Thursday, December 31, 2009

2 Stouts, 1 Mash! (Safe For Work)

(RIS on the right, second runnings beer on the left)

In the Mild Ale post a while back I suggested that a Mild would be a great beer to try to brew in conjunction with a strong ale, as a Part-Gyle brew. Most people know what that is, but in case you don't, it's a brewing method where the mash is run off in different batches. The first runnings make a strong beer, and as the mash is sparged out with hot water, the progressively weaker runnings make more average or even "small" beers. This technique dates from when mash tuns were made of wood (since they didn't need to exposed to a flame, it was cheaper than metal and could be built bigger than the boil kettle for economy.) The multiple runnings from a large mash tun can be fermented together or separately, or combined in a number of creative ways according to the brewer's creative urges.

I decided to take this approach on a batch of Imperial Stout. It's a longer brew day, but for the modest price of an ounce or two of hops, a second beer can be made. It's kind of a no-lose situation because even if the beer isn't great, you have hardly wasted any additional resources.

Above you can see the base mash, which was about 25 pounds of grain The grain bill is a little atypical of an Imperial Stout, as I added a little German smoked malt and peated malt for a smoky complexity to blend with the roasty and caramel flavors. After doing some research, I expected the first 6 gallon batch to come in at about 1.090, and the second batch to come in at 1.050-1.060 O.G. But as you will see, the extract split was much more dramatic with that, with the beers starting at 1.101 and 1.041 respectively. I was fine and actually very happy with those results!

Here are color samples of the first beer on the left and the second beer on the right. Flavor-wise, the first wort tasted very much like an imperial stout and the second beer tasted like a nutty, toasty and fairly peaty brown beer (so not really a stout after all). The peated malt was surprisingly much more noticable in the second beer. Of course there are less sugars and other flavors to hide behind, but I would have thought that the smoke presence would have been proportionally less in the second beer too.

Here's a better color sample of the second wort, maybe it's coming in at 20+ SRM in color.

Here's the recipe. A note first on the mineral additions for this mash: I have a feeling that the water adjustment was wack on this beer. I have some serious questions about John Palmer's water addition calculator, specifically the Residual Alkalinity it suggests for stout-colored worts. I am looking into it and there is an interesting thread here on the BN forum where I am really trying to get a better understanding on mineral additions for dark beers.

"2 Stouts, 1 Mash" RIS and peated "small beer"

Base Mash:
19 lb. 2-row pale malt
1.5 lb. British Roasted Barley 575L
1.5 lb. German Rauchmalt
1 lb . Chocolate malt 400L
.5 lb. Munton's extra-dark crystal malt 200L
.5 lb. Crystal 120L
.5 lb. Crystal 70
.5 lb. peated malt

Mash in 7 gallons of water to 149 degrees for 40 minutes, then add 1 gallon boiling water to raise to 152 for 30 minutes.
Mineral additions: 10 gr. chalk, 1 gr. calcium chloride, 12 gr. baking soda

Sparge with 9 gallons H2O at 168

First Runnings RIS:
7 gallons pre-boil, 5.9 gallons post-boil
O.G. 1.101 F.G. 1.028 ABV 9.8% IBU's 91
Collect 7 gallons at 1.085 (67% of potential extract)
Boil 60 minutes on outside burner
35 gr. Chinook whole 10% AA 60 min
8 gr. Centennial whole 7% AA 60 min
8 gr. Newport whole 10% AA 60 min
5 gr. Zeus whole 14% AA 60 min
40 gr. Magnum whole 10% 30 min
Wyeast nutrient & whirlfloc at 10 min.
(This beer might get some French oak chips after fermented, depending on a flavor analysis.)

Second Runnings peaty brown beer:
7 gallons pre-boil, 5.8 gallons post-boil
O.G. 1.041 F.G. 1.010 ABV 4.1% IBU's 23
Collect 7 gallons at 1.034 (27% of potential extract)
Boil on stovetop for 90 minutes
17 gr. Horizon pellets 8.2% AA 55 min
Wyeast nutrient & whirlfloc at 10 min
14 gr. Glacier pellets 4.5% AA 5 min

Both beers were chilled to about 66 degrees with the plate chiller and fermented with Cali ale yeast. Fermentation started at 60 degrees and worked its way up to 65 in the first few days.

Racked both beers to keg on 1/18/09. Second runnings beer tastes surprisingly excellent, I guess I expected it to be compromised in flavor some way but it tastes like a great brown porter with a mellow background of smokiness. RIS is pretty hardcore, not really even remotely drinkable at this point. Very sharp, almost acrid in the roastiness and noticable alcohol, although not fuselly. It probably just needs some months to age.

Here's a quick little side project that Clarissa and I did: Irish cream. We did this internet recipe straight up, and damn, it's good! We're having some in our coffee right now. The Bushmills is pretty cheap Irish Whiskey, but it's just fine for this kind of sweet, rich cocktail. You'll never drink Bailey's again after making this yourself, and it's very easy.

Cheers, Happy New Year everyone. Be safe. Don't be a cheapskate, get a damn cab!
Sean & Clarissa

Friday, December 25, 2009

Plate Chiller and Hop Taquito Tested, and a Strong Saision with Brett

Because I'm a poor, unemployed bastard, I spent Christmas Eve out here on my own instead of traveling to see my family, which may not be the best way to spend the holidays, but it does make for some great brew sessions (wait til you see what I have lined up for tomorrow). Mainly this brew session was all about testing the new "Hop Taquito" as I am calling it since it's a smaller version of the "Hop Taco" I based it off of, and testing out the Shirron plate chiller that I am borrowing from Alex. He also gave me a couple bottles of Seven to take home recently, which made a nice accompaniment to the brewday.

