Category Archives: Malty

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

American Pils

One of my favorite beer tasting experiences was going to the tasting room at Steam Whistle Brewing in Toronto. The beer was so fresh, crisp, and delicious that I still have dreams about that pilsner. I’ve been wanting to make something that comes close, and, given that it’s tough to find Steam Whistle in bottles near me, I did some research online to see if people know what was in it. This recipe is a representation of those findings.

  • 11 lb US 2-row Pale malt
  • 0.17 lb Melanoidin malt
  • 1 oz Perle 60 min
  • 0.4 oz Saaz @ 5 min
  • 0.4 oz Spalt @ 4 min
  • 0.5 oz Spalt @ 2 min
  • 1 pkg Saflager-189

// Mash-in w/ 4.5 gal at 150 for 60 minutes. 2.5 tsp CaCl2 to mash. Mash-out,  sparge to collect around 6.6 gal 1046 wort. Boil 75 minutes. Chill to 55F, collect 5 gallons 1053 wort. Oxygenate 60s, sprinkle yeast on top. Brewed 1/13/17. Left to ferment between 55F and 60F in the basement. //

1/20/17:  Gravity at 1020, great malt flavor and subtle hop profile. Letting it finish out.

1/27/17:  Gravity at 1012. Moved to fridge.

1/30/17: Doesn’t taste nearly as “fresh” as the first tasting, wondering if i let it sit a little too long. Added gelatin finings.

2/1/17: Kegged. Fairly clear, still some hazy beer left near the bottom of the carboy. Tasting notes.

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Filed under All-grain, Almost SMASH, Blonde, German, Lager, Malty, Pilsner

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

Imperial Bourbon Coffee Stout

This will be the biggest beer I’ve ever made (all-grain at least), and the malt bill definitely shows it for a 5 gallon batch. The recipe is based off a widely available clone of Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS for short), which is one of my favorite “big” beers; generally I’m not a huge fan of harsh high ABV beers but this one is extremely robust, complex, and most importantly, smooth.

  • 18.5 lb us 2-row
  • 2 lb flaked oats
  • 0.75 lb chocolate malt
  • 0.75 lb roasted barley
  • 0.5 lb debittered black malt
  • 0.5 UK Dark Crystal
  • 2 oz Nugget (60 min)
  • 1 oz Willamette (25 min)
  • 1 oz Willamette (10 min)
  • 2 L starter WLP001

// Mash-in 1.5 qt/gal at 154 for 40 minutes, raise to 168F and sparge w/3.5 gal hot water to collect 9.5 gal 1054 wort. Boil 120 minutes. Let sit for 30 minutes, collected around 5.5 gallons OG 1085. Oxygenated for a few minutes until nice hefty froth on top of wort. Pitched whole starter. Brewed 7/1/16. //

7/18/16:  Fermentation blew off a few times, but not aggressively. Fermented at around 62F. Gravity at 1024. Nose is excellent, balances hops and malt, a little boozy but overall clean. Flavor follows, surprisingly smooth for just two weeks. This is gonna be good to go sooner than I expected! Started soaking 1oz American oak in 0.5 oz Buffalo Trace Kentucky Bourbon.

8/1/16:  Oak flavor is a little strong and harsh. Going to give this a few more weeks to mellow.

8/26/16:  Tasting much better – smooth and rich, nice vanilla and bourbon flavor. It would be OK to go ahead and keg, but I went ahead and added 1 oz Sumatra coffee in a hop sack to the secondary. This is half of what the recipe called for, since I really didn’t want to overwhelm the existing flavors, just provide a little accent.

8/27/16:  Coffee addition is awesome. Kegged. Tasting notes soon.

2/21/16:  Despite how long this stayed on tap (it was a sipper! probably didn’t pour anything more than 8oz at a time) I never got around to a full review. This beer was awesome, though. Tons of flavor without being to sweet. I really wouldn’t change much, but if the ABV was higher I can see it have a complimentary warmth to it – the 8.5%-ish was passable but it could afford to go bigger.

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

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

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

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