Monday, October 3, 2011

Clone Brew: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

Sierra Nevada happens to be one of my favorite breweries and their Pale Ale is one of my favorite beers.  I found a clone recipe in an issue of Brew your own magazine about a year ago and brewed it up.  It was very close if not spot on.  So I decided I wanted to re-brew this awesome and surprisingly simple pale ale.  After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!  Their site gives a vague recipe for their pale ale showing 2 malts (2-Row & Caramel) and 3 hops (Magnum, Perle & Cascade).  Which falls right in line from the clone recipe that I have:

          10.0 lb 2-Row Brewers Malt
          1 lb Crystal Malt 60°L
          0.5 oz Magnum (14.5%) - added during boil, boiled 60 min
          0.5 oz Perle (8.3%) - added during boil, boiled 30 min
          1.0 oz Cascade (5.5%) - added during boil, boiled 10 min
          2.0 oz Cascade (5.5%) - steeped after boil
          1.0 oz Cascade (5.5%) - added dry to secondary fermenter

I started this brew after work.  So I didn't get started even collecting the brew water until 5:00.  Which is why it was dark before I even started the boil.  Even so this brew-day was about 5-5.5 hours long.  My strike temp was 170*F to hit a target mash temp of 153*F for a 90 min mash.
Left to Right: First runnings from the mash, Spent Grains
My strike temp was too high.  So when I added the grains I had to add about a pint of cold water to cool it down to my target temp of 153.  From there it held fairly steady for the full 90 mins.  I ended up getting around 75% brew house efficiency on this brew.
Starting the boil and cooling
I collected 8.25 gals of wort from the grains and boiled for 75 mins to end up with 5.25 gals (leaving behind 0.25 gals of trub).  My OG reading was 1.058.  I pitched 2 packs of US-05 re-hydrated dry yeast and placed the fermenter in the fermentation chamber at 65*F.  I'll let primary fermentation go for about a week then transfer to a secondary and add the dry hops. 
Adding oxygen through a aquarium pump and a diffusion stone. 
Active fermentation started within 12 hours after pitching the yeast.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Oatmeal Cream Stout

     I don't think of brewing stouts very often because most people I know don't like them and I'm forced to drink the entire batch myself.  Which is ok... I like stouts but I prefer hoppy ales which is why I tend to brew more beer in that classification.  My favorite stouts are thick creamy rich stouts often sweetened with milk sugar.  The only stout I have made until now was a Java Stout (obviously a stout brewed with coffee).  I debated between brewing a mocha stout with coffee and chocolate or trying my hand at a cream stout.  I finally decided to try brewing a cross between a cream stout and an oatmeal stout (an Oatmeal Cream Stout).

My strike temp was 163.5*F to hit my target mash temp of 153*F and held for 90 mins.  It smelled almost like coffee throughout the house during the mash :).  I accidentally let the strike water cool too much before adding the grains on this batch.  So I had to quickly heat up a quart of boiling water to add to the mash.  That ended up putting my mash a little thicker than I wanted being around 1.44 qts/lb.  

because of rain I ended up starting the boil in the garage.  Started with a very full boil (8.75) because of additional hot water added during the mash to maintain the target temperature.  Ended up boiling for 90 mins and collected 5.5 gals (leaving 0.5gal of trub behind).

During cooling the garage door functioned as a convenient place to place to stick my wired thermometer.  My OG reading came in around 1.064 which puts me at a brew house eff of 80% on this batch.  After cooling the wort down into the lower 70s I whirl-pooled the kettle and drained the wort into the carboy.  Then as normal added oxygen using a diffusion stone and an aquarium pump.

I pitched 2 packs of WYeast - 1084 Irish Ale.  The packs were dated to be about a month old.  Thinking that the yeast should be plenty viable I felt no need for a starter.  After about a few days of fermentation I noticed the air lock had stopped bubbling.  So I took a hydrometer sample and saw evidence of a stuck ferment (hydrometer reading of 1.034).  I quickly took and re-hydrated a package of US-05 dry yeast I had laying around (just for cases such as this) and pitched it in the carboy then gently stirred the yeast cake on the bottom back into solution.  24 hours later I did not see any signs of further fermentation.  So I decided to make a starter out of another package of US-05 and pitch at high krausen.  That seems to have worked.  4 days later I'm at 1.020.  I'll give it another week then bottle carb/condition.
Sanitizing bottles and adding priming sugar solution to bottling bucket
On to bottling... Normally I keg.  So Its been a while since I last bottle conditioned/naturally carbonated a batch.  Since I have a small chest freezer converted into a kegerator, I don't have the space to serve more than 2 kegs at a time.  Unfortunately that leaves me with the task of bottling this entire batch and using priming sugar to carbonate in the bottle.
Transferring beer to bottling bucket and gently stirring to mix in the priming sugar 
Using the Keg and force carbonating is much easier and less time consuming.  So I prefer that method when I can and then bottle off what I need from the keg.  The process for bottling this batch took about 2.5 hours (from sanitation to bottled) as compared to 30 mins. max for a keg setup.
Placed bottling bucket on top of refrigerator to get better gravity flow 
When bottle conditioning/carbonating a priming sugar solution is made with a measured amount of dextrose and water then mixed into solution and bottled.  The yeast will eat the priming sugar and produce C02 which will carbonate the beverage.  So now I will store these bottles at room temp for 2-3 weeks to completely carbonate.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Dark Double IPA - Midnight Oil

