It is with much sorrow and humility that I announce our first major failure in homebrewing: Half Batch Bitter.

Yes, this was a "left over" batch where we combined some extra malt extracts with 4 different hop varieties to make a half (2.5 gallon) batch. Our attempt was to brew an English Style Bitter. We failed.

The frustrating part is that it has been hard for Jason and me to figure out exactly what the off flavor is. The first word to come to mind for me was astringent. There is definitely a bitterness quality to it that is not the typical hop bitterness. Frankly, it is just plain unpleasant to drink. Down the drain it went.

Perhaps our wort was too concentrated. We did add an absurd amount of hops and the wort ended up looking like a witches brew: boil, toil, and trouble. Definitely trouble.

I tell myself that this is just a minor setback. In reality, I am nervous yet again about our current and upcoming batches. What went wrong? Anyone's guess at this point. It may take us six weeks to find out.

At the end of the day, or rather, the end of 6 months, 7 out of 8 is not so bad. Not too bad at all.



Beer goes camping

The latest brew spent the night outside for cooling purposes. This has been confirmed as true despite the well known affinity between our carboy and Argentinian women.




For No One Stout.

"Your day breaks, your mind aches
You find that all her words of kindness linger on
When she no longer needs you

She wakes up, she makes up
She takes her time and doesn't feel she has to hurry
She no longer needs you

And in her eyes you see nothing
No sign of love behind the tears
Cried for no one
A love that should have lasted years."


A Tuesday Bottle and Brew

We are amassing quite the backstock of beer these days. That's what happens when you have one beer carbonating quite slowly (Red Ale II), you brew a mid-cycle half batch (Half Batch Bitter), and another brew sneaks up from behind for bottling (For No One Stout). It all adds up to about 100 amber label-less bottles of beer encroaching on everyday use items in the kitchen cupboards. Yes, a party is in short order.

Yesterday we brewed our eighth beer, a light crisp European lager. If you would have told me we would be on beer #8 by mid-June when the first Red Ale was hitting our lips I wouldn't have believed you, but here we are. This lager falls in the Charlie Papazian category of "if you can't ferment at colder lager temperatures, this lager can be fermented at room temp." So that's what we will do. We have yet to pitch the yeast 24 hours later, as it remains above the required 70-75 degree range needed to create the right environment for the yeast to take. Going back to the Marzen (Beer #2), liquid lager yeast is the only type we have had trouble pitching in the past; that beer required us to pitch a second time using dry yeast. This time we are hoping for a better result.

Coming soon:

-Beer Goes Camping
-Red Ale II Profile
-Potluck Party Details
-Tasting thoughts on Half Batch Bitter and For No One Stout



Decisions, Decisions.

On Sunday I bottled one of our latest beers.  It had been fermenting since May 22 (16 days total).  Perhaps it was a bit soon, but the general recipe we followed stated that you could be drinking this within 2 weeks so I figured 2 weeks fermenting ought to be sufficient. 

The recipe we followed was for an English Bitter.  Essentially that is an English pale ale.  Traditionally English bitters were served draught only and by hand pump.  They were also served at cellar temperature.  Other considerations for this style are the type of water used (obviously the type found in England), the usage of English hops (i.e. fuggles, kent goldings) and English strains of yeast. 

We have been mulling over a few ideas for names for this particular beer.  I am back and forth on whether we should call it a pale ale or a bitter.  We did, after all, make a few substitutions such as bottled San Diego water instead of imported water of the English variety (does that even exist?).   We generously added English fuggle hops but also used some cluster, saaz, and tettnanger.  We stayed true to the style and used an English Ale yeast.  So, can you see my dilemma here?

By the way, this is very un-English in the fact that we used an absurd amount of hops:  3.5 total ounces (for a 2.5 gallon batch!)  That is the equivalent of 7 oz of hops if we had done the full five gallon batch!  Yes, very un-English indeed.

This is what has been on our mind as far as nomenclature:

Half Batch Bitter

Again and Again Ale (will follow with a post about this if it becomes the name)

In Between Bitter

I'll be sure to let you know what we decide. 




BLAH with Lee

Last night Nate and I went out for a brew at Blind Lady Ale House. It's a local spot that I might normally consider a diamond in the rough, but it seems there are a lot of those around here. They serve great beer and great pizza. You can read their story on the BLAH blog. In short the two couples that own the place care about high quality food and beer and have created an atmosphere that allows goers to enjoy both. With a casual feel, care dedicated to even the most minute of details (such as their 0.63L glasses that leave room for the head on a 0.5L pour), reasonable prices, and friendly staff (who offered us pieces of their own after-shift pizza, which we accepted), the ale house will be somewhere we frequent.

Now that we are beyond that lengthy introduction, the real reason for this post. One of the owners is named Lee. He is the resident brewmaster and is responsible for brewing one of the best beers I've ever had, their House Ale, a Belgian. Curious as to when the House Ale would be back after its recent disappearance, I approached Lee and had FFB's first real brewmaster contact. We talked about his history (he started homebrewing at 17, went through the UC Davis "Master Brewer" program, helped start Stone Brewery and worked there for 8 1/2 years, and has been consulting with breweries around the country for the last 3 years). We discussed FFB's homebrew projects (he offered to taste anything we bring in and provide feedback). And of course we discussed the House Ale (Lee will be brewing on site at BLAH in 3 months after which he said the House Ale will show up once more; it may first be seen at The Linkery because they recently begged him for one of his final 3 kegs and he obliged). In short, we had an awesome conversation and I hope we have many more.

If you ever care to join us for a beer at the Ale House, please don't hesitate to ask. Who knows, maybe we'll have another chat with Lee. -jk


Bottled Red Ale II @ 12 days

carbonation: 4/10
a developing hoppy finish
lacking complexity, especially early


malty sweet (not in a bad way)
good body
minimal carbonation
pleasant flavor, minimal "homebrew taste"


Rogue Night

@ Hamilton's in San Diego one saturday night in May.  24 Rogue beers on tap, 2 on cask.  Plenty of inspiration.  The chocolate stout is what I remember best.  -nhc