Juicy Pale Ale

Needed something hoppy on tap, so I put together a quick APA recipe featuring Cascade and Mosaic hops, with a fairly beefy malt bill to back it up and create a balanced profile.

  • 11 lb US 2-row Pale malt
  • 2 lb Dark Munich
  • 0.3 lb Crystal 60L
  • 0.5 oz Mosaic, 0.25 oz Cascade 60 min
  • 1 oz Mosaic, 0.5 oz Cascade 10 min
  • 1 oz Mosaic, 0.25 oz Cascade, 0.25 oz Centennial, 15 min
  • 1.5 oz Mosaic, 0.75 oz Centennial 0 min (30 min hop stand)
  • 1 oz Mosaic in primary
  • WYeast London Ale III (1L starter)

// Mash-in w/ 5.25 gal at 152 for 40 minutes (2 tsp Gypsum, 1.5mL lactic acid, target 5.2 pH), mash out at 168F. Sparge w/ 2.5 gal (adjusted to 5.6 pH) to collect around 6.5 gal 1052 wort. Boil 60 minutes, collect around 5.2 gal 1058 wort. Oxygenate 60s, pitch whole 1L starter. Add 1 oz Mosaic to primary just before oxygenating. Brewed 9/10/17. //

9/15/17 . Gravity at 1022. Peachy fruity hop aroma and flavor, lots of body. Going to let this ferment a few more days.

9/17/17.  Moved to fridge to crash cool. Didn’t bother taking another gravity reading since the flavors were good last time, just wanted it give a few more days to clean up.

10/8/17  Been on tap for a few weeks and its held up quite nicely. Grapefruit and peach (for me, Mosaic always delivers on the peach flavor) in the nose, taste follows with medium bitterness and hints of bread and toast poking through at the end. The primary hops worked out nicely – added a good amount of hop flavor without any extra primary/secondary time after fermentation was done. I’m sure it created some different flavors than what would’ve been had I dry-hopped post fermentation, but given how fruity and bright this beer was, I’ll probably keep doing it. Stayed very cloudy for a while, then eventually clarified to a subtle haze. The London Ale III works well here to keep the hops in the foreground but also retaining body without becoming chewy and sweet. It lends a soft estery feeling, which plays well with the other flavors. Great recipe that would work well also with WLP001, or London ESB.

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Filed under All-grain, Hoppy

Nitro English Pale Remake

One of my first nitro beers was a hoppy English pale ale. I remember it having a wonderful balance between the estery yeast profile and citrusy hops, so I remade it with London Ale III to get a sense of how that would change the beer. The previous iteration used London ESB (my favorite yeast); the esters and diacetyl can be high with that though, and the hop character is usually subdued.

  • 10 lb UK Pale
  • 0.2 lb Amber malt
  • 0.18 lb Acid malt
  • 0.3 oz Columbus hops (60 min)
  • 0.125 oz each Simcoe, Citra, Mosaic hops (20 min)
  • 0.5 oz each ” (10 min)
  • 0.5 oz each ” (5 min)
  • 0.75 oz each ” (whirlpool, 20 minutes)
  • WYeast London Ale III

// Mash-in w/ 4.25 gal water at 152 for 50 minutes (w/ 1.5 tsp gypsum), raise to 168, sparge w/ 3.25 gal 168F water (adjusted to 5.6 pH), collect around 6.75 gal 1042 wort. Boil 60 minutes, chill, collect 5 gallons 1048 wort. oxygenate for 30s. //

FG 1016, super cloudy – not so great on nitro. Needed dry hopping for full hop flavor experience. Eventually moved to CO2 and carbonation suited the beer much better.

This came out OK (definitely better on CO2, the ESB yeast + maltier beer is likely why I enjoyed this on nitro the first time) but would have really benefitted from some dry-hopping and keg-hopping. The flavors from the boil additions were bright and citrusy, but it needed that extra kick of hop flavor from a dose or two of dry-hopping.

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Strawberry Peppercorn Short Mead

Every once in a while I make stuff other than beer to put on my 4th tap that houses a 3-gallon keg. What was originally an oversight in designing my kegerator (not being able to fit a 4th 5-gallon keg in the keezer) turned out to be a convenient excuse to make smaller experimental batches that I’m OK with having less of on tap. I purchased the book “Speed Brewing” by Mary Izett recently and made one of her recipes as a 3-gallon batch (her book listed it for 1-gallon, but just scaled up).

  • 2.5 gal cold water
  • 3 lb Strawberries
  • 3 lb Honey (from Costco)
  • 1.5 tbps crushed peppercorns
  • 0.25 tsp yeast nutrient
  • WLP001

// Puree strawberries (removed leaves and and white from the middles), combine with peppercorns and yeast nutrient in plastic tub. Add 1.5L off-boil water, stir and let sit for 10 minutes.  Add honey to carboy (measure w/ weight scale under carboy), followed by hot strawberry mixture. Add cold water, shake/stir until honey is dissolved from bottom of carboy. Oxygenate for 30s, add yeast and seal. Brewed 6/4/17. //

6/7/17:  Airlock slowing down, gravity at 1018. Gave carboy a shake to help finish.

6/8/17: Moved to fridge to crash cool.

6/9/17:  Kegged. Gravity at 1008. Beautiful pink color and delicate fruit flavors. Carbonation already settled in a little and already tastes wonderful. Lost a bit of product due to strawberry sludge, so only wound up with around 2.5 gal. Can’t wait til this is ready!

6/15/17: This one is going quick on tap! I’m really enjoying this. Beautiful cloudy pink rose color. Super light, refreshing, and the peppercorns add a perfect balance to the sweetness of the honey and strawberries, which actually implies a little bitterness like a beer would with hops. The recipe is perfect, can’t really identify anything worth changing. Letting it ferment out a little more would be OK, but I wanted to save some sweetness since I don’t always like when my ciders dry out so much. Never took an OG reading, but I estimated it should be in 3.7% ABV range with this FG. I’ll 100% be making this again (and will be trying some other recipes from the book) – and, be sure to pick up a copy of “Speed Brewing” if you’re interested in making other cool stuff like this!

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Pineapple Kolsch

Another beer for my father-in-law’s kegerator! We thought that a Kolsch would be fitting for summer but also wanted to add a fruit. We tossed around the idea of lime, but that’d be too cliche. We landed on pineapple, thinking the acidic nature of the fruit would be a nice compliment to the gentle Kolsch base beer.

I did some reading on pineapple in beer, and there seem to be polarizing opinions on the best way to use it. Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromlain, which has the detrimental effect of digesting proteins the beer, making it thin and lacking body. I’ve also experienced this with meat – one time i made a shredded pork dish with pineapple – the next day the meat had turned into a pasty mush. There are lots of suggestions on how to prepare the pineapple to avoid this, but I figured what the heck, lets give it a try and see how severe the effect is. A thin kolsch wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world anyway.

  • 5.25 lb US Pale 2-row
  • 5.25 lb German Pils
  • 0.25 lb Honey malt
  • 0.18 lb Acid malt
  • 0.5 oz Magnum 60 min
  • 0.25 oz Styrian bobek 10 min
  • 1 pkg Saflager-189

// Mash-in w/ 4.5 gal at 150F for 60 minutes. Raise to 168F, sparge to collect ~6.75 gallons 1046 wort. Boil 75 minutes. Collect 5.25 gal 1052 wort. Wort wasn’t as cool as expected, maybe 72F. Oxygenate, sprinkle yeast on top. Left to ferment at 62F. Brewed 5/6/17. //

// Sparge got stuck initially. Let it sit for a little, then turn pump on with throttle about 1/2 way, then eventually allow full flow once mash liquefied. Mash ran fine at full speed (very clear wort) by the end //

5/13/17   Base beer turned out well – good lager quality and malt flavor. Chopped up two pineapples and pureed gently with an immersion blender, then added directly to primary. Total pineapple slush was 4.5 lb.

5/15/17  Mild pineapple flavor, much more in the aroma. Body does seem slightly thinner. Put in the fridge to crash cool.

5/16/17  Kegged. The pineapple flavor is appropriate but could afford to be bigger. One more pineapple should do it. Also, the pulp was super annoying while kegging. It kept clogging my racking tube every few minutes, and even still there was a lot that transferred to the keg. Next time I’ll probably just juice the whole pineapple slice by slice and not any pulp to the primary.  Fun experiment, and I’ll definitely make this again!

 

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Filed under All-grain, German

Nitro Breakfast Stout

I finally got around to fixing my nitro tap, so I brewed a low-gravity stout and plan to add some coffee for a rich breakfast-y delicious beer!

  • 6.5 lb UK Pale malt
  • 1 lb flaked oats
  • 1 lb flaked barley
  • 0.8 lb roasted barley (UK)
  • 0.4 lb chocolate malt (UK)
  • 1.5 oz Kent Goldings (60 min)
  • 0.5 oz Kent Goldings (9 min)
  • 1L Starter WLP Irish Ale

// Mash-in at 152F w/ 4 gal water. 1 tsp CaCl2 to mash. First stuck sparge on the new system! Wasn’t able to recirculate the wort, so the temp probably dropped way down. Sparged to get 6.6 gallons 1040 wort. Boil 60 minutes, collected around 5.5 gallons of 1042 wort. Chill, oxygenate 60s w/ regulator on low, pitch whole starter. Brewed 3/18/17. //

3/20/17  Airlock activity slowed, gravity at 1011. Somewhat thin, but decent roast flavor. Bitterness is a little aggressive. Added 1.25 oz course ground Columbian coffee (Giant brand) loose to carboy, set it fridge to crash cool.

3/21/17  Racked to keg. Coffee flavor is ok but somewhat burnt. Probably should have stuck with the Ethiopian. Bitterness has smoothed over. Still fairly watery, but I’m imagining this will feel great on nitro. Set pressure at 15psi, will leave there for one day before switch to beer gas.

4/2/17  Bitterness and body is appropriate (nitro always helps!), but tastes a little burnt in terms of malt flavors. Tasting notes soon.

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Filed under Balanced, Nitro, Stout / Porter

St. Patty’s Day Irish Red

This batch is for my in-laws to put on tap for St. Patrick’s Day! I based this on a previous Irish Red batch, and went with English yeast because I prefer the malt profile that it yields. I’m going to try adjusting the pH of my sparge water this time – normally i just use it as is, and technically its pH is up near 8.6, not ideal considering the mash’s pH is near 5.4. This should help the final beer pH be closer to where it should be. I also wound up throwing in a little coffee to the primary for an different twist on the style!

  • 12.5 lb UK Pale 2-row
  • 0.28 lb Victory malt
  • 0.28 lb Extra Dark Crystal malt (170L)
  • 0.1 lb Roasted Barley (300L)
  • 1.5 oz Kent Goldings hops (60 min) 4.8% a.a.
  • 0.5 oz Kent Goldings hops (10 min) 4.8% a.a.
  • WYeast 1968 London ESB (1L starter)

// Mash-in w/ 5.1 gal 156F water to setting at 152F for 50 minutes. 2 tsp CaCl2 to mash. Raise to 158F briefly, then to 168F for 5 minutes. Sparge w/ 2.6 gallons (adjusted pH to 5.6 w/ lactic acid) and collect around 6.75 gallons of 1056 wort. Boil 60 minutes. Collect 5 gallons 1060 wort. //

Wort looked a little too dark going into the primary, this may end up browner than red.

5/3/17  Airlock slowed, gravity at 1016. Very fruity aroma, approachable flavor but not as nutty/malty as I’d hoped. We’ll see how it turns out cold and carbonated. Put in the fridge to crash cool.

5/5/17  Pleasant malt flavor but moderately fruity. Somewhat regretting not going with Irish yeast, but it’s a decent beer. Added 0.75 oz of ground coffee (Wegman’s breakfast blend) in a hop sack.

5/6/17  Kegged. Coffee flavor definitely works and helps to round out the flavors. Could actually afford to go a little bigger with it too. Never had a chance to do a full tasting review, but overall I was pleased with the end result. Using a cleaner yeast would be best here, and, while the coffee addition wasn’t totally necessary, it helped to mask some of the overt esters from the yeast. I fermented this on the warmer side (~72F) so going a little cooler would help, too. Clarity and color were on point!

 

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Filed under All-grain, Amber

Hoppy English Red Tasting Notes

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Initially wasn’t too impressed with this beer, likely a result of my poor recipe calculation. I stupidly forgot to update the alpha acid content of the First Gold hops in the recipe software (it was assumed to 7%, mine were really 3%), so my IBUs were probably about cut in half. It wound up being a fairly malty beer, but the toasted malt flavors were actually quite pleasant. Happy accident considering I was hoping this would be a hop forward beer. That being said, I always seem to under do the hops when using English Yeast. The yeast tends to mute the hops and I always forget to compensate.

The clarity on this batch was phenomenal, and the shade of red was perfect in my opinion (the photo appears more brown). It’s been tough to hit the color red (too dark and it’s brown, too light and it’s copper/orange) but this SRM level (10, I believe) was just right.

Looking back at the recipe again, the hop additions didn’t really make sense for what I was going for; the whole thing would have probably been better just without the 30 minute Cascade addition. Mid-boil additions haven’t sat well with me recently. They seem to work well in IPAs that have a lot of hops surrounding the mid-boil addition, but not so much in isolation. Although my favorite saison recipe just has 60 and 30 minute additions and that’s it – it seems to give it a nice zippy dry finish. As with everything in brewing, it’s all about how you use it to make it appropriate.

 

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Filed under All-grain, Amber, English, Hoppy

Session Brett IPA

Lately I’ve been making other people’s recipes rather than designing my own from scratch. My intuition has been a little off with recent beers. I’m still learning, of course, but I’ve not been impressed with some of my recent recipes. Every once in a while I’ll make a beer and afterwards go “what the hell was I thinking?” once it’s done fermenting. So I started looking to other brewers for inspiration, filtering their recipes through my brewing intuition. The past few recipes I’ve brewed from Brulosopher have been great, so I think I’ll continue on this path for a little while this year.