I took some pretty detailed notes on the plate chiller's performance, and I'll post them here. I had not used it or even hooked it up to test it before the brew session, so I was expecting something to go awfully wrong, but wort cooling and straining went off without a hitch. In the winter, at least, when the tap water is cold, the plate chiller works like a charm. In the summer, I imagine you might need an pre-chiller of some sort (like running the line through a bucket of ice water to get it below 50 if possible).

I'll go ahead and set out the beer recipe and then go into the pictures and detail of the chilling process. A strong Brett-ified saison is not original in the sense that it's probably been done unintentionally for over a century, as well as currently being brewed intentionally by many breweries both foreign and domestic, but it's exactly what I wanted to brew. The commercial example I was really inspired by was Russian River Publication. If this beer turns out anything close to that or Ommegang Ommegeddon (a good bottle, not a too young or overly funky one), I'll be very happy! This should be ready in time for late spring/summer drinking.

Currently un-named Saison
Recipe is for 7 gallons pre-boil, 5.9 gallons post-boil
O.G. 1.066 (effectively 1.070) F.G. 1.006 (at bottling) ABV 8.5% IBU's 40

8.5 lb. Great Western Pils malt
1 lb. wheat malt
.5 lb. torrified wheat (just something I got for free and wanted to use up)
1.5 lb. Munich malt 8-10L
.5 lb. Munton's crystal 50-60 L
.5 lb. turbinado sugar (fairly dark)
(.5 lb. Malto-Dextrin powder added after transfer to secondary)

26 gr. Magnum whole hops 12% AA 60 minutes
56 gr. Willamette whole hops 4.7% AA 0 min

Water: Going for a hoppy profile, added 3 gr. gypsum/ 1 gr. calcium chloride to the mash. Same amount to boil kettle.

Mash in 4 gallons of water, 149 for 30 minutes, then 152 for 30 minutes.
Sparge with 5 gallons at 168
Collect 7 gallons at 1.053 = 81% efficiency

Boil 90 minutes, hops as noted.
Wyeast nutrient & Whirlfloc at 10 min

(See below for chilling details)

Pitched yeast from a 2 liter stirplate starter of WLP 566, 4 month old tube. (This shit took off like gangbusters despite the age, so once again I think Jamil's yeast viability calculator is a bit on the pessimistic side. It said the tube would be at 10% viability.)

Oxygen for 90 seconds
Start ferment at 66, warmed to 83 degrees over 2 weeks.

Racked to secondary on 1/12/10. 1.008. Tastes really nice, bitter and hoppy but balanced. Removed about 1 qt. to force carbonate, just to get a sample of the clean beer with 566 only.
Added. .5 lb. malto-dextrin powder dissolved in boiling water to the secondary to give the brett some food, upping the O.G. to 1.070. Added 1 pack of Wyeast B. Brux.

2/24/10 Pulled a flavor/gravity sample. 1.006, 8.5% ABV. Brett fermentation has been active and the brett character is very pronounced. Estery, light acidity, and light alcohol notes. Flavor is bitter and hoppy with brett barnyard, but a fairly sweet malt presence at the same time. No signs of fermentation stopping yet...

3/24/10 Racked to keg, which I will use as a bottling bucket. Damn, this is a brett bomb! In a good way, but not a beginner brett beer. Definitely for the afficionado. A brassy, perfumey aroma with a sour baby diaper funk.

OK, now here's the data I collected of the cooling and straining process. I had the bright idea of attaching a "fermometer" to the bottom of the carboy to get an early reading on what temp I was running off the wort at, and that seemed to do a great job. I actually started in a little cold at 64, so I increased the wort flow out of the pot to warm it up a bit.

Final Boil Volume: 6.1 gallons (accounting for shrinkage that would be 5.9 gal after chilling)
Whirlpool stirred for: 1 minute
Whirlpool settled for: 10 minutes
Cold water temp: 44 degrees
Cold water flow rate: 1.25 gallons per minute
Hot wort flow rate: .5 gallons per minute (10 minutes to fill carboy to 5.5 gal)
Wort temp in Carboy: 65-66
Wort left over in Kettle: less than .5 gallons

Towards the end of runnoff, I tilted the kettle to help drain out most of the wort. That's what was left, and I can probably get even more if I rotate the pickup tube down a bit more. I still need to try the Taquito with pellet hops, but using whole hops, it was a tremendous success!

Oh, and one last note on cleaning an sanitization of the plate chiller: I'm sure there are numerous viable ways to do this. Since I don't have a pump, recirculating hot wort is out, but I wanted to do a "Hot Kill" phase. That could either be done with boiling water or I've heard of some people doing it in the oven. Before brewing, I took all the tubes off and did an overnight Oxiclean soak and then sanitized it. On brewday, I got a little pot of water boiling and poured it into the wort and water sides of the plate chiller and let it soak for 15-20 minutes. It really got hot, and stayed hot, which was a relief to me. No way I am trusting this thing to get sanitized with chemicals when I can't even see inside it! The tubes were soaked in the sparge water pot for 15 minutes or so, and then everything stayed in sanitizer until I was ready to hook it up. Cleaning is as simple as an Oxiclean soak and sanitizer dip.

Merry Christmas Brewers and Beer Geeks! Here's hoping you get that special bottle, or brewing equipment you've been wanting under the tree.

Senior Wonton

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hop Taco Constructed: Another brutally labor intensive project!

I've been working on a better way to strain my wort, so that I can use the Shirron plate chiller that Alex (from Upright) loaned me to try out. I needed to make sure I'm not letting any hop particulate into the plate chiller that could stop the flow and be a real pain in the ass to clean out later.

