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01-25-10

Make your own Belgian Candi Sugar

I’m a big fan of drinking and brewing Belgian beers. Many Belgian beers require the addition of Belgian Candi Sugar. Brewers use the sugar for many reasons as it will help boost the ABV, increase fermentability, and thin the mouthfeel of the beer. As a homebrewer, I’m always looking for ways to save a buck and Belgian Candi Sugar is one of those ingredients that is super expensive. Luckily, you can easily make your own sugar without much effort. I’ve done this several times and I’ve been very happy with the results. In the steps below I will explain the process of making Belgian Candi Sugar and hopefully show you how easy it is.

Step 1: Gather the ingredients

You will need the following items in order to create your own Belgian Candi Sugar:

  • Table sugar (I use five pound bags of sugar)
  • Water (I use 2.5 cups of water)
  • Food grade acid (lemon juice or cream of tartar are my go to’s)
  • Boiling pot
  • An accurate thermometer that can sit in boiling mixtures for extended times (candy, fryer, or digital thermometer with a long probe will work fine)
  • Tin foil
  • Tray

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Homebrewing Update

It’s been some time since my last post on this site. At the time of my last post I had just returned from vacation and jumped right back into a promotion at work which has kept me very busy. While I haven’t been posting a ton (like nothing at all in a month and a half) on this site, I’ve been very actively homebrewing. I thought that I would leave some notes below on my activities before getting back to beer reviews later this week.

Whiskey Barrel

My buddy and I split the cost of a whiskey barrel several months ago and we have produced a very nice Rye IPA and Belgian Tripel from it. The Rye IPA has passed its peak freshness in my eyes but the Tripel is firing on all cylinders. I expect that beer to age nicely and be around for some time. Currently to barrel has a Robust Porter in it (recipe coming soon) that hits some nice notes from the first tasting. It’s been in the barrel a little longer than what I would have liked and has become over-oaked as a result. I added some fresh beer to it a few weeks ago and that seems to have rounded it out nicely. I hope to bottle it this weekend. Going into the whiskey barrel will be a Belgian Dark Strong Ale that has been fermenting strong for three weeks now. I don’t know how it is doing it, but there are still bubbles coming out of the airlocks.

Kegs

The kegged portion of the Rye IPA is in one of my kegs and the other one has a Fall Session Ale. It’s a nice beer that comes in at 4% ABV, but has a ton of flavor that makes it drink like a higher percentage beer. I have a keg of the Barrel Aged Tripel waiting to go on tap once the Rye kicks. I need to replace the O-rings on one of my empty kegs along with a new poppet valve.

Fermentation

All of my fermenters are currently full, which is not something that usually happens for me. Three of them are taken up by the Belgian Dark Strong Ale which will be put into the barrel this weekend. Another fermenter has an American Hoppy Wheat Ale in it that is hopped with a generous amount of Citra, but stays at 4.5% or so ABV. My only glass carboy has three gallons of the fresh Robust Porter that didn’t fit into the barrel. I am toying with the idea of fermenting a few gallons of cider and mixing the two before kegging but I have to let that idea rest for a bit. I also just got two new fermenters in the mail today thanks to Northern Brewer’s buy one get on free sale from last week.

Brewing List

I have a number of beers in my mind that I want to brew pretty soon. The first thing that I need to knockout is a Pumpkin Ale. The one that I brewed last year really hit the mark for me and I am only going to be making slight adjustments for this years batch. I also have a Winter Warmer in my mind that needs to be brewed in short order. Finally I have a bunch of NZ hops on hand so I want to make an over the top IPA and Pale Ale, but those may have to hold off a bit as I want to make sure that I can drink them fresh and I don’t have the keg space to put them in right now.

Reviews will be back later this week and I plan on posting more homebrewing articles as well as I have a lot going on right now with it.

07-09-01

Hefewizen Recipe

07-09-01I’m usually not a big wheat beer fan as some breweries try to market them as fruit beers, but I do love Hefewizens. The first one that I ever had was by JW Dundee and it could be found in the discount/expired section of my local beer distributor in college. I’ve evolved my tastes since then and two summers ago, while in Germany on the Rhine river, I got to experience a real German Hefewizen. It was perfect. There were slight hints of clove, but the banana and bubblegum really won out along with a clean malt/wheat flavor. I would drink that beer, though I now forget its name, any day of the week.