It’s been a while since I brewed something with Brett, so I did some searching online for some Brett recipes. This one came from Meek Brewing Co’s blog, for a Brett IPA. I scaled it down to 4 gallons, and adjusted the acid malt to get my pH right around 5.3.

  • 5 lb US 2-row pale
  • 1 lb Red Wheat
  • 0.4 oz Carafoam
  • 0.1 oz Acid malt
  • 0.3 oz Amarillo @ 60 min
  • 3 oz Amarillo @ 5 min
  • WLP650 Brett Brux (1L starter)

// Mash-in w/ 3.5 gal at 152F for 50 minutes, mash-out, sparge to collect 4.8 gallons. Boil 75 minutes, collect around 3.5 gallons 1046 wort. Brewed 1/15/17. //

The expiration date on the Brett vial was pretty close (Jan 27 ’17), so I made a starter; it took a good week for it to fully attenuate. Tasted good in the end though – plenty of funk with some fruit too.

1/19/17:  Airlock slowing down, gravity down to 1013. Incredible peach/mango aroma. Flavor is slightly tangy, but good fruity/hop flavors. Not much funk at all. Added 0.75 oz citra and 0.5 oz amarillo to carboy.

1/25/17: A little funk coming through! Crash cooled for 2 days then kegged. Tasting notes soon.

4/2/17  Keg kicked before I could get around to some real tasting notes. Overall the level of funk was was low and would’ve liked more. My old vial of Brett may have had something to do with this. The citrus hop character was pleasant but had a slight attack to it, would’ve preferred if it were somewhat cleaner – maybe not using Amarillo as the bittering hop and using something like Magnum instead would help with this. I would up blending this with another Belgian Pale Ale I had on tap to create a more balanced, hoppy, not-funky beer.

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Filed under All-grain, Belgian, Funky / Sour, Hoppy, Pale Ale

Hoppy English Red Ale

Next up is a red ale, trying to emulate what I remember from Cooperstown Brewing Company’s Old Slugger. It had a delicious malt and hop balance that leaned a little into the toasted malt dimension. I dreamed up this recipe that has a toasty malt component but with moderate hopping. I wanted something that has a touch of a hop bite (not aggressive), with some soft herbal hop flavor and a bit of a floral nose.

  • 10.75 lb English Pale
  • 1.25 lb Victory malt
  • 0.1 lb Carafa II
  • 1 oz First Gold, 60 min (3% a.a.)
  • 0.25 oz Cascade, 30 min (7% a.a.)
  • 0.8 oz First Gold, 10 min (3% a.a.)
  • 0.5 oz Cascade, 3 min (7% a.a.)
  • WYeast British Ale II (1L starter)

// Mash-in w/ 4.8 gal at 152F for 50 minutes, raise to 168F. 2 tsp gypsum to mash. Sparge w/ 3 gal 168F water. Collect around 6.5 gal 1054 wort. Boil 75 minutes, collect 5 gallons 1062. Chill to 60F. Pitch half decanted starter. Left to ferment at 66F. Brewed 12/27/16. //

12/28/16: Good airlock activity.

1/2/17:  Gravity down to 1020. Still slightly sweet but malt/hop flavors are getting there. Will let sit for a few more days then crash.

1/4/17:  Moved to fridge to crash cool.

1/5/17:  Added gelatin.

1/8/17:  Kegged. Super clear. Flavor doesn’t impress me – harsh hop edge with malt flavors that don’t really jive. We’ll see how it turns out once conditioned. Tasting notes.

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Filed under Amber, Balanced, English, Uncategorized

Schwarzbier Tasting Notes

Last post of 2016! Happy New Year! It’s been a great year of brewing. Doubt I’ll have time to do a review of everything that went down this past year, but I placed in a few competitions and learned a heck of a lot. There were sours. Lots of sours. So much that I got a little sour’d out. There were ciders and nitro coffee, and lots of other delicious beer.

This one was brewed from a recipe on Brulosophy’s website. It was enjoyable to have on tap, though I think my choice of malts may change next time to reflect a more traditional Schwarzbier.

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Appearance:  Dark chocolate brown, almost black. Not much light gets through this one. Tan head, 1/2″ head that dissipates somewhat quickly leaving just some puddles of head here and there.

Aroma: Very stout-y: roasted cocoa, hints of molasses, toffee, and some soft Irish-y yeast esters.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light body, crisp, overall very balanced. Slightly tannic and dry finish.

Flavor: Chocolate malts dominate the flavor up front, but expands to an array of subtle caramel tones. As the beer warms, it opens up to a more nutty and robust flavor. Hop character is negligible, but the drier finish is appropriate and thirst quenching.

Overall: This beer took few weeks to open up, but in the end it was a really tasty and sessionable beer. Initially it felt very a little one-dimensional with the chocolate malt leading the show, but over time more malt complexity started to shine through. I’m not a Schwarzbier connoisseur, but I have had several German commercial examples and would say this one leaned a little hard into the Dry Irish Stout category rather than Schwarzbier. Most traditional Schwarzbiers have a more subtle chocolate/roast flavor with the breaded Munich and Pils malt flavors still remaining intact. The dry finish was perfect and it definitely retained somewhat of a lager-like feel, but next time would maybe swap some chocolate malt for roasted barley (and go less), ditch the Crystal malt, and maybe add 1% melanoidin malt to beef up the base malt flavor. Cheers!

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US/EU Pale Ale

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This is another one from Brulosopher’s website, titled “Tiny bottom pale ale”. The combination of American malts and European hops intrigued me, so I decided to give it a shot.

  • 8.6 lb 2 row
  • 11 oz Vienna
  • 0.5 lb Crystal 15
  • 0.5 lb Victory
  • 0.3 lb Crystal 60
  • 0.5 oz Magnum (60 min)
  • 0.4 oz Perle (25 min)
  • 0.5 oz Fuggles (10 min)
  • 0.5 oz Fuggles (2 min)
  • WLP090 San Diego Super Yeast (1L starter)

// Mash-in w/ 4.5 gal at 154 for 60 minutes, mash-out at 168F for 5 minutes. Sparge w/ 3 gallons to collect around 6.5 gal 1044 pre boil wort. Boil 60 minutes, collect 5 gallons 1052 wort. Chill to 60F, pitch whole starter. Let to ferment around 69F. Brewed 12/11/16. //

2 tsp Gypsum to mash.

12/12/16:  Good airlock activity by next morning.

12/14/16: Gravity down to 1016. Still slightly sweet and yeasty. The hop flavor does not appeal to me right now- kinda earthy, dirty. Gave the carboy a good shake to help it finish.

12/16/16:  Gravity down to 1013. Flavor improved, thinned out more, yeast dropped out a bit, less dirty hop flavor but it’s still there. Gave the carboy another good shake.

12/18/16: Moved carboy to fridge to crash cool.

12/19/16: Added gelatin to carboy.

12/21/16: Kegged.

12/27/16:  Finished carbonating. Great crisp flavor, very “old school” craft pale ale vibe going on. Tasting notes soon.

1/2/17:  I brewed this for my in-laws to put in their kegerator, so I didn’t get to experience a ton of it, but boy was it tasty. It was hoppy, but only in a crisp/bitter sort of way – not much discernible hop flavor, but its presence was felt. That quality allowed the malts to be more in play, and it was a beautiful graham cracker-y breaded experience. The clarity was stellar and attenuation was high making it super clean and refreshing without seeming thin. I really enjoyed this beer but also thought that the Fuggles could be replaced by something a little more modern, i.e. Amarillo or Simcoe or Cascade, to add a nice spritzy burst of citrus. Otherwise, this recipe was on point!

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Filed under All-grain, Hoppy, Pale Ale

Schwarzbier

img_1562I’ve been in lager-mode recently, so I started looking around for a recipe of something that I’ve never brewed before: schwarzbier. I came across a good looking recipe on Brulosophy’s website, so I brewed it almost exactly as-is, except I used Perle instead of Saaz (just what I had laying around).

  • 7.5 lb Pils
  • 2 lb Dark Munich (10L)
  • 0.5 lb Carafa II
  • 0.38 lb Crystal 60
  • 0.25 lb Chocolate (Briess)
  • 0.4 oz Magnum hops (60 min)
  • 0.5 oz Perle hops (15 min)
  • WLP029 (Kolsch/German Ale) 1L starter

// Mash-in 1.6 qt/lb at 152 for 60 minutes, sparge to collect around 6.6 gallons 1044 wort. Boil 90 minutes, collect around 6 gallons of 1052 wort. Chill to 64F, oxygenate, pitch decanted starter. Let to ferment around 62F. Brewed 12/3/16 on grainfather. //

1.25 tsp CaCl2 to mash.

Having not brewed in a little while, I had a bunch of flubs during this batch. First, I didn’t remember to add the mash salts until I was about 40 minutes in. Hopefully late is better than never. Then, right at the end, as I’m almost done chilling the wort, I saw that my temp probe wasn’t fully inserted into the thermowell throughout the whole brew session. Awesome! Hopefully my mash temp wasn’t too far off from what it read.

12/6/16:  Tons of blow off, but finally subsided and yeast seems to have dropped out. Gravity at 1018, slightly sweet but respectable flavor. More roast than I anticipated, and also fairly clean. Moved upstairs to around 68F.

12/10/16:  Gravity at 1014. Really liking how this is tasting. Moved to fridge at 40F. Tasting notes.

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Filed under Balanced, German, Lager

Topaz/Centennial APA

After my Galaxy/Cascade APA placed in competition, I was awarded 1 oz of Australian Topaz hops (schwingggg). Having never used this variety, I considered making a SMaSH beer to get a feel for it, but couldn’t find any more of it at my LHBS so I decided to mix it in with a quick 3 gallon APA recipe.

  • 6.3 lb US Pale 2 row
  • 0.4 lb Crystal 40
  • 0.1 lb Crystal 80
  • 0.12 oz each Topaz, Centennial (20 min)
  • 0.25 oz each Topaz, Centennial (10 min)
  • 0.12 oz each Topaz, Centennial (8 min)
  • 0.5 oz each Topaz, Centennial (5 min)
  • WLP008 East Coast Ale

// Mash-in 1.5 qt/lb at 152F for 1 hr, sparge to collect around 3.5 gallons wort. Boil 60 minutes, add ice to collect around 3 gal wort at 120F. Chill in fridge overnight to 62F. Collected around 2.5 gal (lost a bit to trub) 1062 OG. No starter, no oxygenation. Brewed 11/25/16. //

1.5 tsp Gypsum to mash.

11/30/16:  Airlock activity slowed, beer started drop clear. Gravity at 1017. Rounded hop flavor, fair malt component too but slightly sweet. Gave the carboy a good shake to help it finish out. Likely having trouble finishing since I didn’t oxygenate.

1/1/16:  Decided it needed more hop flavor, so I added 0.25 oz each Citra and Cascade dry hop (pellets).

1/3/16:  Move to fridge to crash cool.

1/4/16: decided to try gelatin fining: added 1/2 tsp in 1/4 cup water, heated in 7 second bursts to 145 then right into primary.

1/6/16:  started to clarify but only got about halfway and stopped. Kegged anyway. 

 

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Filed under Hoppy, Pale Ale

Belgian Single

I recently visited Cooperstown, NY and checked out Ommegang. I’ve always considered their beer as one of the best Belgian “US” breweries (yeah, they’re owned by Duvel, so what?). So I decided to make a fairly standard Belgian Blonde Ale after something I tasted up there.

  • 9.75 lb Pils (Dingemans)
  • 0.25 lb CaraRuby (Dingemans, 20L)
  • 1.5 lb Styrian (60 min)
  • 0.5 oz Styrian (5 min)
  • WLP570 Belgian Golden Ale (1L starter)

// Mash-in 4.25 gal at 152 for 60 minutes, 168 for 5 minutes. Sparge w/ 3.5 gallons to collect around 6.5 gallons of 1042 wort. Boil 90 minutes, collect just under 6 gallons of 1052 wort.  Chill overnight to 56, pitch decanted starter. Basement at 64F. Brewed on Grainfather 9/15/16. //

9/17/16:  Lots of blow-off. Great aroma from the airlock, though.

9/22/16:  Airlock starting to slow, took a sample at 1018. Very yeasty and still very cloudy, but great breaded flavor following. Moved upstairs to 71F.

9/23/16:  Definite increase in airlock activity after 24 hours, thin white foam layer on top.

9/29/16: Still bubbling once every 20s, but I’m happy with the flavor. Moved to the fridge to crash cool. Gravity at 1011.

10/27/16:  Came out well, a little ester-y, but very drinkable. Tasting notes soon.

12/5/16:  Keg kicked and I never got around to doing a proper review! However this beer was stellar. Crisp, refreshing, great balance of biscuity malts and floral expressive hops. The yeast esters went down and hops seemed to come out more with age as the beer clarified. Probably kegged a little too soon, but those “young” flavors could’ve been evaded had i filtered at kegging. Will definitely make again!

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Filed under All-grain, Almost SMASH, Belgian, Blonde, Malty

Best Bitter Tasting Notes

img_1268This beer led me to discovering that my nitrogen gas line has a leak; needless to say this did not make it to the nitro tap. I hadn’t used my handpump in a while so I decided, what the hell, let’s use this as an experiment to see how long a beer would last uncooled and uncarbonated on cask. Usually I reserve casks for parties since it needs to be completely drank within a few days after tapping. After a few days the warmer temperature and oxygen in the headspace spoils the beer.

My procedure for this experiment is as follows:

  1. Decide that I’d like to have a pint of cask ale (or two). Rarely a difficult decision.
  2. Vent any excess CO2 from the keg.
  3. Connect handpump to keg, pull beers until finished, usually leaving the keg “tapped” for 2 to 3 hours.
  4. After this “session”, disconnect the handpump and put CO2 on to pressurize the keg to 10 psi. Disconnect gas.
  5. Repeat for each session.

