What is the helper monkey doing with syringes and a strange looking liquid? Is he doctoring his beer with nefarious substances like the brewers of old? Will this beer grant an experience beyond what Alcohol normally grants?
Of course! It will give you Christmas Cheer. If you read my post about the brewing of Heat Miser’s Mild Christmas Ale, you know I threw a bunch of spices in at the last 5 minutes of the boil. I did not know exactly how much to put in, so I erred on the side of too little, since you can always add spice. Taking it out is another story.
I tasted it last week and got some orange and a tiny amount of vanilla, but nothing of the other spices. There are several ways to add spice after fermentation. One popular method is to make an extract by throwing some spices in a bottle of cheap vodka and letting it sit for a while. This is essentially how you would make vanilla extract. Then you filter out the spices and pout out a measured amount into the beer. I did not have awhile, so my options were basically to throw some crushed up spices into the bottling bucket and hope it was the right amount, or to brew a spice “tea” and pour in a measured amount.
What do I mean by a measured amount? I took a cue from Randy Mosher’s “Radical Brewing” and the Spiced Beer episode of the Jamil Show on The Brewing Network. Both had similar methods for determining the correct amount of the vodka extract. I figured something similar could work for my tea, which doesn’t seem nearly as popular a method, even though Gordon Strong mentioned it for adding more spice to his Christmas Beer if it needed it. Of course he did not mention the specifics, so I (re)invented that myself.
Since in my original recipe, I only used half the spices, I took the other half of the spices and brewed it in 2 cups of boiling water for 5 minutes. Then I filtered out the spices into a measurement cup. I took a sample of my beer, and divided it into several 1 ounce samples. One sample remained undoctored. The other samples received between 0.5 and 3 ml of the “tea” dosed out by small syringes I bought for 25 cents a pop at American Science and Surplus the day before.
The Sous Helper Monkey Amy and I both smelled and tasted each sample and determined that 2 ml tasted the best. There was a good amount of spicy aroma and taste, especially cinnamon and nutmeg, without being overpowering. We then made several samples with 2ml of the “tea” spice addition for the purposes of determining how much vanilla extract. The first sample had 1 cl in it, the smallest measurement the syringe could handle, and it was far too much. Therefore, we scratched the idea of adding more vanilla and the proper amount of spice “tea” was calculated. Since there are 640 ounces in five gallons, this means the beer requires 1280 ml of spice “tea”. That is 5.4 bloody cups. Time to brew more tea I guess.
I got worried that with so much extra liquid we were going to thin out the beer. We didn’t think the samples tasted too thinned out. To make sure, I calculated it out, and the gravity would drop less than 0.7 of a point. Plus, I decided to use two cups as the water for the priming solution. We’ll see if that affects anything.
I poured the tea/priming solution in the bottling bucket, racked off the primary and bottled as usual. This is probably the lowest carbonated beer I have ever had. Jamil (from the Jamil Show mentioned above) suggested carbonating to 1.5 volumes, and my little table in the chapter on priming and bottling of my “How to Brew” book claimed I only needed about 1.5 ounces of corn sugar for the temperature the room is at for this amount of carbonation. This is much less than any other beer I have made. Now it’s time to design the label.