a sour beer brewed with Old Bay seasoning, intended to pair with steamed crabs.  I guarantee you’ve never tasted a beer like this before.  The only thing missing were the crabs.

The “Have it Your Way” Tour

It was our tour, our way, whatever we wanted to see, ask, or taste.  We went outside, back inside, past the grains, around the brew tanks, down to the experimental brewing operations, back up to the fermenters, stopped for a refill (fresh Raging Bitch Belgian IPA straight from the tank…ahhhahh), into the boiler room, over to quality control, across to bottling, on to kegging, upstairs to storage, past the hot room, into the hop cooler, back over to bottling, and finishing in the tap room for a potty break and refills.  Shew!  The homebrewers were in heaven, soaking in the beer data, tips tricks, stories, and snagging some recipe ideas.  The two Bens seemed happy to share their knowledge with an enthusiastic and fairly knowledgeable group.

Behind the Scenes Tidbits

They can recycle their yeast up to 15 or 16 times, depending on the beer.  And each generation spawns better and better beer.

There’s a hot room used to store beer at garage temps.  Ben S. has to taste these beers to determine the shelf life and durability of any given 6-pack after it’s been sitting in the garage all summer.  It’s a tough job, but at the end of the day, it’s free beer!

Artwork is EVERYWHERE in that brewery.  But the best artwork is on the labels.  All label art is designed by Ralph Steadman.  But the brewery art and murals are painted by local artists who have studied Steadman’s style.  Their reflective work appears in the entrance hallway leading to the brewery and in numerous locations throughout the brewery.

Who Spiked the Beer???

After potty breaks and refills, the two Bens led us into a conference room and Ben C. poured 6 beer samples in  labeled cups.  These beers were intentionally spiked with contaminants that produce common off-flavors in beer.  The point is, in order to produce good beer, it is equally important to know how beer should and should NOT taste.  It should NOT taste like creamed corn, green apple, butter, or circus peanuts (banana – unless its a hefeweizen).  All good flavors for jelly bellies, but not so much for beer.

Some large brewers intentionally produce these flavors because they appeal to certain tastes.  For instance, creamed corn is a flavor produced by DMS that actually appeals to a wide audience, and which you will find prevalent in some select and very well known commercial brews.

All Good Things Come to an End

We ended on a huge high note as Ben S. pulled out some specialty beverages from the secret stash, including side by side comparisons of their current and vintage Horn Dog Barleywine; their special Secret Stash Harvest Ale; vintage Gonzo Barrel Aged Imperial Porter (my personal favorite); The Fear Imperial Pumpkin Ale (stellar!); and side by side tastings of the almost released Fever Chocolate IPA, as it was supposed to taste vs. the production version.  Both versions of The Fever were great beers, but the chocolate flavors dropped out of the final packaged version, which resulted in a very tasty non-chocolate IPA. The original version is absolutely delicious and completely different – a full hoppy IPA with a smooth blend of chocolate flavor that totally works.

By the end of it all, we had two new beer buds in the two Bens.  We found our way to the gift shop, purchased current and vintage beverages and lots of swag, then hugged it out and made our way safely home.

I would like to give a huge shout out and thank you to the two Ben’s.  We can’t thank you enough for your gracious hospitality and generous sharing of beer knowledge.

Your Chance to Tour Flying Dog Brewery

Visit Flying Dog’s website to sign up for a tour or attend one of their offbeat events.  It’s a great time to hang out with friends, sample some stellar brews, and learn how beer is made by one of America’s finest breweries.

Cheers Beers!

Phantom Brewer Takes “Battle of the Bubbles” by Storm

Ok, well maybe he’s not a phantom, but my hubster certainly came from out of no where and took this year’s Battle of the Bubbles homebrew competition by storm!   Battle of the Bubbles is a local competition started last year, and continued this year as part of Frederick Beer Week.

I’m bragging you say?  You bet I am!

88 beers were entered in 21 different categories.  The hubster entered four of his homebrews – a Belgian IPA, a Southern English Brown, a Hellesbock and a Winterbock (my personal favorite).

Results were as follows…

  • Belgian IPA – 2nd place all around, 1st place in its category,
  • Southern English Brown – 1st place in its category
  • Hellesbock –  3rd place in its category
  • Winterbock – 2nd place in its category.

All went to the final round, with his Belgian IPA taking 2nd place all around.

We thought he’d come home with a few medals of honor, but when he collected his winnings, the stash included four huge ribbons; gift cards from local restaurants, Northern Brewer and White Labs (yeast); beer stickers; t-shirt; a tap handle; and a VIP tour of Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick for up to 10 people (don’t think I won’t be blogging about that!).

Holy cow!  We were two giddy kids sitting in the car, laughing and dumbfounded by all the goodies he’d won.

Rumor has it, my hubster is “the one to watch out for” next year.  That’s the best prize of all!

Cheers beers everyone!  

Frederick Beer Week is Back!

For more information about Frederick Beer Week, visit www. FrederickBeer.com.

It’s that time again!  May 12-19, Frederick, Maryland is all about beer (as it should be) as our fare city celebrates our 2nd Annual Frederick Beer Week.