I tapped the keg on 9/6/16 and am pleased to report that it lasted a full 2-1/2 weeks (9/23) before starting to show some noticeable effects of aging. From my experience with previous casks I was expecting it to become “funky”; small amounts of bacteria/wild yeast would eventually become active and create off flavors. However, the effect was more of a general oxidation – the caramel flavors become over-pronounced, slightly harsh and cloying, reminding me of a lot ill homebrew I’ve tasted in the past. Still drinkable, but having tasted it every other day it’s definitely noticeable. By 9/30 there was a noticeable Brett funk that had developed. It actually didn’t taste that bad if you took it as intentionally being funky, but it definitely had deviated too far from the original beer to be passable. Original recipe can be found here.

How it look: Crystal clear, amber, chestnut brown (lighter than the picture shows) with a frothy, airy, sudsy head. Excellent cascading bubbles when pulled from the hand pump. Just like something you’d see in a London pub!

How it smell: Clean English yeast esters with caramel, toffee, and flowers.

How it feel: Flat, but very expressive. Moderate earthy bitterness in the finish.

How it taste: Like a cozy English pub. Toasted malts and hints of caramel initially fading to earthy, floral hops. In the first pour I thought the bittering hops were a little too assertive, but it’s just enough to poke out in the finish and leave you wanting another sip. The aeration provided by the handpump amplifies all of the flavors wonderfully.

How it do:  I have an absurd bias towards English cask ales, so naturally this was one my favorites to drink. I can say as objectively as possible that this is on par with bitters I’ve had in the UK. After all, when you use all English ingredients, you’re going to hit the mark on getting all of those characteristic flavors into your beer.  I actually thought the beer peaked after about a week in the cask – the malt flavors seemed to develop and become more expressive.

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Filed under Amber, English, Reviews, Session, Tasting

American Wild Ale Tasting

First attempt at using wild yeast cultured from my backyard and sour room to make a beer. It’s a surreal feeling knowing that microbes just floating around in the air created this beverage, and it’s similar to how beer was made centuries ago. And, the end result was drinkable! Here’s the recipe.

Appearance: Hazy golden yellow with substantial white head that fades after about 30s.

Aroma: Esters of banana, lemon, pink grapefruit. Somewhat saison-like, but unique. Summer-y.

Mouthfeel: Light body, fairly thin with medium carbonation.

Flavor: Hefeweizen immediately comes to mind – with a healthy does of ripe fruit and pine. Soft bready flavor with lots of esters, still kind of hefe-ish but not as much banana/clove. The pine is not IPA-hoppy, but more sharp and green. Ester flavors and touch of funk carry though the finish.

Overall: Fun experiment, not so great beer. I expected it to be a little more funky and “wild” than it was, but it did dry way out which made it very refreshing and clean despite how fruity it was. Maybe there was some Brett in there, maybe not. The flavors were complex but I feel like I let it sit too long and the hops may have oxidized a bit, lending to that weird pine-y flavor that developed over time. The most encouraging part of all of the this was the yeast starter – first, the fact that it actually “worked” and created beer, but that also it got pleasantly sour before pitching. Next time I’ll probably try a full-on sour with minimal hops and see where it goes.

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American Wild Ale

I made a yeast starter from pineapple juice and ambient yeast/bacteria in my backyard/house. It smells and tastes okay, so I put together a small batch.

  • 6.5 lb Maris Otter
  • 0.15 lb Amber malt
  • 0.25 oz Columbus 70 min
  • 0.3 oz Cascade 20 min
  • 0.3 oz Cascade 10 min
  • 0.3 oz Columbus 10 min
  • 0.3 oz Cascade 5 min
  • 0.3 oz Columbus 5 min
  • Wild yeast starter

// Mash-in at 154 for 50 minutes, mash out and sparge to collect around 3.5 gallons. Boil 70 min. Add ice and 32 oz of water to get around 3 gallons of 1.056 wort. Let sit in the fridge for 2 hours to get down to 82F, pitch wild yeast starter. Brewed 7/14/16. //

7/17/16:  Airlock activity was off the charts initially, slowed quickly. Gravity at 1016, still super cloudy but no krausen left (never really got up there anyway). Very fruity and yeasty, hefeweizen-ish – banana, sharp citrusy and earthy hop flavors with some green apple. Not very pleasant, but I’m hoping it’ll attenuate a little more over the next week and smooth out.

8/20/16: I kind of forgot about this batch, but kept tabs on the airlock activity here and there – it really never seemed to slow down. The hop flavor is a little sharp, but the beer has dried out to 1009 and is much less fruity. Still not overly blown away by the flavor, but we’ll see how it does in the keg. Moved to a 3 gallon keg, tasting notes soon.

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Filed under All-grain, Funky / Sour, Hoppy

Festbier – review of the new Grainfather system!

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My brewing setup consists of converted kegs/keggles, two propane burners, and a chugger pump — a pretty standard RIMS setup which has done me well for the past four years. It definitely comes with its challenges, though. Brewing outdoors exposes you to the elements, so any extreme hot or cold makes things difficult, i.e. hoses freezing up, ground water not cold enough to chill the wort, etc. Any slight breeze or gust of wind diminishes the flame heating the kettle (which is already an inefficient heat source) so keeping a constant mash temp without a temp controller is spotty, and maintaining a steady rolling boil is tricky although manageable. My efficiency is naturally low (usually 65%-68%) because I batch sparge, and my total wort loss from mash/lauter tun and boil kettle combined is around a gallon and a half due to dead spaces, so I lose a good bit of perfectly good wort on every batch.

Sounds like I’m complaining, but it’s a solid system that has produced really good beer (which placed several times in comps). It’s a piecemeal system that wasn’t expensive to put together, but all of its drawbacks have led me to look into overhauling my setup and switching to an all-electric system. I’m not so much worried about the consistency of the beer as much as maintenance and making the brew day easier. Start to finish, a 5-gallon batch on my propane system takes around 6 hours – it’s a long time, and although I’ve accepted that it will take up a good portion of my Saturday, that is a FULL 6 hours of work – constantly checking the strike temp, mash temp, boil level, assembling and disassembling parts for storage… you get the point. Having some automation in the system will allow me to get other stuff done during the day while brewing. The idea of brewing indoors all year round is attractive, and to do so would require ditching the gas burners. There are a lot of electric options for retro-fitting kettles with heating elements, but I came across the Grainfather system and was immediately attracted to its design and compactness. I did some research on what it would cost to build something similar from scratch. It would cost well over $2000, and the Grainfather is competitively priced at $890. So I made easily the biggest brewing purchase I’ve ever made and gave the Grainfather a shot.

The first recipe is a Festbier for Oktoberfest. It’s a simple recipe, and I’ve made this with good results the past few years.

  • 6 lb Pilsner malt
  • 3 lb Dark munich
  • 0.3 lb Caramunich I
  • 1.5 oz Hallertauer (2.5 % a.a.) at 60 and 30 minutes
  • White Labs Munich Lager (2L starter)

// Mash-in 1.5 qt/lb at 152 for 60 minutes, mash out at 168 for 5 minutes. Collect around 7.5 gallons pre-boil wort, boil 90 minutes. Collected around 6.75 gallons of 1037 wort. Chilled down to 82 with ground water, put in the fridge overnight to chill. Pitched decanted starter the next morning with wort at 62F and put in fridge at 48F. Brewed 8/30/16. //

Before I get into my notes of first impressions of the Grainfather, let me say that it’s not surprising to have some hiccups and unexpected issues when completely overhauling your existing brewing setup with an entirely different system. That being said, here are my main notes from first use of the Grainfather. Overall I enjoyed using the Grainfather. The components are extremely well designed and thought-out. You can tell someone who brews a lot made this. The size is awesome and really appealing for someone who doesn’t have a lot of space. Looking forward to continuing to brew on it and make some good beer!

Mashing

The mashing method for the Grainfather is like a metal brew-in-a-bag. They wisely have the metal basket raised off the bottom of the kettle where the heating element is (to prevent scorching), but there’s probably around a gallon of water that sits below the basket. I used my standard mash-in ratio of 1.5 qt/lb. Before you start the recirculation pump, the mash is THICK. I mean really thick. Once the pump has some time to move the liquid around it’s OK. I later learned that the brewing calculator on their website helps you choose the right ratio for their system based on your grainbill. Highly recommend this.

Boiling

If you’re like me and switching from a propane system, be forewarned that the boil on the Grainfather is not strong. It’s puny. Barely even what I would call “rolling”.  After doing some research online, several people in forums have noted the same issue. Some say that using an extension cord can drop the power slightly and weaken the boil. I tried both ways – not much difference. After talking with my LHBS expert (who has used the Grainfather extensively), he said that this “weak” boil is both typical for the Grainfather and most commercial breweries. He said that the crazy boils that homebrewers get aren’t common in a commercial brewery simply because its not necessary. I still have qualms about whether you’ll getting a good hot break, though. Regardless, using the Grainfather calculator will help you get your volumes right to account for the true boil-off rates.

Chilling

This was probably the most seamless part that worked especially well the first time. The inline chiller was able to get the wort down to the temperature of my ground water (85F) and go directly into the fermentor. The hop filter did a good job of keeping back nearly all of the hops from going through the pump. Beats having to stand over the kettle with a copper immersion chiller, stirring constantly for about 20 minutes. The hoses and adaptors for the cold-in hot-out feel a little cheap, but they work.

Losses

I should have done more research beforehand, but I totally over estimated the losses. First, the boil-off rate is low (i would guess 6%) compared to the propane setup. Second, there’s much less dead space in the vessel so I only lose about 1/2 gallon to trub/hops. So I wound up with way too much wort (probably 7 gallons or so instead of 5) after the boil so this first batch is a little thin. At the time I didn’t realize that their online calculator accounts for all those parameters to figure out what volumes you need.

Controls

The electric controls are easy to use – one switch to activate the pump, the other to toggle between mash mode (temp regulated) and boil mode (full heat). There’s another switch on the bottom of the unit away from the control panel, however, which can be set to “Normal” or “Mash”.  Apparently this switches between using the full electric power or a lower power unit, respectively. Not sure why this type of switching logic wasn’t built into the temperature control electronics, but they provide instructions on when you should use the different modes. It’s not super inconvenient, but it just provides a thing you can potentially forget to set before you use it.

 

8/31/16:  Lots of activity, no yeast on top yet. Fridge at 48F. Rotten egg smell in the morning, but by night smells clean.

9/7/16: Gravity at 1020. Fridge at 50F.

9/14/16: Turned the fridge off to let it rise up to about 60F.

9/16/16: Gravity down to 1014. Still fruity and cloudy, but with a pleasant bread flavor. Lots of airlock activity still.

9/22/16: Gravity at 1012. Slightly off aroma (sulfur) but flavor is wonderful. Set temp to 36F, will let this sit for a week and then keg!

 

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Filed under All-grain, Amber, Equipment, German, Lager, Malty

Best Bitter

My nitro tap has be vacant for a while, partly due to a leak in my gas line that depleted the tank on my last batch and my unwillingness to go get the damn thing refilled. This should be a nice pick-me-up for the tap; a fairly standard English Bitter with a full bill of English ingredients.

  • 9 lb Muntons Maris Otter
  • 0.8 lb Muntons Medium Crystal 60L
  • 0.1 lb Muntons Extra Dark Crystal malt
  • 3 oz UK First Gold (60 min) (3.5%aa)
  • 1 oz UK First Gold (10 min) (3.5%aa)
  • 1 oz UK First Gold (0 min) (3.5%aa)
  • Wyeast London ESB

// Mash-in 2 qt/lb at 154 for 40 minutes. Sparge w/ 3.7 gal 170F water. Collect 7 gallons 1040 wort. Boil 40 minutes. Collect around 4.5 gallons 1.048 wort. Pitch 1L starter. Could only get the temp down to 85F with the hot weather and water temp. Moved to basement to ferment at 65F. Brewed 8/26/16. //

The yeast was dated April, so I made a 1L starter to get it going again. It had no problem fermenting out the starter, and tasted fine before pitching.

Water: 2 tsp gypsum, 1/2 tsp CaCl2 to mash. Nothing to sparge.

8/27/16:  Lots of activity, slight blow-off into the airlock.

8/29/16: gravity at 1020. Nice esters and malt flavor, but the hops are sharp and, well, bitter. Hoping this mellows.

9/1/16:  Gravity still at 1020, but much better flavor. Hops are less sharp and just tastes like a great English ale. Slightly sweet. Much clearer, too. Kegged and put on the nitro tap at 30 psi. Tasting notes!

 

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Filed under All-grain, Amber, English, Hoppy, Nitro

Cranberry/Peach Cider Tasting

DSC_0018Appearance: Light pink with reddish highlights, medium haze and a thin white head that fades quickly.

Aroma: Ripe red apples, fresh clean fruits, lavender.

Mouthfeel: Champagne-like, slightly thin with prickly carbonation.

Flavor: Most noticeably peach and apple with some very subtle berries in the finish. Initial sweetness fades to slight tartness. Faint alcohol in the finish too.

Overall: Very refreshing beverage, but just a little too sweet for my liking. It figures – my goal was to leave this one a little sweeter than the last but I think I just prefer ciders dry. This reminds me of a sweeter “blush” type wine like a white zinfandel. The mild acidity works really well with the fruity sweetness. The cranberry could afford to be much bigger, but it did provide a nice accent to the peach.

 

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Wild Yeast Harvesting Experiment

All this brewing of sour beers has got me thinking about real Belgian Lambic beers. Spontaneous fermentation produces such amazingly complex and flavorful beers due to the unique yeast and bacteria present in the air. I wanted to try something similar but a little more controlled so that I have somewhat of a guess as to what will be fermenting my beer, rather than just sitting it outside and hoping for the best. I sought out to make a wild yeast starter.

The mad fermentationist has a good post on how he collected wild yeast using a small scale version of a “cool-ship”, where he basically created a mini batch of wort, let it cool naturally, collect microbes, and start fermenting. This seemed risky to me so I tried a different method that I’ve heard about for creating sourdough starters that uses pineapple juice. The acidity of the juice helps to ward off mold and allow just the “good guys” to hangout.