Why change from am immersion chiller, that works just great, to a plate chiller? Well, my last batches of beer brewed with Cali ale yeast showed a little of the "ring around the bottle neck" that indicates non-beer yeast contamination. This contamination, if that's indeed what it is, isn't tastable by myself or anyone else that I've let taste the beers, but it still bothers me. It could be from the fact that I'm chilling my wort about 15 feet from the neighbor's compost heap! Or not, but it was pretty stinky the last time I brewed. I also changed out all my beer hoses in case there was any infection there.

So, once I have the plate chiller hooked up, I'll rule out the problem of wild funk floating in from the decomposing food so close to my beloved beer. I did some web research, which mainly consisted of going to the KOTMF website to check out how they made a cheap DIY version of the Hop Stopper.

I scored some cheap materials totaling less than $5, with about a 6 inch SS strainer from a thrift store, and some copper wire (medium and thin copper scored out of some electrical wiring from a metal shop. I'm hoping that this size will be fine for 5 or 10 gallon batches. The screen is not "fine". It's just regular old SS screen with maybe 1/8 inch holes.

I started by cutting out the screen from the strainer, and then bent the ragged edges in so I would have a good edge to sew shut. Then I just started at one edge with the fine copper wire and sewed it up. I couldn't figure out how the hell the KOTMF managed to get a hose clamp to attach the screen to the tube, so I just sewed around that as well as I could too.

Before I sewed the tube in, I worked in a little piece of medium gauge coper wire to keep the tube suspended in the middle of the screen. Then I just sewed the Taco shut all the way, and things looked good! We'll see how things go on brewday. The first brew will be with about 2 oz. whole hops, then I'll try pellets if that works out well.

It took me at least 2 hours to construct this thing, so be prepared if you try to make this to spend some time. It will be worth it if it works well!

I don't know if anybody cares about this stuff, but here are some pictures of me and Clarissa's "Christmas" meals. We celebrated on Sunday, since she's going home for a while to see her family. We started off the morning with some "eggs in the hole", made with some really fantastic rosemary bread that we pick up at the PSU farmer's market. We are totally addicted to this bread and we usually finish the loaf within a day of buying it. The beer is Trader Joe's Doppelbock, which is another great contract-brewed lager from Gordon Biersch. Seriously, try it if you haven't yet.

Dinner was the main attraction of course. I bought a leg of lamb at the farmer's market also, which we marinated for 1 day in some cheap wine (Smoking Loon, don't buy it!), and lots of garlic, shallots, rosemary, and thai basil. We hit it with some coarse salt and pepper and roasted that sucker for about an hour at 375, til it hit an internal temp of 120 degrees (a nice medium once it's rested for 20 minutes). The lamb turned out amazingly, and the sides complimented it well.

We served the lamb with a celery root puree, sauteed hedgehog mushrooms, and kale sauteed with raisins and whole cumin seed. The wine is from a small winery in Oregon that we actually bought in New York. It's really tasty, so if you ever see Montebruno, give it a try. We met the winemaker, who used to brew for Deschutes and helped them expand to their current (I think 50 bbl) system.

Dessert was a very rich and tasty, but ugly, chocolate mousse. No picture, sorry! I'm not a great pastry chef.

So, I'll be brewing a lightly spiced saison on Christmas eve, and hopefully a parti-gyle brew of an imperial stout/stout on Christmas day. Cheers, people, enjoy your holidays and brew strong!!!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Hankering for a pint o' Mild Ale

To all you competitive homebrewers out there, this is from the AHA website:

January/February 2010

The Session Challenge – English Brown Ales

Entry deadline is Tuesday, February 16, 2010. Judging will be held Saturday, February 20, 2010. Entry fee is $7. Make checks payable to American Homebrewers Association.

Remember that you have to advance past the club round in your local AHA recognized homebrew club. These beers are very quick to brew due to the low gravity and high-floculating English yeast strains, so you've got no excuses! Even if you bottle condition, this could probably be ready within 2 weeks. You might want to make 10 gallons, because it's going to get drank up faster than you think, and then you'll want more.

English session beers are a realm that I rarely delve into. But I have to admit after all the 1.060+ beers I've been making recently (I think only one of my Portland brews came in below that), I've felt the urge to make an utterly sessionable beer. I decided to skip the Northern & Southern English brown ales and go straight for the Mild. It's an esoteric and under-brewed style, especially commercially. I think I have only had one commercial example of a mild ever, and it was over the typical ABV level at about 5.5%. Strike that, Earth Bread + Brewery had a golden mild on draught when we went there shortly after it opened, and it was delicious. Mild also might be a great style to look into if you are interested in doing a parti-gyle second runnings brew from a strong ale. If you need to add more body/color to the second runnings beer, you can "cap" the mash with additional specialty malts after running off the first beer.

I brewed up this recipe with a new friend, Paul Key, who is a fan of English session beers, and directed me to this cool website, which has a ton of historical brew-log information, mainly on English ales. Milds can range from golden-copper to fairly dark brown, but this recipe is the classic brown color, focusing on a characteristic English malt profile from Marris Otter, a healthy portion of crystal malts, and a touch of black malt. There is also some brown malt in our grist, which I have never tried before, but it seems to add a really nice toasty background. Many of the historical commercial mild recipes use dark brewing syrups, but we decided not to go that route and instead focus on getting the color and flavor from easily available specialty malts.

I decided to name this beer for my dad, who called me when we were brewing this. My dad pretty much can't stand beer because he thinks the aftertaste is unpleasant (from the bitterness & alcohol flavor I guess, although he does enjoy the occasional Jello-shot). As I was describing the beer we were making he said "That sounds like something I might actually like!" I think he's right, so I'll send him some for Christmas since I probably won't make it back to Ohio this year.