If you’re not familiar with Frederick, we are home to:

Last year’s Frederick Beer Week started this annual event off with a boom, and this year’s events prove to be bigger and better with two beer festivals, beer dinners, beer happy hours, brewery tours, great music (some of it about beer), the Battle of the Bubbles 2 home brew competition, and so much more.  Check out what’s going on….

2012 FREDERICK BEER WEEK EVENTS

Saturday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday

So if you’re if you’re in the Frederick area this coming week (we’re just a 30 minute drive from DC and Baltimore), come join us for some great beer and tons of fun for big kids and for the little kiddies too.   We’ll see you there!

Cheers beers!

Specialty Beer Brings Home the Blue

September 25, 2011 5 comments

After his first taste of competition at Frederick Beer Week this past spring, the Hubster decided to enter two of his brews into the Frederick County Fair.  Mind you, the Frederick County Fair sounds like small potatoes, but Frederick actually has a well established homebrew community, and our Frederick’s Original Ale Maker’s (FOAM)  homebrew club includes a large membership and some highly regarded beer judges and brewers.  So the entries for this event were numerous and competitive, ranging in all types and styles of beer.

I can attest that the Hubster makes some darn good brews, and for this round, he entered his fresh hopped IPA in the IPA category (the largest with 24 entries), and his pumpkin ale in the specialty beer category (second largest with 20 entries).  Results were posted late Sunday eve and we awoke to victory – a first place win in the specialty beer category with his pumpkin ale!   Very exciting!  And let me tell you, award winning beer tastes so much sweeter.

 

Cheers Beers!

Spent Grain Barley Snack Bars

This recipe came from the Spent Grain Chef of the Brooklyn Brew Shop.  Holy cow this chef knows how to conjure up some tasty recipes using spent grain (grain that’s left over from homebrewing).

These snack bars are absolutely delicious, and the recipe is twofold in that I also learned to dry the grain before baking with it.  It really changes the texture and makes the grain nice and crunchy, as opposed to a chewy wet sawdust texture, which works fine for dog biscuits, but not so much for human treats.

Drying the Grain

  • Preheat oven to 150 degrees (or 200 degrees if your oven won’t go that low).
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Spread the grain on the parchment in a thin layer.
  • Bake in the oven for 5-7 hours, stirring the grain every few hours to ensure even drying.
  • When completely dried, store in an airtight container and perhaps even keep refrigerated to ensure longer shelf life.

Barley Snack Bars
(from the Spent Grain Chef)

  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup spent barley from brewing, dried [How to Dry Spent Grain]
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup raw almonds
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup dried cherries
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Combine your oats and raw almonds on a sheet tray and toast in the oven for six to seven minutes, stirring halfway through to prevent burning.
  2. Meanwhile line an 11X13 baking dish with wax paper or parchment and spray with non-stick spray.
  3. Put brown sugar, honey, butter, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.
  4. Combine slightly cooled oats and almonds in a medium sized bowl with spent barley and dried cherries.
  5. Pour brown sugar mixture over oats mixture and combine.
  6. Pour into prepared dish and let cool 2-3 hours. Cut up and wrap individually, if you like.
  7. Made 12 individual bars. I prefer to keep them refrigerated at home, but they’re fine unrefrigerated when transporting.

Variations:  Switch these up with different ingredients. Try adding different nuts, like toasted walnuts, peanuts, cashews, or pecans. Leave them whole or chop them up. Use different fruits like dried blueberries, cranberries, raisins, or apricots. Throw in some sunflower or pumpkin seeds. Even chocolate chips, toffee bits, or even M&Ms would be fun.

I’d love to call these health bars, but they’re more like sticky, sweet, fruity, fibrous bars of wholesome yummy goodness.  Still much healthier and satisfying than a candy bar, and a great energy snack for recreational activities like hiking, biking, boating, etc.

If you have spent grain, do try these and some of the other delicious recipes devised by the Spent Grain Chef.   Another great incentive to start homebrewing, homebrew more often, make friends with a homebrewer, or in my case….marry one!

Cheers beers!

Old Fashioned Homegrown Hop Pickin’

The hops here at our small Hoppy Times hop farm and home brewery have finally reached their third season – the season when bumper crops are expected to roll in.  And so they have.

Last year we were a bit concerned because Fred, our oversized ground critter, Fredwina and six baby Freds all lived under the shed and enjoyed snacking on the bottom leaves of the hop vines. This year, they opted for my cucumber plants instead, so unfortunately we will be without pickles this year, but the centennial and cascade hops have been left to flourish for this year’s labor day IPA.  Woo hoo!

Hop vines grow up, out, into my azalea bush, and through the shed.

The hubster engineered a great contraption that allows the vines to grow high against the shed,
and it unlatches and lowers for easy picking.

Our little hop of horrors is hungry today!

Let the good old fashioned hop pickin’ begin!

A hopback is a hop filter that fits between the kettle and the wort chiller. Only whole cone hops (vs hop pellets) can be used in a hopback.  The hot wort flows straight from the brew kettle and through the fresh hops, then into the wort chiller where the hop flavor is locked into the beer.

The hops are dried before use, so we spread them into a single layer across window screens.
Then we’ll vacuum seal the hops and freeze them for brew day.

Hope you enjoyed the Hoppy Times hop farm tour.  We’ll let you know how that Labor Day IPA turns out!

Cheers beers!

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