IMG_1027I cut a fresh, ripe pineapple and saved the juice. This came out to only a few ounces, so I squeezed some of the pulp to get some more (a few chunks got in the juice). Split that up into two wide and shallow tupperware containers (more surface area the better, I guessed) and cover in a hop sack to keep insects out. One outside on my back deck, and one inside in my “sour room” where all of my long term beers sit, figuring there must be a lot of bugs floating around in there. The ambient temperature was about 80F outside and about 72F inside. Let the dishes of juice sit out for 24 hours to hopefully collect as much good yeast and bacteria as possible.

I gave each container a good whiff after their stand. Remarkably, they both smelled like yeast! Almost like dry bread yeast after it’s been rehydrated. And, barely like pineapple anymore. This was a good sign, so I went ahead and made two separate 1L yeast starters with 1/2 cup of DME and the pineapple juice cultures. I put the inside culture starter on a stir plate just because.

IMG_1036Within 12 hours both showed signs of fermentation. The stir plate fermented out in about 24 hours, so I gave it a taste. Not terrible! Lots of esters, some apple, mostly banana, and reminded me of a hefeweizen. It had a little bit of corny/DMS flavor, not totally sure what that was. I drained off as much liquid as i could without disturbing the yeast at the bottom and pitched another 1L of fresh wort. That fermented out quickly, so i turned off the stir plate and just let it settle out for a day before tasting. At this point it had developed some lactic sourness already! Very lemony and wonderful for only a few days. I tasted the outside starter and it had taken on very similar flavors – banana, some funk, and pleasantly tart. I drained off as much liquid as i could from both, combined them into the stir plate starter, and added another 1L of fresh starter wort, making about a total of 5L of starter wort condense into about 1.5 L after draining of excess fermented starter. After 48 hours, there was still a good amount of activity – I’m wondering if this is Brett that is slowly coming alive and fermeneting. I pitched the whole thing into an APA recipe, and hoped for the best!

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Filed under Experimental, Funky / Sour

Cranberry Peach Cider

IMG_1025Since Wegman’s juices are so awesome, I went back and picked up more to make another cider. This time I used the Cranberry/Peach one, along with some regular apple juice, to make a quick summer-y beverage. This time I’ll try to “catch” it before it hits 1.000 gravity to retain a little more sweetness.

  • (4) 64 oz bottles of Cranberry/Peach White Grape Juice
  • (2) 64 oz bottles of natural style Apple Juice
  • 1 packet WLP001
  • 0.25 tsp yeast nutrient

// Add juice to carboy, shake each one for 10-20 seconds before. Add yeast and nutrient. Nice light pink color. Brewed 6/27/16. //

6/28/16:  Big, 3 inch thick krausen.

7/17/16:  Gravity down to 1005. Caught it! Great fruit flavor and sweetness, ready to keg. Tasting notes.

 

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El Dorado SMASH Tasting

This recipe used 8oz of El Dorado hops; it was my first time using them – they’re super interesting and juicy!

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Aroma: All hops – lemon, berries, peach, hint of pine.

Appearance: Pale yellow, cloudy. Medium density white head that leaves excellent lacing.

Mouthfeel: Light, ever so slightly acidic, and refreshing on the palette. Minimal lingering bitterness in the finish despite the level of hopping.

Flavor: All hops again, peach-y citrus all the way. When the beer was young, I thought it had undertones of grape, maybe even plum. These faded after while to only the brighter peach and lemon.

Overall: El Dorado is awesome. A very unique hop that I would compare to a blend of Chinook and Citra – it has the tropical flavors but with some piney sub-flavors. The bright peach and lemon is unlike anything I’ve used. I will for sure be using it in APAs and IPAs to come, maybe even an interesting Saison. Going with all 2-row is the base was a safe bet to really get a feel for the hop in question, but adding a bit of color and body to the beer via dark Munich or a pinch of specialty malts would help to provide a bit more balance; I tried blended 2/3 this and 1/3 of an English Bitter and that worked really well together.

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Filed under Blonde, Hoppy, IPA, SMASH, Summer, Tasting

Dry-hopped Sour w/ Bottle Dregs

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One issue I’ve found with “quick souring” methods is the lack of complexity and depth of flavor compared to a properly aged sour. Lactobacillus plantarum can create enough lactic acid to sour a beer quickly in 48 hours at room temp, but the slower working organisms like Pedio and Brett generally do not work as fast. Those guys, however, are what add lots of other good flavors we commonly associate with complex Gueuze-like sour beers. This batch is yet another variation, to see if I can coax some character out of bottle dregs in a short period of time after souring with Lacto. The Mad Fermentationist has a big list of unpasteurized sour beers that contain harvestable bottle dregs. I went with Gueuze Girardin since my bottle shop had it, it’s on the bottle dreg list, and I’ve never tasted it before (why not drink something new, too?). The general process will be:

  1. Mash, short boil. Chill to 90F.
  2. Add Omega Lacto blend. Let sit 72 hours at room temp.
  3. Once sourness is acheived, boil 60 minutes and add hops. Chill to 90F.
  4. Add bottle dregs. Let sit for 2 weeks or so, letting the (hopefully still alive) bugs do some work.
  5. Add Brett and/or Sacch to help finish fermentation.

3 gallon batch. 3 IBU. 3 SRM. 1065 OG. BIAB.

  • 6 lb Pils malt
  • 0.5 lb Biscuit malt
  • 0.25 oz Saaz hops (60 min)
  • 1 packet Omega Lacto Blend
  • (2) Bottle Dregs from Gueuze Girardin

// Mash in 1.4 qt/gal 60 min at 152F. Boil 15 min and chill to 90F overnight. Brewed 3/28/16. Kettle sour for 3 days with the Omega blend. Finished boil on 4/1/16, boiled hard for 60 minutes, chill to 85F w/ wort chiller, collected around 2.5 gallons. Pitch bottle dregs and seal. Wound up transferring a fair amount of trub from the kettle. //

Both bottles of Girardin were extremely flat. Barley even a *pop* when de-corking. Hmmm.  I’m not sure if this is by design, but that doesn’t give me high hopes for the dregs being alive and healthy. Maybe the cork seal was bad and the carbonation leaked out, maybe the beer never re-fermented in the bottle, who knows. Sourness was fairly mild, but overall a wonderful tasting gueuze. Hopefully I can at least pick up some of that character in this beer.

4/8/16:  A weird layer of tan sludge has formed on the surface, with some pellicle-like growths underneath. At this point, who knows if this a result of the bottle dregs and not an accidental infection on my part. I’ll wait another week, taste, assess the level of active fermentation and flavors, and decide whether or not it needs Brett to help clean things up.

4/12/16:  The sludge layer is gone, and some large bubble/pellicles are forming on the surface. Gravity at 1038. Very, very sour to taste. Some funk, but also very cloudy and apple-y. Added a vial of WLP650 Brett Brux to the carboy.

4/20/16:  started to drop clear, Gravity is at 1014. Flavor isn’t ideal. Funky, but also has a sort of apple-ish cider thing that isn’t great. No Gueuze character. Shook the carboy and sealed again.

7/1/16:  The gravity dropped to 1011, flavors have improved a little bit but not really. The level of sourness is great, but still that overly funky cheese thing going on. Not happy with how things are and not willing to wait any longer, I added 0.3 oz each of Citra, Mosaic and Equinox that I had left over in the fridge from previous batches. Let that sit 5 days before kegging. It’s now a dry-hopped sour!

7/10/16: Tasting notes to come!

 

 

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Filed under All-grain, Experimental, Funky / Sour, Small Batch

Galaxy/Cascade APA – Tasting Notes

This won first prize in the American Pale Ale category of the Battle of the Bubbles Homebrew Competition. I’ll add some of the judges notes once they come in. Here’s the recipe.

Appearance: Orange with some burnt highlights. Moderately cloudy. Fluffy white head that leaves good lacing.

Aroma: Grapefruit, mango, grass, and some cookie malts.

Mouthfeel: Medium body up front to a somewhat dry finish.

Flavor: Excellent balance of malt and hops. The hops stick out first with the malts quickly behind, with mostly a breaded malt-forward finish. Clean, bright flavors.

Overall: The flavors of this beer changed several times on tap. At first, with some of the yeast still suspended, it had an amazing peach and hop “juice” flavor – incredibly fruity and bursting with aroma. This faded as the beer clarified, and gave way to the more traditional characteristics of the Galaxy and Cascade hops – tons of citrus and pine. Despite the magnitude of hop flavor, the malts were still wonderfully displayed and provided balance with some prominent graham cracker-like biscuit flavors. Thoroughly enjoyed this, and will be making it again!

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Filed under Hoppy, Pale Ale, Summer, Tasting

Peach Cider w/ Citra – Tasting Notes

The inspiration for this recipe came after tasting the Brewers Best Peach Cider kit at my LHBS. They had it on tap for customers to taste, and, even me not being a big cider guy, I was blown away by how good it was. Bright, juicy, crisp, not overly sweet, and most of all super drinkable. I checked out the packaging in the store, and the ingredients had loads of artificial flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives (womp womp), so I didn’t buy it. I decided to try and make something similar based on ciders and other non-alcoholic things I’ve tasted before.

Wegman’s “natural style” apple juice has made consistently good cider for me. All of their apple juice is 100% juice without preservatives and I think the “natural” label means it’s slightly less filtered compared to its counterpart which is crystal clear. It’s a little cloudy and I think it has a much more rounded and smooth apple flavor.  This, plus WLP001 was the starting point for the recipe.

Then for the peach. The white-grape-peach juice from Wegmans is delicious on its own, too. It’s more peachy than grape in flavor, so I went with this. The citra hops were an afterthought – I thought it needed a little “edge” after tasting the batch halfway through.

Appearance: Extremely pale, like a wit. Slightly hazy. White head that fizzles quickly to nothing.

Aroma: Peach, pear, all-around tropical. Sort of fruity white wine cooler-ish.

Mouthfeel: Fairly thin, but spritzy.

Flavor: Good balance of fruit and acidity.  No single fruit jumps out at first, but the peach comes a little later followed by apple.

Overall: Very nice spring/summer sipper. Almost reminds be of a less sweet, more tart Moscato white wine. Next time I might to catch it before it hits 1.000 gravity to retain some sweetness, but it’s fine dried out like this, too. The ratio of apple to peach juice was pretty spot on – if anything I would go up a little more with the peach (adding some fresh peaches would be nice too), but I think 100% of the peach juice would be too tart given how balanced it is now.

 

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Filed under Cider, Experimental, Hoppy, Small Batch, Summer, Tasting

Belgian Amber Tasting

DSC_1032When it comes to brewing Belgian beer, saisons are usually my go-to. In my experience saison yeast can usually work in a wide range of temperatures (low 70s to low 90s) and still generally produce pleasant, peppery esters that make for a really enjoyable beer. Other Belgian styles I’ve had more difficulty with – dubbles, blondes, etc., because I just can’t get the yeast do what I want. The final product usually come out overly ester-y, bubble-gum, banana, things that I wouldn’t mind in smaller quantities, but the “real-thing” from Belgium is much cleaner with a excellent biscuity malt component that shines through. This beer was one step closer to what I would call a “passable” homebrewed Belgian beer.

Appearance: Light brown to golden/amber. Excellent slight off-white head. Fairly hazy all the way to the end of the keg.

Aroma:  Floral and banana esters with mild malt component, slight corn/off aroma occasionally.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with a somewhat dry finish.

Flavor: Estery Belgian yeast is very evident followed by a fairly big malt body – crusty bread, slightly grainy. Hops provide bitterness to balance.

Overall: This recipe is a keeper – prominent biscuity malts are the front with moderate hopping to provide balance and bitterness. It’s getting closer, but I may have let the temperature raise up for too long. The first tasting of it before I raised the temp was much cleaner, and after I let it finish up at around 72F it had gotten overly ester-y. So next time I’ll just let it finish out at the lower temperature, however long that takes, with maybe only a day at the higher end. The corn-ish flavors/aroma may have been DMS from the pils malt and not having boiled long enough, although it was a very strong boil. Having it ferment out a little more would also be good, but I was in a hurry to get this carbed and ready for a party. It was well received, many people calling it a great summer beer.

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Filed under All-grain, Amber, Balanced, Belgian, Tasting

Hopped Up Rye Tasting

DSC_1036This is my first attempt at using a bunch of rye in a beer, and it came out well!

Appearance: Light brown/copper with some red highlights. Slight haze that cleared up after some time in the keg. Fluffy off-white head.

Aroma: Herbal resiny hops, rich toast, and a small amount of dark chocolate.

Mouthfeel: Fairly big body with medium carbonation.

Flavor: Malts and hops both present themselves equally, and they’re massive – earthy dank hops and rich toffee / burnt caramel. The rye plus toasted malt and slight buttery english yeast character play nicely together. The hop flavors are somewhat aggressive and really pierce through in the finish.

Overall:  Not the most sessionable beer I’ve ever made, but merits for huge huge flavors – big, toasted malts and coarse earthy hops which seemed to be in a nice balanced state. Switching over to an American yeast would help to dry it out a little more and let the hops shine, which might make it a little more easy drinking, but I thought having the malt flavors out in front was nice too.

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Filed under All-grain, English, Hoppy, Malty, Rye, Tasting

Belgian Amber

It’s been a while since I did any kind of Belgian beer. Generally speaking I’m never totally satisfied with how they turn out. Yeast is the biggest factor in that – pitching enough isn’t a problem, but controlling fermentation temps is not my strong suit. Fortunately, this time of the year is good in my house for a 2-stage fermentation – my basement is a cool 62F and first floor is mild 72F. I’m going to try to do this one right – pitch a big starter, start things out cool and then let it finish warm.

  • 11 lb Pils (Dingemans)
  • 0.75 lb Aromatic (Dingemans)
  • 0.75 lb caravienna (Dingemans)
  • 0.25 lb special B (Dingemans)
  • 1 oz Saaz @ 70 30 and 15 minutes.
  • Omega Yeast Labs Belgian A

// Mash-in 2 qt/lb at 148 for 40 minutes, raise to 158 for 10 minutes, mash out at 168. Sparge w/ 3.5 gal to collect 8 gallons 1038 wort. Boil 70 minutes, collect 6 gallons 1048 wort. Chill to 75F, shake to aerate, pitch 1L starter. Brewed 5/27/16. //

5/29/16:  Started fermentation at 62F, seemed to slow down, so brought it upstairs to 72F to finish out and gave it a good shake. Gravity at 1022.