Dale's Mild

Recipe is for 13 gallons pre-boil, 11.2 gallons post-boil, all grain

O.G. 1.041 F.G. 1.015 ABV 3.5% IBU's 21

12 lb. Glen Eagle Marris Otter Malt

.75 lb. crystal 70

1 lb. crystal 120

.5 lb. brown malt

.25 lb black malt

61 gr. American Goldings whole 5%AA 60 min

Mineral additions were to get an RA of 115 for proper mash pH, and a balanced chloride:sulfate ratio.

Mash at 152 for 60 min (5 gallons of water, mineral additions were 3 gr. chalk, 3 gr. baking soda, 1 gr. gypsum, 1 gr. calcium chloride)

Sparge with 5 gallons at 170

Collect 8 gallons at 1.057 = 85% efficiency

We took a last runnings gravity and the gravity was 1.023, so we probably could have sparged with at least 1 more gallon.

Topped up in the kettle to 13 gallons.

Boil 60 minutes, added 3 gr. gypsum & 3 gr. calcium chloride to the kettle.

Wyeast nutrient & Whirlfloc at 10 min

Chilled to 66, oxygenated for 60 seconds per carboy

Pitched an appropriate slurry of Wyeast "London Ale III" obtained from Hopworks.

Fermented at 68 for 6 days, then raised to 72 over the last 2 days help dry it out.

Racked to keg on 12/15/09. Tastes awesome. I'm not sure if this is a better example of a mild or maybe a Southern English brown. There is a light roasty note and quite a bit of caramel, although not a lot of dark fruit. It's got a complex and distinctive English aroma and there's a distinctive tobacco note to the malt. Maybe I'll let a few English Ale experts try it and see what they think.

1/30/09: Unfortunately I was not able to enter this in either local club as a club-only entry. The OBC, for some reason, did not do a brown ale club-only last month, instead deciding to do an in-house pale ale competition. PDX brewers did have one, but despite my best efforts I was not able to get over to Beaverton to drop my beer off for their competition. I was really disappointed not to enter this, but you know, life goes on. I still have some bottles set aside for NHC.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Back to the *FUNK* with a Flanders Pale Ale

I have to do this blog entry without the photos because it looks like I might have left my camera sitting in the Caldera Taproom in Ashland, Oregon last Saturday (great beers, check it out if you're in Ashland). That would be a shame to have lost not only a camera, but also pictures of my brother's family and my 2 awesome nephews, who we got to visit for the first time in a long time this Thanksgiving weekend. Also, some pictures from the mecca of American breweries, Sierra Nevada, were on there. My brother lives only a couple hours from Sierra Nevada, and it was on the way down for us.

The camera also had some photos from the funky "Rodenbug" brew I did last Tuesday before we left. AlB of Babblebelt fame generously provided this bug blend of his own creation and balancing, which I'm planning to brew with for at least a few generations, and it's going into my next Flanders Red, which may be part of a barrel project, we'll see. Then I'll do another Deliverace Kentucky Sour. I'm still on a quest for a dark, sour rye beer that's so good it will make you "Squeal like a pig!". Thanks again for the bug blend, Al. Expect a nice package of homebrew and some Upright beer soon!

Here's the recipe for the Flanders Pale Ale. If it ends up anything like Petrus Aged Pale, I'd be very happy, although this is not really a clone attempt. I will probably add some oak later for flavor. I'll just take it in the appropriate direction later once it's got at least a year on it. I was a little scared of how hoppy I made this, but then again this beer is meant to age quite a while and the bitterness should mostly drop out. I added Glacier hops as a 100% first wort addition, as it's supposed to carry through a smooth hop profile with some flavor and surprisingly, aroma.

Recipe is for 7.2 gallons pre-boil, 5.9 gallons post-boil, all grain
O.G. 1.060 IBU's 27

10 lb. Great Western Pilsner malt
1 lb. Crystal 15
2 oz. Special B

42 gr. Glacier pellets 4.5% FWH

Water adjustments: Going for a balanced chloride:sulfate ratio, added 2 gr. Gypsum and 3 gr. Calcium Chloride to the mash. Same amount to the sparge water.

Mash: 4.25 gallons, mash in to 156 and keep in the mid-150's for 1 hour
Sparge with 5 gallons at 170
Collect 7.2 gallons at 1.049 = 84% efficiency

Boil 90 minutes, hops went in the kettle before the wort.
wyeast nutrient & whirlfloc at 10 minutes
Chilled to 70, aerated by shaking for 3 minutes
Pitched AlB's Rodenbug blend, plus a rehydrated pack of Safale US-05
Fermentation temp started pretty low as we were out of town with the heat off, but I got it up to 75 on the 4th day. Going to try to keep it in the 60's during secondary if at all possible.

Now the hard part...patience.

12/22/09 Racked to secondary, 1.016. Kind of weirdly funky and hoppy but not sour yet.
Collected 3 pint jars of the yeast slurry for the flanders barrel project.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A big ol' IPA with Newport hops

Upright got in some really nice looking whole Newport hops recently, and since it's a variety I haven't used in the past, I asked Alex if it would be OK to take a couple ounces home to brew up an IPA. All I know about Newport hops is that they smell nice and herbal/spicy/pungent, and Chillindamos says they make a beer that smells like pot. Also, I've heard that Rogue uses them a lot, but I couldn't find any information on their website to substantiate that.

Since the weather's taken a turn for the cooler, the garage has been staying in the mid to high 50's, which is incredibly convenient for making beer, especially standard ales, which I like to ferment at 68 or thereabouts. Instead of having to use a refrigerator to keep the beers cool, I've been using a normal everyday heating pad hooked into a digital thermostat. I strap the heating pad (set on low) to the carboy and dial the thermostat in to where I want to ferment. If the beer falls below this, the heat kicks on. Without the heating pad, the beers were actually fermenting a little too cold, which is better than too hot to be sure, but still not ideal. NOTE: Sometimes there is a differential between what the thermostat probe (taped to the side of the carboy and insulated) reads, and what the Fermometer reads. I believe the Fermometer to be more accurate, so I usually start with the thermostat set to 66 in case it's reading low.

