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Messages - Jeff Renner

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All Grain Brewing / Re: Flaked maize percentage for CAP
« on: January 06, 2010, 01:32:57 AM »
I generally use about 22%, which is actually low on the scale historically - say 100 years ago.  I'm not sure I get an actual corn flavor but I do think it gives a corny sweetness, as contrasted to when I use rice, which seems to give a drier, crisper beer.  George Fix agreed (actually, I agreed with him.)

But who knows?  At the 2000 National Homebrewers Conference in Livonia, Michigan, where I gave a talk on CAP, retired Stroh Brewery brewmaster (and inventor of the Beer Flavor Wheel) Morten Meilgaard also spoke, and was very insistent that corn and rice were neutral in flavor! 

Stroh's archivist Peter Blum also spoke.  He told me that Stroh's used rice until the 1950s, then corn until the 1980s, when they used brewers corn syrup (with the same sugar spectrum as mashed grain).

Rice was preferred by many brewers of 100 years ago because of the reputation that milled corn had had of having too high a proportion of oil, which would go rancid and spoil the quality of the beer.  Advances in dry milling of corn eliminated this problem, but Stroh was a very conservative, family owned business according to Blum, and stayed with rice long after most brewers had switched to corn.

Both Blum and Meilgaard were quite definite that there was no flavor difference in corn, rice and corn syrup.  They definitely knew their business, and spoke from experience with tasting panels.

My experience differs.  Maybe our scale leaves more flavor from the corn?

At any rate, in answer to the original question, 20-30% corn should give corn character.  Make sure that your flaked maize is fresh and has a corn aroma.  Doing a cereal mash with corn meal or polenta might help.  Beside, it's fun.

One further question is, were you tasting DMS in those samples you've identified as having corn flavor?  That is different, and can be appropriate in small amounts.  It was typical of many midwest beers before modern techniques cleaned it up.


General Homebrew Discussion / Re: really stupid question....
« on: January 06, 2010, 12:06:01 AM »
invest in a carboy for the next batch...

Be very careful with glass carboys.  Over the years there have been reports of trips to the ER with severed arteries and tendons, and in the newest (I think) Zymurgy, a horror story about a brewer who nearly cut his hand off!  It was actually flipped back on his wrist.  [Shudder]

I've broken a few over the years with nothing lost but beer, but they still scare me.  I have an orange handle on the neck, but never lift by that alone, and keep them in plastic milk crates except when I have to take them out to rinse them after cleaning.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Nice find
« on: January 05, 2010, 11:57:56 PM »
I seldom bottle, but I do for strong beers, and I always put away a sixer for tasting over the next few years.  It is a good way to educate yourself on what happens to beer as it ages in bottles.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Solera beers
« on: January 05, 2010, 11:50:17 PM »
As Jeff Rankert wrote above, I wrote an article in Zymurgy on this technique, and I believe I was the one to introduce the term "solera" for it.  So far as I know, the term traditionally refers only to the blending of sherry in Jerez, Spain.  That technique is somewhat different in that it uses many vessels.

My solera is simply a dedicated corney keg.  I started it about 15 years ago simply to improve a flabby, all-pale malt strong ale with some dark old ale to give the blend some needed "bite" from higher bitterness and dark malts.  I had no thought of continuing it.  It worked, and over the next year or two (as I recall, I suppose I should dig out the article), I blended in other strong ales to keep it going.

After perhaps two years, it developed a nice sour tang, so I brewed new beers to capitalize on that - more or less in the old ale style - 1.065 or so, dark but not a porter, moderately hopped, maybe 45 IBU.  At this point, I was thinking of Greene King's Olde Suffolk, which apparently has Walloon origins

When newly filled on top of perhaps a gallon or so of the old blend, this beer had a nice, mellow tang, and this increased over time.  At its best, it had a wonderful winey character.

This article, and previous posts in HomeBrew Digest, inspired homebrewers and homebrew clubs to try it.  At some point, clubs and commercial brewers started doing this in oak barrels.  As Jeff wrote, our club began one four years ago with an English-style barleywine.

Regarding what style to use - I would suggest a minimum of OG 1.060, but beyond that, experiment.

My own solera has been rather neglected of late with about two quarts left untouched for maybe two years.  I wonder if the microbes in it are still viable.  I will brew an old ale this spring and top it up.

One of the homebrewers who read my article lives in Sweden, and sent me the following article, showing that this technique has migrated beyond its presumed Walloon roots.



-sour, with a rich aroma all its own
-of a reddish brown hue
-unfiltered and live
-a generous measure of Vienna malt
-wort that has simmered a good long while
--relatively little bitterness and hops aroma
-about two years
-in a temperate cellar(>14oC/66°F)
-and then tapped and replenished in a special way


Old Ale was brought to Sweden by Walloon immigrants recruited under royal privilege to develop the budding Swedish iron and steel industry. The first ”French”brewers to receive royal permission to brew ale in Sweden were Willem and  Gillis DeBesche.  That was during the reign of King Carl IX in the early 1600s. The tradition of brewing was carefully nurtured by the families who owned (virtually reigned) Sweden’s rural iron foundry estates until the time of the Great War, 1914-1918. Among the estates known for their quality Centenary Ales were Söderfors, Gysinge and Österbybruk. On display in the entry to the Gammel Tammen restaurant at Österbybruk is a hand-made bottle found in a cellar on the premises that bears the legend, ”Old Ale”.
Perhaps the most famous of these Old Ales was that brewed at Söderfors. The brew was started in 1794, but unfortunately has died out. An article in an Uppsala newspaper from the mid-1960s notes that a local brewery, BayerskaBryggeriet, maintained a handful of family casks at that time. The Geddacaskwould seem to be the last of these that is still going strong. The unique assortment of micro-organisms inside the cask has been the object of the Geddas’ tender care since 1860, when the cask
came into their possession. The brew dates back to 1806 and may, via the af Klercker and LeFeburefamilies, be traced to foundry estates at Gimoand Rånäs(both east of Uppsala).  Jeanette LeFebure, grand-daughter of Jean LeFebure, owner of the two estates, married Fredrik af Klercker, who in 1860 gave the cask to GudeAdolf Gedda, his fellow officer in the regiment at Västerås.


The traditional Belgian brewing technique, introduced into Sweden by Walloon mining engineers and metallurgists in the 17th century has been preserved by the Gedda family in the family cask (photo above) through the years. The closest ’cousins’ to the Old Ale today are Belgian Oud Bruin (brown) and the West Flemish Red Ales. Mashing is performed in the usual way using Vienna malt, which lends the wort a reddish tone, accentuated by the long boil. OG varies between 1.055 and 1.060, with an FG of about 1.012, which yields an ABV of 6%. Newly brewed, the ale has a normal pH, but after two years in the oak the pHwill be 3.1.

Together, the long months in the oak and the special procedure for tapping and replenishing the cask with fresh brew preserve a unique flora of micro-organisms that give the ale its very special wine-like character.  After two years’ ageing the brew is drawn off and bottled – preferably burgundy bottles (photo) –for distribution, enjoyment or, perhaps, further ageing. The cask, now half-empty, is replenished with new, primary ferment ale. Whereupon it is left to rest another two years until, once again, the procedure is repeated. This routine has been faithfully observed since 1806, a full 200 years!

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