5/31/16: Gravity at 1018. Slightly cloudy, but overall nice flavors. Soft esters with a nice rustic crusty bread flavor. Gave it another good shake.

6/1/16: Racked to keg. Gravity at 1016. No time to crash cool, since this will be for a party in 3 days.

6/6/16:  Came out well! Tasting notes.

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Filed under All-grain, Amber, Balanced, Belgian, Summer

Hopped Up Rye

Rye malt has been on my “to brew” list for a long time. I rarely put it in recipes, partly because I just don’t have a great handle on how to use it. I like beers with rye, but I can’t say that I really seek it out like I would a sour or IPA. I’m still on a hoppy beer kick, so I did a little research on hoppy rye ales and and based this recipe off of “Denny’s Rye IPA” recipe. There’s a remark in the thread about not recommending using English yeast, but that’s just ridiculous. Brewed 4/27/16.

  • 11.3 lb 2-row Pale malt
  • 3 lb Rye malt
  • 0.9 lb Carared
  • 0.6 lb Cararye
  • 0.2 lb Chocolatre
  • 0.5 oz Mt Hood hops FWH
  • 1 oz Columbus 60 minutes
  • 0.5 oz Mt Hood 30 minutes
  • Yeast cake from Galaxy Pale Ale

// Mash-in 1.75 qt/lb (7 gal) at 154 for 35 minutes. Pull grain bag, dunk in 3 gallons of water to pseudo sparge. Collect around 8.5 gallons 1044 wort. Boil 90 minutes, collect around 6 gallons 1054 wort. Chill to 75, rack directly onto cake from galaxy pale. //

3 tsp gypsum to mash.

4/29/16:  Fermentation was quick.  Good amount of rye flavor and resiny hops, a little yeast character in the finish. Tastes slightly thin. Gravity at 1014. Added 1 oz columbus dry hops. and moved to refrigerator. Kegged 48 hours later.

5/27/16:  After some conditioning wound up being a pretty solid beer! Tasting notes.

 

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Filed under All-grain, Hoppy, IPA, Rye

El Dorado SMASH


My LHBS had a deal going on: 1/2 lb El Dorado hops for $11! That’s a sick deal – $1.38/oz for a hop that normally goes for $2.50/oz. So I picked up a pack and made a recipe to really showcase it; huge late hopping.

  • 15 lb US 2-row
  • 0.5 oz El Dorado 60 min
  • 1 oz El Dorado 15 min
  • 1.5 oz El Dorado 10 min
  • 1.5 oz El Dorado 8 min
  • 2 oz El Dorado 6 min
  • 1.5 oz El Dorado dry hop

// Mash-in 1.8 qt/lb for 60 minutes, sparge w/ 3.5 gal 170F water to collect 8 gal 1042 wort. Boil 60 minutes, let hops stand for 25 minutes. Chill to 80F, collect 5 gallons of 1058 wort. Lost about a gallon to hop trub. Racked directly onto cake from the Peach cider. Good fermentation a few hours later. Brewed 5/20/16. //

5/22/16:  Fermentation started to slow down, added dry hops loose to fermentor.

5/25/16:  Gravity at 1011. Crazy hop flavor. Tons of citrus, but it’s kind of lemon-like with some subtle grape, dark fruit that weirdly reminds me of crystal malt. Moved to fridge to crash cool.

5/26/16: Kegged. Tasting notes to come.

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Filed under All-grain, Blonde, Experimental, Hoppy, IPA, SMASH, Summer

Jaryllo Blonde Tasting Notes

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This was a single hop blonde ale from a 10 gallon split batch. It came out way maltier than I anticipated, and, because I fermented it cooler, was fairly clean and resembled a pale German lager. I entered it as a Kellerbier (wasn’t quite clean/bright/hoppy enough for a pilsner) in a competition and scored 3rd place (out of 9 entries) in the Continental Ales category. I’ll update with judges notes when they come in.

Appearance: Golden yellow, slight haze. Average white head that lasts for a few minutes and leaves moderate lacing.

Aroma:  Breaded malts with a touch of butterscotch and noble hops.

Mouthfeel: Carbonated to medium level, fits the bill. Medium body with a slight astringent finish.

Flavor: Malts dominate with breaded pils malt and some herbal/floral hops in the finish which help to cut through the sweetness and provide balance. Slight buttery flavor which compliments the malts well.

Overall: This may be my new favorite “quick” blonde/pils-ish recipe. It’s heavy on the breaded malt flavor, but bumping up the hops wouldn’t hurt it. The Jaryllo hops were pretty muted, but overall they worked really nicely in this recipe being a close relative to noble hops. I’m pleased with the English yeast’s performance – it really moves the malts out in front, and adds that little diacetyl note which makes me think “lager”. I was a little nervous about entering it as a Kellerbier (or anything German), thinking that someone would call my bluff on the English yeast, but no one seemed to notice! Booyah!

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Galaxy/Cascade APA

Spring is upon us and I’m craving some hoppy beers. I remember good things about a hoppy pale ale I brewed a few summers ago, so I decided to do a rendition using Galaxy hops since I haven’t used them that much. I also wanted a fairly short brew day, so I decided to try a minimal sparge technique with a 5 gallon BIAB method. Brewed 4/23/16.

  • 12 lb 2-row pale
  • 2 lb Munich 10L (Breiss)
  • 0.3 lb Crystal 60
  • 0.25 Cascade, 0.5 oz Galaxy FWH
  • 0.5 Cascade, 1 oz Galaxy 20 min
  • 0.5 Cascade, 1 oz Galaxy 10 min
  • 0.75 Cascade, 1.5 oz Galaxy flameout
  • Wyeast London ale III

// Mash-in 2.1 qt/lb (7.5 gal) at 154 for 40 minutes, dunk grain bag in 1.5 gal 170F water for sparge. Collect around 7.75 gal 1040 wort. Boil 60 minutes, add flameout hops and let stand for 30 minutes at 170F. Chill to 75F. Collect around 5 gallons (about 1 gallon leftover of hop/trub) 1051 wort. Rack directly onto yeast cake from pale jaryllo. //

// Water: 4 tsp Gypsum to mash. //

4/24/16:  Fermentation was quick (started almost immediately after pitching) and out of control – after just one day it appeared to be close to finished. Gravity at 1013 and tastes wonderful. Slightly dry, but crisp and hoppy. Still very cloudy. Added 1 oz of Galaxy dry hops to the primary.

4/25/16:  Transferred carboy to fridge to crash cool. Tasting notes.

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Filed under All-grain, Hoppy, Pale Ale, Summer

Cherry Lambic Tasting

I liked some things about the Belgian Table beer with cherries that I did last year; the color was a beautiful reddish purple with a cotton candy pink head, and there was a very subtle fruit flavor. However, my main thought was that the beer would’ve been much better if it were sour.  For this batch, I decided to double the amount of cherries and pitch only a lambic blend from Wyeast. This batch aged for a grand total of 15 months and yielded around 2.5 gallons.

Appearance: Deep burgundy/purple with an off-white/pink head.  Moderately clear.

Aroma: Sweet cherries, plum, dark fruit, with a touch of barnyard funk.

Mouthfeel: Prickly carbonation helps to bring out some sourness.

Flavor: Well rounded cherry with a hint of sour/vinegar and funk in the finish. Surprisingly sweet for how long this fermented. I would have imagined this to be much drier by now.

Overall:  This turned out to be a very “mature” tasting lambic, IMO. The cherry flavors were smooth, soft and balanced, almost like a cherry wine. There was some definite funk present, but the sourness just wan’t quite there. I wound up blending 1/2 and 1/2 with some Berliner Weisse that was considerably more tart. That helped a little, and there was so much cherry flavor in the unblended half that cutting with 1/2 Berliner didn’t have a huge effect on the overall magnitude of cherry flavor. I’m not totally sure that if I had kegged this 6 months sooner it would have been better or worse, but I feel like some of the sharp cherry acidic notes faded. Regardless, this ended up also being a small lesson in blending of beers, so that was cool.

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Cherry Lambic Small Batch

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This was my first journey into the realm of longterm souring. In a weird way I feel like I’ve gained access to some club – the 1-year-aging-club? The overly-patient club? The I-have-ample-storage-space club? Anyway. It’s been nice to watch this beer “grow up” over the past year. I wasn’t super enthralled with the final results, but I definitely learned a lot along the way.

  • 7 lb Pils (Dingemans)
  • 0.5 oz Czech Saaz hops, whole leaf (2.4% aa)
  • WYeast Lambic Blend
  • 12 lb Sweet Cherries (frozen, Wegmans brand)

// Mash at 154 for 60 minutes (Brew-In-A-Bag style), sparge with about a gallon of water to collect around 3 gallons of wort. Boil 60 minutes, collect around 2.5 gallons of wort. Add all the frozen cherries into the hot wort, use an immersion blender to puree the cherries while they’re in the wort. Didn’t quite cool it down enough (100F) but went ahead and transferred the fruited wort to a carboy and pitched the yeast blend. Sat it outside until it felt room-temp, then brought back inside.  Good fermentation 12 hrs later. //

UPDATE (1/7/15): Fermentation has slowed down significantly. Beautiful deep burgundy color. Took a taste sample – very interesting. The aroma is sweet and fruity – almost like a fruit wine – with a little bit of barnyard funk. To taste, it’s not very sour at all, but it has a slight funkiness/Brett character which makes be think it is likely on its way there. The sweetness of the cherries is really beautiful, which may be masking some of the sourness… regardless, it works pretty well together. It tastes a bit syrupy, so i wonder if it’s fermented fully, too. I don’t have that much of this beer, so i don’t really want to take a full hydrometer reading – going to wait until my refractometer comes in the mail. I’m hoping that it sours up a bit more!

UPDATE (1/13/15): Starting to get a little sour! The first sip was very enjoyable. Sweet up front with a little acidic bite towards the end. Going to let this go for maybe two more weeks and then take another sample.

UPDATE (1/26/15): Brilliant clarity. Excellent nose – dark fruit, cherries, roses, slight funk. The mouthfeel is ultra velvety and smooth with an initial sweetness from the cherries and slightly tart and sour finish. I wish the sourness were a little more upfront, but it is quite nice where it is. I’m nervous about kegging because there’s about a 5 inch layer of cherry sludge at the bottom of the carboy, so I doubt I’ll get much yield from this batch. Maybe i’ll give it another week and see how it tastes then.

UPDATE (2/11/15): Flavors are still pretty similar. It smells much more sour than it tastes. Not much sourness at all going on. Decided to pitch a vial of White Labs Lactobacillus Debrukiii to see if that will sour it up a little more. Gave the carboy a little shake.

UPDATE (3/11/15): Sourness has increased slightly, but not drastically. Clarity is incredible. Probably not going to taste this again for a few months because this seems like a sloooow and very marginal change, so we’ll see how things progress after while.

UPDATE (3/21/16): I really forgot about this beer, and it just so happens that it’s about 1 year since my last tasting so I decided to taste it and see if it was ready for consumption. The complex sour flavors have really developed, although it’s still just not super sour. There is a modest level of cherry sweetness left, given how long it this was sitting on bacteria. I thought this would have been much drier at this point.  It was an ordeal trying to keep the beer separate from the massive layer of cherry slurry at the base of the carboy, but after some finicking with a racking cane into a BIAB nylon sack directly into the keg, i managed to keep back 99% of the cherry stuff. The beer was a little cloudy the first few days but cleared up nicely.

UPDATE (4/25/16):  The beer has been on tap for about a month, and has gotten some pretty good reviews from local tasters. Tasting notes to come soon.

 

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Filed under All-grain, Experimental, Sour

Nitro Coffee

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Nitrogen-infused coffee is a thing. And it’s wonderful. The nitrogen adds that creamy body that makes it resemble a Guinness, while still having the smooth refreshing flavor of cold-brewed coffee. I’ve come across a few coffee shops / breakfast places that serve it; not sure if it will take off and wind up at Starbucks, but I sure as hell like it.

  • (4) 10 oz packs of ground Columbia coffee
  • 5 gallons cold tap water

// Pour grounds into bucket. Pour water into bucket. Stir well, wait 10 minutes. Stir well, wait 10 more minutes. Stir well, cover surface //

The reason for all the stirring and waiting is because the grounds will float up and form a giant layer of sludge on the water surface. Stirring will mix it back it, but you’ll need to repeat a few times to make sure the grounds have good contact with the water.

Typically cold-brewed coffee is brewed, well, cold. I didn’t have enough fridge space to fit a 5 gallon carboy at the time so I just let mine steep at room temperature. I did some looking around online about cold-brew methods for coffee. It seems like the general consensus is that room temperature is fine, but it won’t be as “smooth” as if it were done cold. Some say the coldness helps to slow the rate of oxidation, which ultimately makes the coffee taste stale. I laid a few sheets of plastic wrap down on the surface to keep out as much air as possible, so hopefully that will suffice. Let it sit for 24 hours.

Separating the coffee from the grounds and transferring to the keg was interesting. There was a large share of grounds still on the surface, as well as at the bottom. I could have siphoned, but I was a little afraid of too much grit getting through and clogging. In a perfect world, it would be awesome to have a giant french-press to push all the grounds to the bottom. Instead I wound up pouring the coffee through a funnel lined with a fine mesh nylon filter, straight into the keg. It was quick, effective, and easy, but I definitely splashed the coffee around in the process. I vented the keg several times with nitrogen to hopefully purge any oxygen from the solution.

Nitrogen-ating took about a week to really infuse and pour with a solid head. The final product was very enjoyable. Incredibly easy to make (almost as easy as cider!). Unfortunately the biggest barrier to entry is the nitrogen system in case you’re thinking about trying this. Beware – there are posts/articles about “shortcuts” to make nitro coffee like this one – this just seems like a dangerous idea so I would advise doing it for real and setting up a nitro system. It’s a little pricey, but hey, now you can put beer AND coffee on tap!