The Newport is typically a bittering hop, and I used it to bitter and also as part of the 20 minute addition. I also used Summit at 20 minutes and Centennial as a flavor/aroma addition. I used a little Chinook I had laying around to bump the bittering addition slightly to get the IBU's I wanted. The above picture shows only the 20 minute and later additions.

I did not do an entirely analytical water approach this time, but instead opted to use a "Burton salts" mix at slightly less concentration than would actually be found in Burton on Trent. It should still lend to a very hoppy and bitter presence in the finished beer. Instead of about 9 tsp. in my total brewing liquor, I added 3 tsp. to the mash and 2 tsp. to the boil.

I did find out a very interesting fact about Portland water supply, which was pointed out by Paul after my last post: Our water is periodically supplemented with a well-water source that is higher in minerals. Right now it's running 100% Bull Run water, the very low mineral water. If anyone in Portland is interested in getting updates on when the water is being implemented with Columbia South Shore water and what the new approximate mineral concentrations will be, you can email Kristen Anderson at:

And now for the beer recipe. Once again I am experiencing less control and predictability than before in my NYC apartment setup, but this time just in the form of an unexpectedly high mash efficiency. I just decided to roll with it and make a bigger beer, upping the bittering addition proportionately.

Recipe is for 7.25 gallons pre-boil, 6.1 gallons post boil, all grain.
O.G. 1.069 F.G 1.016 ABV 7.1% IBU's 80

11.5 lb. 2-row pale malt
.75 lb. Munich Malt
.5 lb. carapils
.5 lb. crystal 60

7 gr. Chinook whole 10% AA 60 min
28 gr. Newport whole 10% AA 60 min
28 gr. Newport whole 10% AA 20 min
24 gr. Summit pellets 16% AA 20 min
28 gr. Centennial whole 7.8% 10 min
28 gr. Centennial whole 7.8% 0 min
56 gr. Centennial whole 7.8% dry hopped for 2 weeks (in a cheesecloth sack in the keg)

Mashed in 4 gallons H2O + 3 tsp Burton Salts to 152
kept temp between 151-154 for 60 minutes
Sparged with 5 gallons at 170
Collected 7 gallons at 1.060, added 1 quart top-up water and 2 tsp Burton salts.

Boil 60 minutes, hop additions as noted.
Wyeast nutrient & Whirlfloc at 10 min
Chilled to 66, quite a bit of break made it into the fermenter unfortunately.
Pitched a 1/2 thick slurry of Wyeast 1056 Cali ale yeast.
Ferment at 68
Racked to keg on 12/1/09 Tastes good but maybe too balanced, the F.G. was a little higher than I had hoped. Let's wait and see when it's carbonated and dry hopped.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Back on board with a Robust Porter, & first time using John Palmer's water calculation sheets

Yesterday was a bit of a test run to see if I was ready to brew, after improving somewhat from my back injury. Luckily, a friend of my girlfriend recommended a chiropractic college that sees patients for cheap (I'm not insured currently since I'm not working). It turns out they are having a canned food drive, so I've been charged 3 cans of food per visit for back adjustments and some sort of ultrasound on my lower back muscles, which has really helped. I'm still not 100%, but I'm back up and brewing!

I have finally made my first true attempt at using John Palmer's water chemistry spreadsheet for brewing water. My goals for this beer were to:
  • Balance the mash pH by adjusting for the proper Residual Alkalinity
  • Achieve 50+ ppm calcium in the full wort for yeast health & beer clarity
  • Adjust the chloride to sulfate ratio heavier to the chloride side to improve maltiness
I did this by adjusting only the mash water, and not adding any minerals to the sparge water or the boil. Portland mineral levels are all in the single digits, and can almost be considered nil. So my total mineral additions in the mash water came out to be:
  • 3 gr. Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate)
  • 5 gr. Calcium Chloride
  • 9 gr. Baking Soda (seems like a lot, but that's what the spreadsheet said I would need to acheive an RA of 300+, to make sure the dark malts did not over-acidify the mash)
As far as I can tell, I did this right, but the other way to do it would be to shoot for a London water profile (where porters originated) on the entire brewing water. Either way, I think it's important to have enough minerals in the water to buffer the acids from the dark grains. I have been tasting a lot of porters & stouts in Portland, and although I really don't know which breweries are adjusting their water and which are not, it seems that I run into a lot of good dark beers that have a bit too sharp of a roasty bite. This could be from not adjusting the brewing water and getting a low pH in the mash. If done properly, the water adjustments should allow for a smoother and more nuanced roasty beer.

Unfortunately I was not able to get a good pH reading. I'm still meaning to take my ColorpHast strips in to Upright to test them against the digital pH meter. It's well-documented that these expensive strips can be off by as much as .3 pH, so I need to find out exactly how much mine are off to make them worth using. Or better yet, ask for a pH meter for Christmas!

Before I go to the recipe, I wanted to mention the OBC Fall Classic homebrew competition which took this past Saturday. It was a fun day, I judged IPA's in the morning, and American Ales in the afternoon (our flight was all pale ales). I also entered 3 beers: the Belgian Dark Strong, the Flanders red, and the fresh-hopped black saison. I was not expecting the black saison to do well, but out of all 3 beers, it was the only one to win a medal, taking first in Belgian & French ales! That is the first time I have placed first in that category, and it was a pretty big flight with 21 beers.