My goals for this Hefewizen are simple, duplicate what I had in Germany. It’s a challenge but if done properly, I have have the taste of the Rhine on tap! To begin with I looked at the traditional ratios of wheat to base malt. They range a good bit so I went with a 50/50 split, which is a bit more base malt than most recipes called for. Hallertauer was an obvious hop choice for this one. My recipe is below:

  • 5 lbs. Pilsner Malt (this one happen to be Rahr)
  • 5 lbs. Red Wheat Malt (come from Briess)
  • 1 lb. Rice hulls
  • 1/2 oz. Hallertauer (4.5%) @ 45 min
  • 1/2 oz. Hallertauer (4.5%) @ 15 min
  • Yeast WLP300 Hefewizen Ale

The malt bill for this beer is pretty simple. I went a little overkill with the rice hulls as to avoid a stuck sparge but you could easily use half the amount and still be fine. WLP300 has some great reviews and seems to be really temperature dependent on the types of flavors it produces. The warmer the environment the more clove. I kept this beer back and fermented at 62-64°F to let the banana and bubblegum come out more. The expected stats for this beer are below:

  • OG: 1.048
  • FG: 1.012
  • ABV: 4.7%
  • IBUs: 12

I’ll ferment for 10 days or so and then it will go into the keg. Fresh Hefewizen is something special and I intend on taking full advantage of it. I do not plan on using a starter for this beer as I want the yeast to stress out a bit and produce off flavors (clove, banana, and bubblegum). This recipe is for 5.5 gallons.

My new used whiskey barrel

If you haven’t been following our Facebook and Twitter, and let’s be honest, why wouldn’t you, you missed the news that I recently came into a 15 gallon used whiskey barrel. Actually a buddy of mine and I went halfies on it. I’ve been wanted to do some barrel aging for some time as it seems like a new fun challenge.

02-22-01As you can see it looks like a full sized barrel, just scaled down a bit. The barrel was sealed immediately after it was drained and when you swish the barrel around a bit you hear a bit of whiskey in it. I’ll post a few things about barrel aging beers and tips if you want to do something similar as well. The first beer to aged in it will be a Rye IPA, which was brewed on Presidents’ Day (all 15+ gallons). After that we will fill it with a Belgian Tripel and then an Oatmeal Stout. From there I need to do some planning. Anyone have any specific questions on barrel aging homebrew that I can answer in a future post?

 

Homebrew updates

I haven’t posted about homebrewing in a little while and I just wanted to give some updates. So far this year I have brewed 15 batches of beer for a total of 75 gallons. It’s crazy to think that I still have  125 gallons to go in order to meet my state allowed maximum. I’m still drinking some of the beer that I brewed during the summer. I have a Belgian IPA on tap right now along with my Pumpkin Ale. I’ll get a recipe up for my Belgian IPA shortly.

The pumpkin is pretty good and it is received some rave review from my friends. I want to dial back the spices a bit and give it a touch more body. I’ll probably end up rebrewing this one before the fall is over with a different yeast that doesn’t attenuate as well so that it can have a bit more body. The Belgian IPA is good, but not great. It is suffering from sitting in the keg too long. IPAs need to be drank quickly and this one sat in a keg for a month and a half. The hop freshness is wearing off and is nothing compared to what it was when it was fresher.

I recently brewed a third version of an IPA I have been working on. I changed up the yeast and the hops, but everything else is the same. I have magnum as the bittering hop and two additions of citra. The yeast change was more out of me being cheap than anything as the IPA was pitched on a yeast cake. I recently kegged, what I am calling, an American Bitter. It uses American malt and hops, but a bitter grain bill profile and an English yeast. It came in at about 4% and initial tasting has this one being drinkable in decent amounts. I’ll get a recipe up on here once I’ve had a chance to really test it out and make sure it meets my internal standards.

On the equipment front I bought 2 new kegs from Keg Connection. With shipping they came in at $78, you really can’t beat that. I also scored a deal from Northern Brewer for buy one get one Better Bottles. That brings me up to 4 Better Bottles and one glass carboy. I’m hoping to do a number of lagers this winter once the basement cools down and I should have no problem filling all of the carboys up. I haven’t ordered much in way of ingredients recently but I did get a bag of grain at the beginning of October from Midwest Supplies for $32. I had a coupon that took away shipping and then some. I can’t get grain for less than $45-$50 around my house so this was a good deal.

I have plenty of ideas that I want to try out in the coming months. I’ve also had the hankering to do a sour beer as well as a barrel aged beer since I just found out they sell used 5 gallon whiskey barrels. I’m going to hold off on the sour beer idea until it warms up and the barrel is a temporary dream. What I really want, and have wanted for awhile, is a fermentation chamber. I would love to make one myself and have it be able to hold two Better Bottles and two kegs. Time and budget will see if that idea comes to fruition. I’m going to start posting more homebrew updates as it’s an area of the site that I have really been slacking on. I generally try to post every even day, and I’m thinking that every third even day will be devoted to homebrew. Anyone else up to anything in the homebrew world?