Appearance:  A bit paler than I expected – a lightish brown / ruby red highlights, certainly not as dark as a standard cup of coffee. Fantastic creamy nitro head that lasts forever.

Aroma:  The nitro tap really aerates and brings out the aromas. This was no exception. The coffee aroma really jumps out of the glass.

Flavor: Smooth, silky, delicious roast. I’m not a coffee connoisseur, but Columbian coffee is a little more “fruity” to me than other more bolder, smokier roasts.

Mouthfeel: Suuuuuper creamy.

Overall: A fun experiment that I genuinely enjoyed drinking! I think upping the amount of grounds by 25% would be a good thing. I yielded about 4 gallons, which was honestly a lot of damn coffee. It lasted a long time (~2 months) on tap, because it’s not something you can really drink in pints. I had a small (6 to 8oz) glass each morning and that was enough for me. Any more and I was bouncing off the walls from the caffeine.  It might also be cool to try blending other ingredients like spices and fruit to make a fall spiced coffee or spritzy summer version.

 

 

Pour it in

 

 

Seal the top with plastic wrap

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Coffee Brown

This is the dark half of my first split 10 gallon batch where I split the malts, hops and yeast. The main mash consisted of primarily base malt; I steeped some chocolate malt on the side, then added it right at flameout to the 5 gallon boil. It worked out well and created two very different beers!

Appearance: Darkest of browns. Tan head with great retention and lacing. Surprisingly clear for a dark ale – ruby highlights when held to the light.

Aroma: Dark chocolate all the way followed by some toasty, doughy malt.

Mouthfeel: Medium carbonation and big, silky smooth body.

Flavor: Cocoa, light roast coffee and chocolate malts up front, with a little smoky, slightly burnt/charred flavor in the finish. In general there’s a very strong resemblance to the sensation of eating a piece of dark cocoa chocolate – slight lingering sweetness and bitterness which really begs for another sip.

Overall: A very enjoyable stout / dark coffee brown ale, depending how you look at it. I’m satisfied with how this turned out but I can’t help but think there’s something missing. It’s a good “base beer” but it needs a little finishing accent. This may seem like a weird observation, but coconut would take this through the roof.  It reminds me a lot of Maui Brewing Company’s Coconut Porter, minus the coconut obviously. The milky smooth coconut flavor blends so well with the mocha roasted goodness of the malts.

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Filed under All-grain, Brown, Coffee, English, Malty

Kettle Soured Berliner Weiss

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Omega Yeast Labs makes a Lactobacillus blend that can sour beer at room temperature rather than requiring an elevated temperatures in the 90F-110F range. This is a quick 3 gallon batch sour using the kettle sour method to see what kind of results this blend can produce.

  • 4 lb Pils malt
  • 2.5 lb White wheat
  • 0.5 oz Saaz 60 min
  • 0.5 oz Hallertau 5 min
  • Omega Labs Lactobacillus blend
  • White Labs German Ale / Kolsch

// Mash-in 1.5 qt/lb at 150 for 60 min. Mash out and sparge to collect 3.5 gal 1050 wort. Sour for 72 hours with Omega blend. Boil 60 minutes, cool to room temp, pitch yeast. Collected around 3.25 gallons of 1048 wort. Pitch yeast with no starter. Brewed 3/6/16. //

Fermented down to around 1011 in about 1 week. Excellent malt character with just a touch of sourness. Kegged and carbonated to medium/high level.

Tasting Notes:

Appearance: Light yellow, slight haze. Wispy white head that lasts for a while and leaves moderate lacing on the glass.

Aroma: Bright lemon and lime citrus up front supported by light breaded malts.

Mouthfeel: Extremely light bodied and bubbly.

Flavor: Medium amount of tartness and acidity up front, with lemon/pear. Light pils malts linger in the finish with a touch of citrus, which is almost like a Kolsch with a healthy squeeze of lemon juice.

Overall:  A clean, spritzy, refreshing beverage with some great Berliner Weiss / Gose-like qualities.  I’m not a Berliner Weiss expert but this beer was exceptional for my tastes. It could maybe be just a touch more acidic – using ice to chill the wort definitely cut the sourness down, but there was still an appropriate level that made it very enjoyable.

I highly recommend the Omega lacto blend for kettle souring. It’s very clean and quick which, in my mind, is ideal for this style since it’s not an overly complex sour beer like a gueuze. Personally I’m not a fan Brett character in this style – I think citrus works better than funk here, but that’s just me.

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Filed under All-grain, Blonde, Experimental, Funky / Sour, German, Small Batch, Sour, Wheat beers

American Golden Ale

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This beer was the pale half of my first 10 gallon batch where I split the boils, hops, yeast, and specialty malts. A good friend of mine would classify this as a “porch beer” – something that you can sip on late into the evening, taking in the cool spring air, listening to music, sharing stories, sittin’ on a porch. My kind of beer.

Aroma: Biscuity malts up front with a hint of floral hops and soft fruits.

Appearance: Gold-ish, light orange. Huge pillowy white head that lasts foreeeeeever.

Mouthfeel: Full, malty with medium carbonation and some subtle bitterness in the finish.

Flavor:  Toasty malts and interesting hop flavor. The equinox hops are a weird mix of fruit and peppery spice – hard to describe, but it makes for a nice pale ale.

Overall:  Very flavorful, sessionable porch beer. For as much hops are in this recipe, the malts seem to take the foreground. OG was a little high (1018 or so), so that may have something to do with it. The malts and hops form an interesting balance that gives an impression of a soft fruit – maybe apricot / pear, but not acidic. The toasty malt base would be a good bill for an English bitter, or you could easily ramp up the hops to make an interesting IPA with this recipe.

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Filed under All-grain, Amber, Balanced, Pale Ale

Light & Dark – Split Batch

Brewing a 10 gallon batch on my outdoor propane-based system is kind of a pain. From setup to cleanup, it takes around 7 hours.  I can do stuff around the house during the mash and boil, but usually I need to keep an eye on temperatures because I don’t have any automation implemented. Yes, part of that could be slimmed down by investing in additional equipment, but there will always be that tradeoff.  The 10 gallon set up does have its advantages, though. In general, I feel like the beer comes out more stable and repeatable than my 3 gallon set up. I can utilize a wort chiller rather than just adding lots of ice and cold water to chill the wort down post-boil.  I can boil hard and not be worried about boiling over onto the pavement as opposed to all over my kitchen stove. Also, you get 10 gallons of beer, not 3. Bonus.

I decided to try and split a 10 gallon batch in a different way than I normally do. There are couple standard ways to split a 10 gallon batch and create two different 5 gallon batches. Here are a couple to note:

  1. Mash, sparge, boil. Pitch the same yeast in two carboys. Lots of the same beer!
  2. Mash, sparge, boil. Pitch a different yeast in each carboy. Great way to experiment with different yeast strains.
  3. Mash, sparge. Split into two boils. Use two different hops schedules and/or two different yeasts. Makes for two (potentially) very different beers, and a great way to experiment with single hops.

I decided to do option #3, but I didn’t want the same malt bill even though I planned on doing one big mash… so I just steeped some chocolate malt on the side, and add that right at the end of the boil on half. This should create two completely different beers from a 10 gallon batch!

Base beer for mash:

  • 20 lb Maris Otter malt (Muntons)
  • 1.5 lb Biscuit malt (Dingemans)

Pale half:

  • 0.25 oz Jarrylo @ 60 min
  • 0.5 oz Equinox @ 20 min
  • 1 oz Equinox @ 10 min
  • 1 oz Equinox @ 5 min
  • 1 L starter WYeast 1056 American Ale

Dark half:

  • 1 lb Chocolate malt (Muntons)
  • 0.75 oz Challenger @ 60 min
  • 0.5 oz Kent Goldings @ 10 min
  • Slurry of Wyeast 1968 ESB yeast from Dark Mild

// Mash-in 1.4 qt/lb at 154 for 40 mins, raise to mash out. sparge to collect 13 gallons 1048 wort. Split into two 6.5 gallon kettles. Boil 60 minutes. Steep chocolate malt for 30 mins in 1 gal 155F water. Add to wort ad flameout. Pale – around 4.5 gallons 1.058, Stout – around 5 gallons 1056. //

Outside water pipe was leaking, got the pale down to 68F but had to chill inside for the stout to 80F.

// Water: 100ppm Ca – 1.5 tsp gypsum 1 tsp CaCl2 to mash, 1.75 tsp gypsum 1.25 tsp CaCl2 to sparge. //

3/11/16:  Both beers are progressing well. The pale half is my favorite. The hops are subtler than I expected, but the beer is very balanced. Awesome body and great malt flavor, with the hops being an accent. Gravity at 1016.  The dark half is appropriately roasted, but slightly burnt. Gravity at 1020. The temperature was around 68 but raised to 75 inside during a few hot days.

3/12/16:  Start crash cooling the pale half, added 1.3 oz ground Ethopian Peets coffee to the dark half.

3/16/16: Kegged both beers.

Tasting notes!

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Dark English Mild

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This is a recipe for a low-gravity, darker English mild. I used lots of dark English crystal to really emphasize the toffee and nutty flavors. I made this on my indoor 3 gallon set up (shot for around 1057 OG), then just topped up with water to reach around 4.5 gallons of lower-gravity 1038 wort.

  • 5.5 lb Maris Otter Pale
  • 0.5 lb Dark Crystal (160L)
  • 0.2 lb Chocolate malt
  • 1 oz Fuggles (4.1% a.a.) 60 min

// Mash-in at 156 for 50 minutes. Mash-out and sparge w/ 168F water to collect around 3.25 gal 1063 wort. Boil 60 minutes. Add ice to chill to 120F and reach around 3.5 gal. Collect 3 gallons of 1058 wort, add 1.5 gallons filtered water to reach 4.5 gallons at 1038. Brewed 1/26/16 //

1/30/16  Gravity at 1014.  Pleasant malt flavor and aroma – caramel and subtle toffee / toasted flavors with a dry finish. Slightly thin, but expected with the lower OG. Moved over to the nitro keg (no CO2 pre-fill).

2/2/16  Still rather flat and no head coming out of the nitro tap. Might have needed some of the CO2, but the last beer I did that with had way too much head.  Tastes a bit watery when it’s chilled – might want to consider putting this on the hand-pump to liven it up.

THE VERDICT

After about a week in the keg this turned out to be a delightfully sessionable and cozy beer. Great with food, or when you feel like having two mid-day without derailing your Saturday. It’s amazing what head retention the nitro gives in a beer that’s this light and with low hopping, too – the pictures show a fairly small head but it lasted throughout the entire pint. The turbulence of the nitro tap definitely helped to boost the body and give the beer some life. Despite being a lower OG ale there was still a modest amount of malt flavor and some buttery English yeast character to bring it home. It’s not an overly complex beer, but it’s not one-dimensional either and keeps your taste buds entertained, navigating through the rich malt character, even though the overall flavor magnitude is less that usual. It was a mild ale by design, but I did think it just a tiny bit thin in the end. I’ve made beers of this strength before on my standard 10 gallon setup, but never with this 3-gallon-then-top-up-with-water method – that may have something to do with it.  I will make this beer again, maybe just slightly bumping up the specialty malts. Cheers!

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Filed under All-grain, Brown, English, Malty, Session, Small Batch

American Helles (Maui Brewing Co. Bikini Blonde clone)

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My wife and I recently took a trip to Hawaii. We drank a lot of great beer. We didn’t come across anything too “adventurous” – mostly lagers, ambers, browns, stouts, a few IPAs, with the occasional coconut, pineapple, and or/coffee infused beer. Overall the quality was outstanding, though.  Maui Brewing Company was one brewery stop on the trip, and their Bikini Blonde quickly became my go-to; extremely drinkable and a wonderfully refreshing beer for relaxing on the beach (the coconut porter was a close 2nd).

  • 19 lb US 2-row
  • 2 lb Dark Munich (avengard)
  • 0.75 oz Magnum FWH
  • 1 oz Willamette @ 10 min
  • WLP090 San Diego Super yeast (1L starter)
  • WYeast London ESB (1L starter)

// Mash-in 1.33 qt/lb at 152 for 50 minutes, sparge w/160F water (propane ran out) to collect 13.25 gallons of 1042 wort. Boil 30 minutes (propane ran out again during the boil), then another 30. Chill to 75. Let sit 30 minutes to settle trub. Collect around 11 gallons 1048 wort. San Diego in PET carboy, english in plastic bucket. Brewed 12/12/15. //

Fermentation complete in both beers in about a week – english stopped at 1016, SD at 1010. Both have great malt flavor with just a hint of a neutral hop flavor in the finish. SD has a slight fruity/apple aroma but overall very clean. Moved english to the nitro tap and SD to force carb.

THE VERDICT

I bought a 6-pack of Bikini Blonde and did a side-by-side comparison against mine. The results were strikingly similar. I even had a few people do a blind taste test – about 50% of people guessed incorrectly in labeling the beers after sampling both a few times prior. That either means the quality was comparable, or that they were just bad beer tasters :). To make it easy, here’s a table of the comparison:

 

Attribute Bikini Blonde American Helles Comments
Appearance Golden yellow Golden yellow Nearly identical shade of yellow, and BB was actually a little cloudier than mine, strangely.
Aroma Classic Helles lager traits – light malt toast with some slight buttery/diacetyl lager-ish things Slightly ale-like, but does have significant pils malt aroma. The aroma on mine is much more subdued, but both have attractive qualities.
Flavor Distinct grainy flavor, subtle but noticeable noble hop character Clean, light malt flavor. Hops rarely poke through. Very similar – both are clean, light, malt-forward. I really like the grain flavor of BB and I wonder how they capture this – maybe some aromatic malt or melanoidin? Or, maybe the lager yeast just helps to accentuate the base malts more than an ale yeast
Mouthfeel Light carbonation Medium carbonation Both are pretty smooth – BB is slightly silkier and has a tad more body.

WLP090 seems to be a great yeast for a fairly neutral yeast flavor while letting the malts shine through. I fermented a little on the warmer side (68-70F), but I’d imagine that if you kept this lower you’d be squeaky clean, borderline lager-ish. I’ll definitely be using this again for anything that I don’t want the yeast contributing too much flavor to.