On to the beer recipe:
Back-cracker Porter
Recipe is for 7.2 gallons pre-boil, 6 gallons post-boil, all grain
O.G. 1.062 F.G. 1.014 ABV 6.3% IBU's 43

9.5 lb. Glen Eagle Marris Otter malt
.5 lb. Munich malt
.5 lb. Briess Special Roast
.5 lb crystal 40
.5 lb. chocolate malt
.5 lb. black patent
.5 lb flaked barley
.25 lb. Special B

30 gr. Chinook whole 10% AA 60 min
28 gr. American Goldings whole 4% 15 min
28 gr. American Goldings whole 4% 0 min

Mash: 4.25 gallons, mash in to 149 for 60 minutes
(Mineral additions noted above)

Sparge with 5 gallons
Collect 7.2 gallons at 1.052 = 83% efficiency

Boil 60 minutes (I collected a little too much wort, so I used a slightly harder boil to get down to 6 gallons in 60 minutes)
Whirlfloc & Wyeast nutrient at 10 minutes

Chilled to 66, collected 5.25 gallons
Oxygen for 60 seconds
Pitched Wyeast 1056: about 1/2 cups thick yeast slurry from last batch
Ferment at 68 degrees
Racked to keg on 12/1/09 Tastes great so far, sample was not salty as I had feared after adding all that baking soda.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tasting of 3 recent beers

Ah man, this week sucks hard. I was sitting down starting to grind up grains for an IPA yesterday with some Newport hops I picked up from Upright, when I reached over a little too far and somehow threw lower back into a spasm. It hurt, but I thought if I took it fairly easy through the brewday, it would probably loosen up eventually. Sometime during the runoff, it seemed to spasm even harder and I was in a world of pain. So I had to totally cancel the brewday and luckily I wasn't halfway through the boil, when I would have wasted hops too.

Today I'm just sitting around the house, laying on a heating pad, tranqued up on advil, codeine, and reading For Whom the Bell Tolls. This sucks because I was supposed to help Upright with 2 brewdays and help another brewery do a bottling run on Friday, all of which I will probably have to miss. I'm currently consoling myself with a Buffalo Bill's Pumpkin Ale (I have a soft spot for traditional pumpkin ales around this time of year) and an episode of Brew Strong. I thought, what better way to do a little beer tasting since I could use the muscle relaxing properties, and apparently I won't be brewing this week. Wah, Wah...

Starting light to dark:

All Brett Wheat Session Ale: Fruity, clean aroma, mainly of apple & pear, light hoppy spicyness, pils malt background. Light vanilla sweetness, light phenols. No classic brett or barnyard. Blonde and appealing color with a big head, which slowly recedes to patchy islands of foam. Great lacing. Flavor is somewhat phenolic with a touch or horse hair & earthy/smoky nuances. Very clean, drinkable beer with a light sweetness. Bitterness is low but balanced. Medium body, medium-high carbonation. Finishes somewhat tart, but just a twang, in no way a sour beer. Very easy to drink in volume. Overall: A good session ale but nowhere near as much brettanomyces character as I had hoped. No evidence of further fermentation in the keg, so I don't think it's worth aging, but it's probable that it would have picked up an more classic brett character with time. It was the crowd favorite at Clarissa's birthday party.

Clarissa's Sweat Meat Saison: Hints of fruit in the aroma with some higher alcohols. A dry graininess that is a little carboardy. Very hard to describe, but not very inviting. Nice orange color and nice head, no problems there. Flavor is fairly sweet up front, even though this beer finished very dry. Again, a dry grainy quality and more alcohol than I would like, but not terrible. Mouthfeel is fairly dry, but with good effervescence. Overall: Not my favorite beer. It seems to have a variety of strange flavors that do not mesh well, at least yet. The fact that it dried out so much puts all the flavors out in the open with no body or sweetness to bring them together. This is, however, the first saison I have spiced that did not come out over-spiced! Sorry Clarissa, I will try to make you a better birthday beer next year!

Fresh-hopped Black Saison: Aroma is somewhat hop-resinous, with a big rose note & perfumeyness. Dark malts are mainly in the background with no roastiness noted. Noticeable alcohol presence but pretty light for an 8% beer. Appearance is a very clear dark brown, almost black with cherry highlights, what you would expect from a dark schwazbier or a robust porter, with a big head which fades to an even 1/4 inch. Flavor is of hops up front, but fairly balanced with sweet malts. Light caramel/molasses, not prominent. Bitterness I would guestimate at 45 IBU's. Finishes a little bitter but overall very balanced. Perception of medium body even though it dried out to 1.007. Overall, I really like this beer, but it is something I would drink a goblet of and probably switch to something else after that. It turned out much more balanced than I expected, much of which is probably due to the hops that we had on hand (I designed the recipe around big citrusy American hops, and we received a lot Willamette, a much more subtle hop). This was the crowd 2nd favorite at the party.

Overall, I think these beers turned out pretty well. I went in knowing that they would be experimental, and with experiments you always get some surprises, some happy, some a let down. I might try to bottle off some of the brett beer and the fresh-hopped saison, to see what they do over the next 6 months.

Oh yeah, and the Belgian Dark Strong I did recently took 3rd in the Roots Competition (I'm not sure out of how many beers). Not bad for a 20 day old beer at 10.8%!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Svenska Köttbullar Säsong, Meetification part 2, and a new video.

The Beerquest Pilot Video that we helped out in finally came out. Check it out! It features Sixpoint, Brooklyn Brewery, and Kelso/Greenpoint Beer Works.! Enjoy. Damn, I miss my brewing brothers back in Brooklyn. I hope you guys are doing well & brewing strong.

