Spring 2004 Update

I’ve completely fallen off the wagon as far as keeping this up to date is concerned, so I’ve started to re-title them somewhat more appropriately.

I did however recently do 2 batches of soda, both quite drinkable and one of them is a HUGE success. Absolutely terrific stuff, and so close to perfect that it’s really breathtaking.

And the other one… well, it was a good experiment. :-)

I tried a new champagne yeast and have confirmed that it’s just something about the Red Star yeast that just DOES NOT WORK for me. Always a good tasting, but incredibly bad smelling batch with the Red Star Pasteur Champagne yeast.

The yeast I switched to I HIGHLY recommend. It has now produced 4 great batches and produces a really lovely carbonation and even adds a nice, but slight, yeasty flavor to the batch. Lavlin EC-1118 Champagne is available from Northern Brewer and other sources, usually in the Wine Yeast section.

The first batch in the recent set was a replay of the Red Berries based soda from Icon last fall. The recipe:
2oz TeaSource Red Berries herbal tea blend
1lb Billington’s Demerara sugar
1lb bulk pure granulated organic cane sugar
1/4tsp Lavlin EC-1118 Champagne
2 Gallons purified drinking water

Carbonation time: ~58 hours

The nose is amazingly fruity, and the flavor is bright and fairly sweet while not being sugary. Slight yeast flavor that adds some depth and does not detract from the fruit. Brilliant red color, showed off well in the 16oz/500ml Flint EZ Cap bottles I was able to get most of the batch into (Had to fill a few fairly standard brown longnecks too). Carbonation is thorough and fairly lasting, a plastic cup full on Sunday night in very high humidity was still noticeably carbonated after sitting out for an hour. Almost perfect! I would still like to tone down the sweetness just a touch so the fruit can stand out a bit more on it’s own. I might try cutting the granulated cane sugar down to 1.5 cups for the next batch and see what happens. Hoping to get it done soon as several people are clamoring for more.

The experiment was an attempt to marry a few flavors that I find quite good on their own or in combination with other flavors. It’s basically a ginger soda, though I was aiming more for a ginger beer. The recipe:
2oz TeaSource Honeybush tea (not a blend, 100% honeybush)
6oz fresh ginger root, coarsely chopped
1lb Billington’s Dark Muscovado sugar
1lb Billington’s Light Muscovado sugar
1/4tsp Danstar Nottingham Ale yeast
2 gallons purified drinking water

Carbonation time: 62 hours

I left it go a bit longer carbonating because the Notthingham and related yeasts aren’t quite a quick as the Lavlin Champagne, and I am quite pleased with that result. The bubbles are a bit larger and more playful. However, the sugar I used pretty much trampled on ALL of the other flavors in the batch and so what I ended up with was a somewhat interesting molasses flavored soda with maybe a slight trace of ginger, and hardly any honeybush to be seen. Color is fairly cloudy brown, and the scent is strongly of molasses. There are so many directions to go with this batch, I’m not quite sure where to start:

  • I was hoping that 6oz of ginger would be enough to get a nice nose tickle, but even the flavor is mostly not discernable unless you know to look for it. I might try crystallized ginger next time. I would welcome ideas on this.
  • I definitely needed to go with just the Light Muskovado sugar, and the drop the Dark entirely and use either a Demerara or the granulated organic cane. That way there will still be some molasses, but not nearly the huge, overbearing, 800lb gorilla it turned out to be. I really thought that the ginger and honeybush would stand up to it a lot more.
  • Once the sugar has been tamed, the honeybush should come out quite a bit more. Maybe adding some sarsaparilla to give it some additional spine too.

Anyway, certainly drinkable but not what I was looking for. I used the Dark Muskovado for Birch Beer with the Old Fashioned extract and it was really great. Just need to make sure there is something very potent for it to work against next time.