The nitro version with the English yeast was great, too. It reminded me of a Boddington’s Ale with the creamy light malt body combined with the English yeast character. Not my favorite English beer, but it was very enjoyable on tap. The English yeast did push the malts out in front even more, but I found myself wanting more hops to balance it, like with my hoppy English Pale Ale.

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Filed under All-grain, Blonde, English, Malty, Pale Ale, Pilsner

Dark Stout w/ Ethiopian Coffee

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Craving another coffee stout!

  • 4.5 lb Marris Otter
  • 1 lb Flaked barley
  • 0.6 lb Chocolate malt
  • 0.3 lb Crystal 40
  • 0.2 lb Black malt
  • 0.5 oz Galena 60 min
  • Wyeast California Lager

// Mash-in 1.5 qt/lb at 152 for 50 min. Sparge to collect 3.5 gal wort. Boil 60 min. Chill to 120 w/ ice. Let sit for 4 hours. Collect around 3.5 gal 1052 wort. Oxygenate 60s pure O2. Pitch 1L starter. Brewed 12/11/15. //

// Water: 1 tsp chalk, 1/4 each gypsum and CaCl2 //

Slow start to fermentation – took about 24 hours before showing any signs. I used this California Lager strain because I’d bought it for a batch like 2 months ago and it never got used. I figured for a coffee stout the yeast shouldn’t matter that much anyway. I fermented it at 65 because this strain apparently works well at higher temps. After about 2 weeks the gravity finally settled around 1016.

1.4 oz Ethiopian Coffee grounds in the primary for 24 hrs while crash cooling.

THE VERDICT

The Ethiopian grounds imparted a milder yet still very expressive coffee flavor. It didn’t overpower the base beer, which I found was more the case with the French Roast stout I did a few months ago (it was still really good, as long as you like strong dark coffee). I also slightly decreased the amount of coffee, which no doubt dialed it back a bit. I found the flavor of this coffee to be more chocolate and earthy compared to the more burnt, smoky flavors of the French roast. A lot of coffee drinkers who tried this beer seemed to connect with it more than the French roast, comparing it to a standard morning/breakfast coffee roast. Overall this was a really tasty beer, but next time I’ll probably use a standard American, English, or Irish ale yeast.

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Filed under All-grain, Coffee, Malty, Stout / Porter

Quick Bitter on Nitro

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A quick 3 gallon English bitter for the nitro tap. Brewed 12/7/15.

  • 6 lb English Pale
  • 0.7 lb Victory (Briess)
  • 0.2 lb Chocolate (Briess)
  • 1/3 oz Nugget @ 60, 10, 0 min
  • WYeast 1318 London Ale 3

// Mash-in 1.45 qt/gal (2.5 gal) at 152 for 45 min, sparge to collect around 3.25 gal. Boil 60 min, 0.25 tsp yeast nutrient and 1/2 whirlflock tablet at 15 min, whirlpool at flameout for 20 minutes. Add ice to get down to 100F. Let sit in fridge for 2.5 hrs to get down to around 85F. Collected around 2.5 gal 1052 wort. Added 1 quart filtered water, which should bring it down to 1047.  30s pure O2,  pitch yeast. //

// Water: 1 tsp Gypsum, 0.25 tsp CaCl2 in mash //

Quick fermentation – done in about 4 days with a healthy layer of yeast waiting on top. Crash cooled for 36 hours and it sunk to the bottom. Gravity at 1017. Threw it on the nitro tap and it tastes a little sweet off the bat, but finishes with a pleasant toasted bread character and slight bitterness.

THE VERDICT

This was probably as close as it gets to having a classic English bitter cask ale at the ready without a hand pump. It was a pleasure drinking this beer on nitro rather than CO2. Without the nitro, there wouldn’t be that creamy head, smooth body, and the toasted malt flavors wouldn’t be as delicate. My first time using London Ale 3, and I’m a fan. It’s cleaner than the ESB strain (which is my go-to for English ales), but it still has wonderful character – it left a very malty, slightly sweet beer with great flavor. I can see how this would be a versatile strain for pale ales, stouts, ambers, or even an interesting IPA. The malts were at the forefront, with only a hint of hops peaking through every so often.

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Filed under All-grain, Amber, English, Malty, Nitro

American Farmhouse Saison

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I’ve been dreaming of a crisp, dry saison for a little while now. I heard about WLP670 – American Farmhouse Blend – and got pretty intrigued about what kind of beer it would create. Some reviews have said that it is slightly cleaner (in terms of esters/phenols) than a Belgian strain, but does produce some funk/barnyard. One half gets the 670, the other gets a single vial of WLP656 Brett Brux.

  • 21.8 lb Avengard Pils
  • 0.5 lb Avengard Cara-8
  • 0.25 lb Acidulated malt
  • 1.5 oz Palisade (60 min)
  • 1.5 oz Palisade (30 min)
  • WLP670 American Farmhouse Blend
  • WLP565 Brett Brux

// Mash-in 1.6 qt/lb at 146-148 for 45 min, 158 for 10 min, 168 for 2 min. boil 90 min. Chill to 82 (coldest i could get it with the ground water in summer). Oxygenate with 60s pure O2 in each carboy. Collect 9.5 gal 1051 wort. Pitched starter of 670 into 5 gal, straight vial of the brett into 4.5 gal. Brewed 8/8/15. //

// Water: 2.5 tsp gypsym, 1.5 tsp CaCl2 in mash, 2.25/1.25 in sparge. //

Good fermentation within 8 hours of pitching the 670. Brett didn’t get started til within about 2 days.

8/15/15   Fermentation slowed quite a bit in the 670 (one bubble every 20s or so), took a sample at 1012. Really nice flavor – Great saison esters (not as perfume-y as the Belgian strain, but still very solid), and some light breaded malts. Getting a slight hefeweizen-like aroma as well – clove maybe? Earthy, herbal hops in the background with a slightly dry finish. Decided to let it go for another week since i’m going on travel for a week, and it could afford to dry out and clear up just little more. Brett still chugging away.

8/22/15  Both carboys stopped fermenting almost completely. 670 is at 1007. Similar flavors and aroma but crystal clear and super crisp malt flavor with the yeast complimenting it really well. Can’t wait to taste this chilled and carbed. 565 is still very cloudy, but took a sample anyway. Incredible aroma – slightly sour/funky with crisp apple and lemon, almost like a Berliner Weiss but less tart. Fairly sweet, but similar flavors to the aroma. Gravity at 1021 so it still needs time to work. On its way to a something spectacular, though!

THE VERDICT

WLP670 Version:

Appearance: Slight haze at first, but after two weeks in the keg it was brilliantly clear. Golden/yellow. Fluffy white head that doesn’t last very long.

Aroma: Slight peppery saison yeast aroma with a strong presence of bread pils malt and a hint of noble hops. Kind of reminds me of a pilsner. Not nearly as perfume-y and ester-y as a Belgian strain, but still has a light spicy character that reminds me of a Belgian single.

Flavor: Clean malts and saison yeast up front with a hint of hops midway through a sip. Clean dry finish that lingers with a little bitterness. Similar to the aroma – a pleasant crisp farmhouse style beer with more of a clean pils feeling rather than a saison, but there’s a touch of the spicy saison character that brings it back home.

Mouthfeel: Light and crisp, but still feels like a fair amount of body despite the low finishing gravity.

Overall: I really liked this strain of yeast but in the end it didn’t produce my ideal saison. Not enough yeast character as the classic Belgian Dupont strain, but I also fermented fairly cool and only gave it 2 weeks in the primary before kegging. I’ve read that if you give it longer there’s actually some Brettanomyces present that will start to eat away at residual sugars and create a more complex funk. That would be awesome, but I really wanted to have something on tap sooner than later. Either way, this produced a very clean Belgian style beer farmhouse beer that was crisp and very enjoyable in the summer months. The simple malt bill worked great so that the breaded pils malt and hops could also shine.

WLP565 Version:

Appearance: Super cloudy, a murky straw yellow. Pillow-y white head that last for about 30s.

Aroma: Slight funk, lemon, bright citrus without a particularly distinguishable fruit that I can think of.

Flavor: Very light pils malt and some barnyard accompanied by a similar lemon/citrus from the aroma. Not much funk. Slight acidity which adds a nice overall brightness to the beer, maybe even slight mineral-y flavor. Hops come through a little in the finish, but overall contribute some moderate bitterness and add to the dryness.

Mouthfeel: Thin and dry with spritsy carbonation.

Overall: Tastes like this could be the base of a great sour beer, but it’s not very sour and/or funky having used all Brett B.  In general it’s a fairly uninteresting Brett beer compared to the one i did previously with more American hops. The main observation I can glean from the comparison (since they were the same yeast and basically the same malts) is the difference in hops. This beer keep it pretty clean, crisp and earthy in terms of addition times and flavor, whereas the other showcased some big fruity Mosaic hops. Personally I think the Mosaic beer’s hop flavor and Brett funk complimented each other really well.

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Filed under All-grain, Balanced, Funky / Sour, Saison, Summer

American Pale Ale w/ Homegrown Hops

IMG_1067I brewed this beer over the summer when my hops were ready for harvesting. Threw together a quick recipe for an American Pale ale that used them. Last year I used 6 oz of them in a batch and really didn’t notice any detectable hop character from it. This year the hops are bigger, slightly more aromatic, and in larger quantity.

  • 6.5 lb Marris Otter
  • 0.15 lb Amber malt
  • 0.25 oz Columbus @ 60 min
  • 2.5 oz homegrown Cascade @ 20, 18.5, 16, 14.5, 13, 11.5, 10, 8.5 minutes
  • WLP001

// Mash-in 152 for 60 min, raise to 168. Sparge w/ 1 gal to collect around 2 gallons 1.065 wort. Boil 60 minutes. Add ice to chill down to 70. Got around 2.5 gallons f 1.052. Let sit for 30 minutes – super clear wort with lots of coagulated trub but it only settled to about halfway down the pot, so I wound up just pouring the whole thing into the fermenter. Pitch yeast (no starter) and oxygenate for 45s pure O2. Brewed 8/23/15. //

The hops basically occupied the entire kettle – it looked like hop soup with a little big of wort holding it together. Surprisingly it wasn’t that difficult to remove them before chilling – just used a slotted spoon and a regular spoon to scoop and squeeze a few oz at a time. There were a few stragglers but not many.

Rigorous fermentation after 8 hours, pretty much done after 3 days but I let it go for another 2. Nice citrusy aroma coming from the airlock.

8/29/15  Most of the yeast has dropped out. Gravity at 1012.  Tastes like a slightly hoppy golden ale – very bright and lively flavor with a great balance of malt and hops. Was expecting a little more hop flavor/aroma but it’s very appropriate where it us. Little lingering bitterness but overall very refreshing.

THE VERDICT

A clean, crisp, golden beer that was well balanced. Despite using a whopping 20 oz of hops, the amount of hop flavor and aroma was still pretty subdued! Unreal. There was a moderate bitterness, but nothing extreme. This beer was supposed to be all about the hops, but I actually wound up really liking the malt bill – simple, but with just enough flavor to provide a hint of toast. It let the subtle hops peek through. This would be a good grist for any American Pale Ale. The beer did have an incredibly fluffy white head, too. Let’s hope next year’s hops are even stronger!

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Filed under All-grain, Experimental, Hoppy, Pale Ale

Coffee Stout (w/ French Roast grounds)

IMG_0933Another small batch! This one used French roast grounds in the primary to add an extra layer of coffee flavor beyond the more common flavors contributed by roasted grains in stouts.  3 gallons.

  • 5.2 lb Marris Otter (Muntons)
  • 1.2 lb Flaked Oats (Breiss)
  • 0.67 lb Chocolate malt (Breiss)
  • 0.5 lb Roasted barley (Breiss)
  • 0.33 lb Caramunich I (Weyermann)
  • 0.25 lb Crystal 90L (Breiss)
  • 0.3 oz Galena hops (45 min)
  • WY American Ale

// Mash-in 1.5 qt/lb to hit 152F for 50 min, 170F for 2 min. Sparge w/ about a gallon to extract a little more wort, probably around 2.5 gal or so. Boil 45 min. Add ice to get just under 3 gallons of 1062 wort, chill to 110F, transferred to plastic carboy and put in the fridge for 3 hours to get down to around 84F. Oxygenate for 60s w/ pure O2, pitch yeast straight from pack. Brewed 5/26/15 //

5/31/15  Fermented at around 65F, gravity at 1022, no airlock activity. Big chocolatey roast aroma. Lots of flavor, but with a little harsh finish that is contains a lot of coffee flavor already, but it may be from the hops . Moved it upstairs to 75F and gave the carboy a good shake.

6/2/15  Moved to the fridge at 32F. Gravity still at 1022/1021.

6/3/15 Added 1.6 oz French Roast coffee grounds (organic, Giant brand) in a mesh bag to the primary while in the fridge. Sloshed it around a bit to get the bag mixed in.

6/5/15  Removed the coffee and transferred to a keg. The coffee flavor and aroma is incredible. Can’t wait for this to be ready on tap.

THE VERDICT

I loved having this beer on tap. The amount of coffee flavor was, in my opinion, just the right amount; prominent but not overboard.  If you like black coffee, you would like this. French Roast is definitely a bold coffee to begin with, so it put itself out in front easily. Even some smoky notes, too. I can imagine going with a lighter roast would work well too, but not sure what type. This beer felt like a treat when most of my taps were occupied with light and crisp summer beers. It even tastes nice splashed in with the lighter beers to give them a little toasted note and add complexity. Goes great with dessert, too!

UPDATE (9/25/15): This beer took 1st prize in the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair Homebrew Contest in the Spice, Herb, and Vegetable beer category! The comments from the judges were positive (it scored a 36 average), but overall stated that the coffee flavor was a little too intense and covered up the base beer a bit. I can agree with that assessment, but the goal was the make a coffee-forward beer anyway.