One note on our vignette, they actually asked us to make fun of Steve and be a little standoff-ish at first, so if I seem like a jerk, it's not my fault (for once!) I'm also in the background of the Sixpoint shoot cleaning kegs.

A week ago I did a 10 gallon batch of saison with my friend Josh. This is a really straightforward saison, where I was attempting to resolve some of the problems with my first Portland brew. I wanted to remove any chloramines from the water (using campden tablets), leave out the carafa which seemed to leave an ashy taste even at 1 oz., and pitch the yeast at a more ideal 68-70 degrees, followed by a ramp up to 80 degrees. We are thinking about dry hopping one of the carboys for experimentation.

I ran out of German pilsner malt, so we switched to Great Western "superior pilsner" malt. We noticed some HUGE protein chunks floating up in the boil, which were about the size of IKEA meatballs or even bigger. They looked kind of like this:
But with a gravy on them:

That's why we named this beer Svenska Köttbullar Säsong, which translates to "Swedish Meatball Saison". I'm still not sure what to think about this North American Pilsner malt, or if I would use it in lager.

Recipe is for 13.75 gallons pre-boil, 12.3 gallons post-boil, all grain
O.G. 1.059 IBU's 29 F.G. 1.003 ABV 7.5%

16 lb. Great Western Superior Pilsner malt
4 lb. Vienna malt
2 lb. flaked triticale
8 oz. aromatic malt

9 gr. Willamette whole 4.7% 60 min
30 gr. East Kent Goldings pellets 4.8% 60 min
14 gr. Magnum pellets 13.6% 60 min
56 gr. Willamette whole 5.1% 10 min
56 gr. Willamette whole 4.7% 0 min

Mash: 7 gallons of water + 2 tsp gypsum, mash in to 142.
At 10 minutes, raised to 148 using 1 gallon of boiling water.
Total mash time 90 minutes.

Sparge with 8.5 gallons at 170.
Collect 13.75 gallons at 1.053 = 87% efficiency. Either we got really great efficiency, or this is a particularly high-yielding batch of malt.

Boil 90 minutes, additions as noted.
Wyeast nutrient at 10 minutes, no whirlfloc.
Chilled to 68, collected about 5.5 gallons per carboy.
Oxygen for 1 minute per carboy, pitched an appropriate sized starter of Wyeast 3711 French Saison yeast (3rd generation).

Started fermentation at 68 degrees, ramping a few degrees per day to reach 80 degrees by 1 week. Krausen fell at 6 days. When fermentation was almost negligible, I turned off the heat and let it finish out slowly. Racked to keg on 11/6/09. Tastes and smells great!

Then 2 days ago, I did another batch of Meetification, which is kind of an "extreme pale ale", if you believe in that sort of thing (I do). It's designed to be a little more sessionable than an IPA, but with an extreme dose of hop aroma and flavor. I have been craving a hopsickle lately, but I have had the Belgian yeasts going, so I just wanted to get a few batches out of them first.

I stuck with exactly the same recipe as the first time, but I mashed in a few degrees below at only 150. I really need to learn to control my mash-in temperature, as I have had erratic results using the new cooler mash tun. I changed the mineral additions on this one too, using 2 tsp of Burton salts in the mash, and 1 tsp in the boil.

"Meetification" Pale Ale
Recipe is for 7 gallons pre-boil, 6.2 gallons post boil, all-grain
O.G. 1.056 F.G. 1.008 ABV 6.3% IBU's 48

9 lb. 2-row American pale malt
1.5 lb. Glen Eagle Marris Otter
8 oz. Victory malt
6 oz. British Crystal 70

6 gr. Summit pellets 18.1% AA 60 min
28 gr. Summit pellets 18.1% 20 min
28 gr. Centennial pellets 8% 15 min
28 gr. Cascade pellets 6% 0 min
14 gr. Amarillo pellets 8.6% 0 min
Dry hops: 34 gr. Amarillo pellets, 22 gr. Summit pellets in the keg (in bags), dry hopped cold.

Mash: 4.5 gallons H20 + 2 tsp. Burton Salts.
Mash in to 150 for 60 minutes.
Sparged with 5 gallons water at 180
Collected 7 gallons at 1.050 = 84% efficiency.

Boil 60 minutes
Add 1 tsp Burton salts
Whirlfoc & Wyeast nutrient at 10 min.
Chilled, racked to carboy, and added pure oxygen for 60 seconds. Pitched an appropriate-sized starter of Wyeast 1056 at 68 degrees.

Fermented at 68 degrees for 10 days, then cold-crashed to 50 for 3 days
Racked to keg on 10/26/09. Some of the dank oniony qualities are coming through from the Summit.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Barrier Brewing Under Construction

My good friend Evan, who I worked with at Sixpoint, has been working on starting a nano-craft brewery for a few years now. I just heard from him, and he sealed the deal on a location!

If you are in New York State, look for Barrier Brewing beers in stores soon. Evan makes excellent beers, and I can't imagine him being anything but successful in his new business ventures.

Remember this guy from my earlier Sixpoint posts? That's Evan. Awesome brewer. Look out for the beers! I'm going to have to coerce him to send some out my way.

Upright Gose Brewday

Here are some pictures form my first day helping out Upright Brewery as an intern. Above is the tasting room. Most of the beers are named by number which is analogous to the original gravity (i.e. the Four is about 1.040 O.G.).

Here's a view of the other side of the tasting room, where many barrel projects are aging.

Their brewing system is a 10 barrel system. The strike water is heated with an electric element, and the boil kettle is direct-fire gas. It's made fairly locally, but I don't remember the name of the company. I stirred in the mash on the Gose, which was a fairly small grist, since we were only shooting for a 1.040 or so beer.

