Side adventures in brewing – delicious graf

Almost got the first healthcare post ready, but in the meantime I’ve been doing a little brewing, and I thought I’d share some of the results. I’ll continue to try to use book review and brewing posts as filler between more serious posts that take me more time to develop.

I recently bottled a batch of graf, a fictional apple beer or cider-beer blend from the mind of Stephen King, specifically from the Dark Tower series, which is a fun set of books that I started reading as a little kid, but King only recently finished. I really liked this idea, because I like fruit flavors, and love ciders and wines as long as they are dry, but I don’t like the thinness I perceive (because I usually stick to beer).

I brewed this with some store-bought cider (sans preservatives of any kind!), apples, malted grain, my house yeast, and Hersbrucker hops. There are a lot of recipes out there for graf (alot of brewers call it ‘graff’ but I kind of like the spelling from the book so I’m gonna use that. I started with Brandon O.’s recipe, but made a bunch of modifications.

Fermented graf - note the apples chunks floating on top still.
Fermented graf – note the apples chunks floating on top still.

My recipe:

Grain – 3 pounds pale US 2-row, 2 pounds malted wheat, 8 oz. Caramunich, 3 gallons cider

Hops – 1 oz. Hersbrucker (2.8% AA) with 30 min. left in the boil

Yeast – I used my house strain, which started as a Redstar Belle Saison with some US-05. Didn’t make a starter, but had a whole pint jar full of cake from a previous batch.

Mashed high for some body, and boiled the wort for 30 minutes. Did not boil the cider.

Poured the cider in the carboy, chilled and poured the wort. Chopped up some farm apples and tossed ’em in. Shook and then pitched. I always use a little Fermcap S to control foaming, which works amazingly.

Fermented at about 68F without temp control.

Sanitizing big EZ-cap bottles
Sanitizing big EZ-cap bottles

After about 3 weeks, sat down to bottle – I like to use a mix of bottles. The 1L EZ-cap bottles are great because they really simplify bottling and capping, and make the day significantly shorter. However, unless you are always going to parties it’s a little rough only being able to have 1 L of beer. I also use some 22 oz. bottles…

Some small bottles for competitions.
Some small bottles for competitions.

… and some 12 oz. bottles, but I mainly save these for submission to brewing competitions.

Graf in bottling bucket, where I add sugar and a little casking yeast.
Graf in bottling bucket, where I add sugar and a little casking yeast.

Fermented product had some CO2 built up, and tasted pretty darn good. Very little hop character, mostly cider, with a little maltiness. A nice farmhouse character from my house strain. Exactly what I was going for. Before bottling, I rack to a bucket, add about 4 oz. of priming sugar and a shake of some rehydrated casking yeast. I only add the yeast because I had one or two batches that never carbonated well, so now I use it prophylactically.

Stealing some yeast to keep my house strain going.
Stealing some yeast to keep my house strain going.

I tossed a little of the cake into a jar as I usually do to pitch again for a later batch. Lately I make a lot of ‘farmhouse’ style beers, where I’m just looking for new and interesting flavors, and not necessarily reproducibility from batch to batch. The batch before this was a saison version of Short’s soft parade, a delicious high grav fruit and rye beer from Michigan.

Some finished product
Some finished product – Dirty Dog Billy Bumbler. My homebrewery is Dirty dog, named in honor of my dog, and billy bumblers are from the books.

And here’s some finished product with O2 caps on, which isn’t something I feel very strongly about, but a cheap precautionary measure I use with bottles I save for competitions.

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Starting a new posting series on rising healthcare costs

Starting this week, I’m going to begin posting on a new question I’ve been researching – why does healthcare cost so much?

This is a pretty important question. Healthcare costs are up to 16% of the U.S. GDP, and are projected to hit 21% by about 2020. Insurance premiums are going up for most people next year, with no end in sight. The baby boomer generation is approaching retirement, and both the quality and quantity of healthcare necessary increases rapidly with age.

It’s pretty easy to find ideas on the internet. It’s Obamacare! Blame the rich doctors! It’s Big Pharma!

The reality is that there IS a cause. But what is it? There certainly are a ton of ideas out there, but most of them are politically-motivated, poorly-researched (some people think Facebook counts as research), and honestly many are just dumb. I’ll say it.

Stay tuned for next week. We will start by breaking down a couple common misconceptions and introducing some important ideas.