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Filed under All-grain, Competition, Experimental, Malty, Small Batch, Stout / Porter

Brett Brux Cider

IMG_0921I had a really good cider recently that was unusually funky and sour – pretty much like a sour beer but a little drier and sweeter. I made one cider few years ago but it didn’t come out very well. The recipe was a combination of apple cider, honey, some steeping grains, and hops in a short boil; I think i just tried to do too much and the result wasn’t very drinkable. So I gave it another shot and went with some Brett and plain old apple juice. I may also dry-hop this later on if the flavors seem like it could work.

  • 3 gallons of Wegmans 100% Apple Juice (not from concentrate, no preservatives)
  • 1.5 tsp pectic enzyme
  • 2 vials of WLP650 Brett Brux

// Add juice and pectic enzyme to sterilized carboy at room temp, let sit for 45 minutes (covered) before pitching yeast. “brewed” 5/13/15. //

5/15/15  Still no activity in the airlock, starting to get a little nervous. I pitched two vials, but did not oxygenate.. maybe i should have done that. Gave the carboy a couple good swirls.

5/16/15  Almost 72 hours later and finally a raised airlock. Shook the carboy a few more times and got a few bubbles.

5/17/15  1/2″ layer of krausen on the surface, consistent bubbling every 5 seconds or so. Very bright apple juicy smell coming from the airlock.

5/21/15  Gravity at 1013, bubbling every 30s or so. Interesting aroma – sweet apples, but with a sort of soapy, dish-cleaner finish. Taste is much better. A little sweet, but a very delicate apple flavor that doesn’t jump out at you as being overly apple. In fact, it reminds me  a lot of champagne – I don’t really drink champagne a lot so it’s hard to describe. Very, very little funk or Brett character, though. The beer already built up a substantial about of carbonation in the carboy.

6/1/15  Really interesting aroma has developed. Smells very much like a wine wine and/or champagne. The taste is very similar, much drier now, only with just a hint of apple in the finish and a very tiny bit of funk. Really like where this is, but I’m struggling on whether i should dry hop it. Nah. Kegged it. Gravity at a whopping 1002!

THE VERDICT

Brett Cider… A cool experiment that I’d highly recommend any home brewer to try. This was a really nice summer beverage that was dry, crisp, and refreshing. I didn’t really get a lot of funk in the finished cider, but some people said that they did. I kind of wish it was sour and/or more funky. It’s a fairly straightforward cider flavor (from what I’ve experienced in terms of ciders) but with a little extra estery and floral aroma/flavor. Incredible clarity, with a nice apple-y yellow color. Tall white head that dissipates very quickly and fades to nothing with strong bubbles underneath. Dry hopping with something fruity would be an interesting twist to try.

Important tip: I stupidly dumped the brett cake down the sink as i was cleaning up the primary of this batch – the smarter thing to do would have been to just add more apple cider to the carboy to start fermenting another 3-gallon batch right there on the spot!

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Filed under Cider, Experimental, Funky / Sour

New Kegerator Design!!! Reclaimed Wood and Pipe

Like every other home brewer out there, I outgrew my taps. My 2-tap kegerator that I built about three years ago has served me very well, but I started to feel like a lot of my batches in the pipeline was getting backed up in the primary/secondary for way too long with nowhere to go. Cask-conditioning beers on the side alleviated some of the backlog, and aging some on oak and/or bacteria is good too, but the best way to enjoy more variety was either to start bottling or build more taps. More taps was the answer. So I embarked on the journey to build a 4-tap kegerator from a chest freezer. Spoiler alert, here’s the finished product:

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I started out just looking around online at other people’s designs for inspiration. The common keezer design with a raised wooden collar is probably the most popular option for a more-than-two tap system, since chest freezers come in all different sizes and can fit lots of kegs. I’ve never been a fan of the way that they look, though. While very functional, they all seem to look way too box-y in the end, even when they’re nicely finished with either paint or wood paneling. Then I stumbled upon this design by Drew McDowell, and really dug his design. The weathered wood combined with pipe tap towers gives it an awesome mashup of rustic and industrial, and would look great on my porch that has a lot of exposed unfinished wood. His design has 3 taps and uses 2 towers, but I decided to do 4 taps each with their own tower. Let’s do it!

I wound up using my lagering chest freezer which is a 7.2 cubic ft Igloo brand (with an external temp regulator, of course). I started out just building a wooden frame around it out of 2×4’s and some plywood for the base, allowing about an inch of clearance on each side of the freezer between the frame. I added casters to make it easier to move around, since this thing is freakin’ heavy. The freezer extends about 1/2 inch taller than the frame while sitting inside, because we’ll be bolting the entire top to it later.

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For the side panels, i found some reclaimed wood at a lumber yard near my house which worked perfectly. The boards were standard fir panels in their previous life, having a notch and tongue on opposite sides so that they could be easily interlocked. This was handy for stacking them up alongside the fridge for measurements, but certainly not necessary as I was going to screw them into the frame either way. The wood came in long pieces of probably 0.5″ x 6″ x 10′ and were in pretty bad shape (really dirty and dinged up), so I sought out to make them new again.

Gave each piece a good sanding with 120 grit sand paper, which removed nearly all the dirt and gave them a smooth consistent feel. After wiping them down good to remove the dust, applied a few generous coats of teak oil. This stuff was amazing. A friend recommended I check it out for bringing out character in wood without really changing the overall color. It seriously did just that – essentially acting like a sharpening filter, it brought out so much detail in the wood – all of the lines, grain, and knots really pop after using it. Let all the boards dry for a few days before screwing them into the frame shown below.

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Side profile.

The top was the trickiest part. The original design by Drew used particle board covered in cement, but I’m not familiar with cement so I decided to stick with wood. I bought a few new 2×10 boards and cut them down to the length of the top of the chest freezer, plus about 8 inches on either side – came out to be 3 boards about 50″ in length. To glue them together along the long edges, i used this nifty technique by creating my own bar clamps out of some 2×4’s. This worked fairly well and was incredible cost effective considering real bar clamps are over $1oo each, but it took some finagling to get each of the clamp ends snug up against the wood to keep the planks tight together without any gaps. I glued all three together at the same time with two long clamps, but it might have been easier to just glue the first two together, then glue the third to that glued piece.

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Unfinished top

After the top boards were sealed and solid, I finished it by giving it a good sand (120 followed by 240 grit), rounded off any sharp edges, then applied 1 coat of pre-stain (to ensure an even stain and no blotches of what’s to follow), 2 coats of teak oil, and finally 3 coats of satin polyurethane. It came out beautiful, again with the teak oil really bringing out the natural character of the wood.

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The finished top.

Putting the whole thing together was tricky and i wound up needing a buddy to hold things in place while drilling. The wood top is bolted directly to the chest freezer top and held in place with some carriage bolts. But, before you start drilling anything, my advice is to place the drip-tray (mine is 24″ long) first and measure out everything around that as a reference point. The drip tray is pretty much going to be in the center and is going to dictate where you’re placing the glass while pouring, and hence where the taps will sit behind to dispense beer. My drip tray wound up being pretty close to right in the middle. So I drilled the hole for that, then put the carriage bolts in and locked in the top.

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Carriage bolts are those round silver circles to the right of the right-most tap. There are another two to the left of the left-most tap.

Now for the taps. The taps are made from 1-1/4 inch black iron pipe, with reducers similar to Drew’s design. It was tricky trying to figure out how the beer lines would attach to the shank inside the pipe. It’s a tight fit, so the shank can’t be too long, but has to be long enough to screw onto the reducer with the beer nut. This one worked perfectly, just removed the metal spacer at the front of it and it had just enough room inside to attach the beer line with a hose clamp, and screw onto the reducer with the beer nut. Beware of any shanks that have the L-shaped barbed tail piece, typically used for tap towers. Since the reducer has to screw into the elbow joint, the L piece rotates with it and gets caught up against the top of the elbow. I initially bought some of these but returned them.

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The taps.

Finally, the kegs.  Prepare for the the biggest Homer Simpson “DOHHH” moment on earth. By this time I’d built the entire kegerator – the top is bolted on, sides are screwed on, taps assembled, lines attached and ready to put the kegs inside and drink some beer. This is when I discovered that only 3 out of the 4 kegs fit inside. DOHHHHHHHH. It is SO. CLOSE. I needed only about 1/8″ extra clearance to fit the fourth one in, but the kegs just weren’t having it. I had measured out the space beforehand, but I guess I under estimated slightly – the rubber bottoms on the kegs do extend out a little further than I had originally measured. Also, the compressor ledge cuts down on the available floor space inside. Well, this is awesome. A 4-tap kegerator that only fits 3 kegs. Brilliant. The only alternative that made sense was to just go buy a 3 gallon keg that could sit up on the compressor ledge since it’s considerably shorter. So, that’s what I did. The 3-gallon keg and tap will have to be reserved for some small batches, which ultimately I’m more than OK with. All is well, and the fourth tap is back in action.

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Three 5-gallon kegs to the left, and the 3-gallon all the way on the right. It’s a tight fit!

This was a pretty intense project that took me close to two months to finish, but I’m really happy with how it turned out. Having to return parts here and there when stuff didn’t quite fit was a pain but hopefully there’s enough detail in here for someone else to recreate it with less trouble. Prost!!!

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100% Brett Brux Pale Ale

IMG_0657Now that I’m starting to get into brewing sours, I really wanted to do a beer with all Brettanomyces as the primary yeast. So far I’ve done combinations of ale yeast, brett, and bacteria just to get my feet wet in the wild fermentation domain but never used just Brett by itself.  I’ve drank tons of brett beers so I’m pretty familiar with all of the types of flavors it can produce (horsey, funk, hay, cherry, pineapple, etc), but brewing one is definitely on my to-do list.

I went with a pale ale style recipe – a hoppy beer that still has some legitimate malt presence for balance. All Belgian Dingeman’s malts to give it a more classic European feel – pilsner malt as the base for a crisp, light, bready flavor, a fair amount (20%) of Munich for a slightly bigger, maltier base to the beer, and some caramunich to really round out the body.  For hops I used Magnum to get the IBUs up, but lots of Mosaic at flameout for aroma. I’ll add some dry hops later on as well.

  • 17.05 lb Pils
  • 4.4 lb Munich (5L)
  • 0.55 lb Caramunich 45L
  • 1.5 oz Magnum hops (first wort)
  • 4 oz Mosaic hops (flame-out)
  • WLP570 Belgian Golden Ale (5 gal)
  • WLP650 Brett Brux (5 gal)

// Mash-in 1.36 qt/lb (7.5 gal) at 130F for 15 minutes, 148 for 30 minutes, 154 for 20 minutes, mash out at 168F. Add first wort hops, boil 90 minutes. Chill to 185, add flame-out hops, stir and let sit for 20 minutes. Chill to 65, collect around 10 gallons of 1053 wort. Pitched entire 1L starters of each. Brewed 3/22/15. //

3/23/15   570 showed signs of fermentation fairly quickly after pitching, after 24 hours the Brett was not showing anything. The Brett starter really didn’t look like it did much, even though I started it on the stir plate a good 7 days before brew day. Pitched another vial of 650 to hopefully kickstart things.

3/24/15  Brett’s airlock was raised, and later on in the afternoon showed some slow bubbling. Phew. ::wipes sweat from forehead::

3/29/15  570 at 1016. Still a little sweet, but nice bright peachy flavors with a citrusy hoppy zing. Not really that much hop aroma and some subtle flavor. Tossed in 1 oz of Mosaic hop pellets loose. 650 still chugging away.

4/1/15  570 at 1012. Level of sweetness is right and hop flavor is improving. Lots of peach aroma. Gonna leave it here for one more day then start crash cooling.

4/3/15  Moved the 570 to the fridge to crash cool. Brett is at 1026. Nice funky aroma, slightly horsey but not too much, with some fruity hop aromas. Still pretty sweet but overall on the right track.

THE VERDICT

Really happy with both beers that came out of this batch. The 570 is a great yeast – I really like the soft peach esters it gives and the Mosaic hops really complimented that character. I got a lot of compliments on that beer as being super drinkable and refreshing, so I think this recipe is overall pretty sound. The 100% Brett beer was also really good. It’s got a good level of “funk” and character from the yeast with all around great flavor. It’s tough to describe the overall picture that you get from this Brett; there’s some mango, peach, and assorted tropical flavors without the really bright and piercing citrus that accompanies hops with similar profile. There’s that kinda horsey/hay bale thing too but it’s more in the background. Maybe after using it a few more times i’ll be able to explain it better, but that’s all i’ve got for now. The hop flavor seems a little subdued, which makes me think that this could have benefited from dry-hopping with some additional Mosaic, but it’s not bad where it is.

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American Pils Tasting Notes

This was a really enjoyable beer that got a lot of compliments. It was very much a simple, crowd-pleasing lager but I’ll be the first to admit that brewing clean beers like this is not my forte and frankly isn’t all that easy, for me at least. The malt flavor was a little big and sticky in the end and it may have under-attenuated just a bit (I still need to get a refractometer to get a fair reading of final gravity). Using 2-row likely gave a little more flavor and body than using pilsner malt, so adding the melanoidin malt was probably unnecessary, too. The hops were appropriate – they jump out and prep the palatte before letting the malts shine with a crisp finish. My taste for beer pH is still a work in progress, but I think a touch more acidity would have brightened the beer a little. Some acidulated malt would do the trick.

I’ll definitely be using the Saflager 189 dry yeast again. I’m not a frequent lager-brewer but the results with this yeast make me want to make more lagers. Super easy to use (no starter!) and it performed fairly clean in the 55-60F range. There was a slight green apple note in the aroma but it was not off-putting. I didn’t do a diacetyl rest, so the beer did have a slight buttery flavor/aroma, but I prefer a little of that in lagers and think it compliments the malty-ness.

In my quest to brew a Steam Whistle clone beer, this came pretty close and I have a good idea of what the change for next time. Basically just skip the melanoid malt (or decrease just slightly) and maybe try adding a diacetyl rest. This is a good prototype for a German pilsner, too; just increase the bitterness and sub in pilsner malt for 2-row. Maybe even a 2-row/pils mix would be appropriate.

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Filed under Almost SMASH, Lager, Malty, Pilsner, Tasting