Vote for Beer

By Stella • October 26, 2012

In keeping with President Obama’s motto of “Forward” we here at Beer Church have decided to do our patriotic duty and look for ways to improve the recently released recipe for the White House’s homebrew. There are several different recipes, all of which look very promising. However, they are formulated for a beginning level brewer. This is the beer that the POTUS drinks with Medal of Honor recipients. Nothing — and I do mean nothing — is too good for them, so I want to do my bit to help. This post will help you create an all-grain version of the existing recipe.

The White House showed their brewing setup and process with this video:

Looks like they are really on the right track! Here’s my response. In addition to translating the generic extract ingredients into a recipe hardcore homebrewers can get excited about, I’ve also noted a few points of technique that can help the White House staff in their quest for the perfect ale.

A few more notes:

  • The White House ales are not actually beers; they are braggots. That’s B-r-a-g-g-o-t, as in an ale brewed with a mixture of malt and honey, not B-r-a-g-g-a-r-t, as in somebody who spouts off obscure trivia about beer.
  • Additives like gypsum should not be included by default. If you have good local water, you shouldn’t need to alter the chemical composition of your beer. I’m lucky to have spectacular California water, which makes great beer. If you want to become a diehard, consider getting a kit that can do a chemical analysis of your tap water so that you can find out if anything needs to be added or removed for ideal fermentation.
  • They are so super lucky to have that nice clean, dry, stable temperature cupboard off the kitchen. That will make for a fantastically smooth fermentation.
  • I don’t think racking the beer after 3-4 days is necessary. Racking into secondary is a giant pain, produces no discernible improvement in quality, creates a window of opportunity for contamination, and means you have to wash twice as many carboys. No thanks.
  • The White House video said that they steep their grains at 170 degrees. That is WAY too hot! Don’t ever exceed 160. 150-155 is more ideal, and the grain bag should never be dunked vigorously.
  • It’s a crime to boil honey! In this case, a federal crime! With such a fresh source of honey, the White House ales can really shine if they add honey at the last possible moment to avoid boiling out unique and subtle flavors.

Now that I’ve stood on my soapbox, I’m ready to give you the recipe. I’ve included links to the items from my local brewshop if you want to get exactly the same ingredients.

White House Honey Ale – the Second Term

Grains:

Mash grain at 155 degrees F for 45 minutes. Sparge at 155 degrees. Bring to a boil. Add 1 1/2 ounces Kent Goldings. Add 2 teaspoons gypsum if necessary.

45 minutes later add 1/2 ounce Fuggles. Boil for five more minutes then remove from heat and chill. Add the wort to a 5 gallon carboy and bring up to not-quite-full volume with water.

Wake up one vial of London Ale Yeast with a little warm water mixed with 1 pound of high-quality wildflower honey. A locally sourced honey would be in keeping with the spirit of this recipe, as the White House beehives produced the honey for their version. Pitch the honey and yeast mixture into the wort after the yeast is visibly working. Seal up the carboy with an airlock containing vodka or water with a few drops of an iodophor solution.

Ferment for three to six weeks at 70 degrees. Do not rack for secondary fermentation. If you are going to bottle the beer, use 3/4 cup of corn sugar for priming, or for a more pronounced honey flavor, use 1/2 cup of the same type of honey you used in the recipe. For kegging, do not add priming sugar.

Gluten Free Challenge

By Stella • November 14, 2008

I’ve wanted to dabble in gluten-free beers since taking up the hobby, as I know several people who suffer from Celiac Disease. I’ve only ever heard that gluten-free beer is bland, watering, and dull to drink, leaving drinkers unsatisfied and sticking to cider, wine, and hard liquor. Some just settle, feeling that lousy beer is better than no beer at all. I don’t see why we need to compromise!

I’d like to try to come up with grain-based drinks that are tasty to drink regardless of dietary restrictions. There are plenty of tasty non-offending grains out there, although I’ll be starting with sorghum as it’s the easiest to get ahold of in extract form. A frequent complaint is that sorghum is too delicate in flavor to make a rich, tasty ale. So this morning while brewing my cup of tea (I do my best thinking while making tea) I breathed in the rich scent of chai and had an idea.

So what is “Sorghum Chai Braggot”? Contrary to popular belief it is not a Finnish phrase that tells someone they are a steaming pile of reindeer dung. I know it sounds that way, but I promise it isn’t true. Braggot is a little-used brewing style that collides mead with ale, using honey as a significant portion of the fermentable sugars. The delicate flavor of white sorghum would mix nicely with honey, and a rich, spicy chai tea could really balance out the flavors for a nice gluten-free winter braggot. My five-gallon brew will contain:

3 lbs White Sorghum Extract
3 lbs Honey
The Mighty Leaf Chai
1 1/2 oz. aromatic hops
British Ale Yeast

I’ll have to sip some more tea and think it over, but as my carboys will be occupied with my Christmas beer for the next three weeks, I’ll have time.