I didn't get a picture of this, but they did an overnight sour mash on about 20 pounds of grain in a cooler. This was smelly pretty sour and funky (think rotten fruit) when we got in, and I added it to the mash as I doughed in.

Here's a view of the open fermenter room (the gose didn't go in there, we put it in a conical). Upright's house yeast is Wyeast 3711 French Saison, which I've been a big fan of since the first time I used it last year. We used the house yeast on the Gose too.

Here's Alex operating the hand-cranked bottle labeler to label the 5, a hoppy pale beer.

We did some science stuff that I had never seen before. Garrit showed me how to a cell count on our pitch rate. After the beer was pitched and well mixed in the fermenter, we took a sample and dropped it onto a slide. The slide has a grid pattern and you can count how many yeast cells are in each square. I don't remember the cell count we got on this, but it was an ideal pitching rate, so we were pretty stoked!

It's cool to see yeast under a microscope. I had never seen that before!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Hood River Hops Fest, and a very un-hoppy Belgian Dark Strong

Above: new 70 quart mash tun with a Celebrator goat that Jamil gave me at NHC.

I've been trying to brew as much as possible for competition, and Roots is collaborating with the Oregon Brew Crew on a competition for an upcoming pinot noir/bourbon barrel aged brew. Only 2 categories are open for this competition: Baltic Porter and Belgian Dark Strong. My personal feeling is that a Baltic Porter might be a better beer to age in these barrels. But with limited time and a healthy yeast cake of trappist ale yeast, I went with the Belgian Dark Strong. There's really no way that this beer will have matured properly in only 21 days, which is the entry deadline. But, since I can just bottle up a few bottles with the Beergun, it's no big deal. I'll just keep rest of the beer in a keg until it's time to bottle the rest.

Below, you can see the detail on the new mash tun. I actually turn the pipes upside down when brewing so the slits are facing downward. Cutting and fitting all the pipes, and then using a hacksaw to cut the slits in the copper pipe was extremely time & labor intensive process! So my advice to anyone is to go with the stainless mesh tube in the bottom of the mash tun if you're doing a conversion like this.

So, I brewed the Belgian Dark Strong on Friday, and then on Saturday we took a trip to Hood River Oregon for the annual Fresh Hop Fest. The weather was supposed to be great, but unfortunately it was pretty rainy. This didn't seem to phase the Oregon beer revelers though!
There were tons of great beers there. As a brewer, I felt that it should have been better marked as to which beers were 100% fresh hop beers, and which used a mix of wet & dried hops. My favorite fresh hop beer, which not only used an excellent hop variety, but also displayed it perfectly by holding back on the crystal malts, was Widmer's Hopturnal Emission. It was brewed with fresh Summit hops, and the aroma was so inviting! The flavor was intense and hoppy.

I also really enjoyed: New Old Lompoc's Harvestman Red, which was brewed with fresh Crystal hops, had a juicy malt backbone and subtle hopping. It was an excellent session red ale. Rock Bottom's Octoberfist (yes, I spelled that right) was an excellent malty lager, with a touch of extra hop character from the fresh Hallertauer hops. Maybe the reason that some of my favorite beers were on the malty side is that after a whole day of drinking hoppy ales, my pallete was craving a change. There were many other great fresh hopped IPA's from other breweries, the full list of which can be found on the Hood River Hops Fest website.

Back to the brew: This is Jamil's Belgian Dark Strong recipe brewed pretty much straight up out of Brewing Classic Styles. The differences are:
  • Recipe calls for WLP530 Abbey yeast. I used a blend of Wyeast 1214 and WLP 530.
  • Recipe uses Hallertauer hops as a 60 minutes addition. I used Perle and Magnum.
  • I had a little issue with not getting as good efficiency as I hoped for. I was at 66% instead of 70%. What I should have done is add a half pound of DME to make up for it, but instead my cheap ass spent an extra 40 minutes collecting the last runnings in another pot, boiling this on the stove at the same time as the regular boil, and then adding the runnings to the main pot once they could fit. While this was a big time-suck, I did hit all my numbers dead-on, and I don't think I picked up much extra caramelization.
Recipe is for 6 gallons post boil, all grain + sugar
O.G. 1.103 F.G. 1.023 ABV 10.7% IBU's 30

15 lb. Pilsner malt
3 lb. Munich malt
1 lb. caramunich 60
1 lb. aromatic malt
1 lb. special B
8 oz. Melanoidin malt
8 oz. Wheat malt
1 lb. corn sugar

15 gr. Magnum pellets 13.6%AA 60 min
6 gr. Perle pellets 7.1%AA 60 min

Mash: 6 gallons + 1 tsp gypsum, mash in a little low to 149

at 10 minutes into the mash, added about 1 gallon boiling water to bring up to 153
Total mash time 65 minutes

Sparge: 5 gallons at 170 degrees
Collect 8 gallons at 1.071 = 70% efficiency

Boil: about 2 hours, started in 2 pots. See above notes.
Sugar at beginning of boil.
Once boil volume was down to 7 gallons, started the timer at 90 minutes
Hops as noted, Whirlfloc and Wyeast nutrient at 10 minutes
Chilled to 68, whirlpooled, and collected 5.25 gallons
Oxygen for 2 minutes
Pitched 2 cups (half a yeast cake from the blond) of Wyeast 1214 & WLP 530
Ferment at 68 degrees for first 48 hours, then let slowly come up to 72 degrees over 1 week.
Took a gravity reading at 10 days, 1.023. Target was 1.024. Pretty good! tastes/smells pretty solventy, I guess that's to be expected at this age.

P.S. I just lined up a one day a week internship with Upright Brewery. Very exciting! Even if I'm not getting paid yet, it will be great to be brewing and learning.
Cheers & Brew Strong.
Sean / Chupa / Senior Wonton