    This month I decided to re-brew my dark IIPA again.  This beer is unique in that there is really not an officially accepted BJCP style for this type of beer.  The unofficial style name is "Cascadian Dark Ale".  I must admit when I first I brewed this I thought I was the first to make a dark version of an IPA but I soon learned that there was an unofficial style.  Currently this style is being considered by BJCP but it has not been accepted as of yet.  The taste is a lot like an IPA with the intense citrus aroma and taste with a very subtle hint of roasted malt.  De-bittered black malt (de-husked roasted malt) is used to create the color without imparting the harshness of the roasted malt. With a pound of hops for this 5gal batch, this beer will satisfy any hop lover.  
Recirculating the mash to set the grain bed
My good friend Justin joined me in brewing this beer to jump start his own brewing hobby from Mr. Beer no-boil kits to full 5gal batches.  Mr. Beer is a good way to start into this hobby.  I started with a Mr. Beer kit myself and after gaining confidence I needed I moved to extract boil kits.  Then to following extract recipes and eventually to all-grain. On this brew my strike temp was 163F to hit a target of 151F for a 90 min mash.   
Draining the brew kettle
I designed this recipe as a partial mash recipe with 16.25 lbs of grain and 3 lbs of DME (Dry Malt Extract).  I reserved the DME until the end of the boil just in case I needed it to hit my numbers.  I ended up with 80% eff. which put me right below hitting my goal original gravity reading of 1.090.  So during the last 30 mins of the boil I added in the DME.  
Gravity right before pitching the yeast... 1.102!
Adding the DME and boiling off a little more gave me 5.5gals at an original gravity of 1.102!  Which should give me ~11% ABV.  The first time I brewed this I hit around 1.089 and got ~9% ABV.  So this one should be a little stronger but the hops should balance it out. 
After about a week into fermentation I'll be dry hoping with a couple of ounces of Cascade and Centennial hops and then aging in a keg.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Brewing a Traditional Bock

I'm getting a late start on this months brew but the last couple of weeks have been busy and I couldn't figure out what I wanted to brew much less schedule a brew day.  I started thinking about the common commercial examples of a bock and then I realized there's not really a common commercial example.  Sure there is Shiner Bock of Texas and Michelob Amber Bock, but neither of these are true examples of a bock.  Instead they really are just american lagers with some darker malts to give them color.  There are a few different types of Bocks.  The first to be brewed was the traditional bock or "Dunkel Bock" others are sub-styles off of it.  The DoppelBock or "Double Bock" has the same flavor profile as the traditional bock, just more intense and with more alcohol.  The doppelbock was first brewed by German monks as "liquid bread" to sustain them during times of fasting, when solid food was not permitted.  The lighter bock, also know as Maibock, was traditionally drank during the summer months and is higher hopped and has a slightly different profile.  
Real commercial examples of a bock include: (Einbecker Ur-Bock Dunkel, Pennsylvania Brewing St. Nick Bock, Great Lakes Rockefeller Bock, Stegmaier Brewhouse Bock).

Home brew: Founding Fathers Ale
And collecting the water for the brew
I didn't get a lot of picture documentation on this brew because I got such a late start on the day at around 5:00.  I needed to work quickly so that I wouldn't be in for a long night.  Since we are in the middle of summer here in Arkansas, I decided that I would add an additional piece of equipment to my chilling routine to help get the wort down to pitching temps.  While preheating the mash-tun I added some star-san solution to sanitize my march pump and copper coil that I will be pumping the boiling wort through.  
Sanitizing my chilling coil and pump
I hit my target temp of 154*F with a strike temp of 167*F.  I used a thick mash (1.15 qt/lb) and a single 6 gal (2 qt/lb) sparge at 170*F.  
30 mins into the mash at 154*F 
I collected about 8.25 gals of wort for the boil with a Specific Gravity of 1.050.  Ended up getting 75% eff. out of this one.  The low eff may be due to the single step sparge.  I recirclulated the mash and sparge water, then transferred to the kettle to start the boil.
This part always reminds me of espresso
The kettle was pretty full so I had a few small boil-overs on this batch.  Due to the poor eff. on this batch, I had to boil for half an hour longer to hit my target O.G. of 1.065.  This ended up working out because I still had a full 5.25 gals left in the kettle.  I just wasn't able to leave as much of the cold break behind as I would have liked.

With the nigh-fall temp still in the upper 90's, even with the additional cooling, it took a good hour to get from boiling to 70*F.  I used 2 packages of Fermentis Saflager W-34/70 Dry Lager Yeast.  The pitching calculator on said to use approx. 2.3 pkgs of dry yeast on this one.  I rounded down to 2.  

Fermentation in less than 12 hours later

Monday, June 13, 2011

Brewing Up A Little History... Founding Fathers Ale

"Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants to see us happy." (Benjamin Franklin) 

     Many of our founding fathers brewed beer and distilled spirits.  In fact in colonial times, Americans probably drank more alcohol that in any other era. Spirits were an integral part of daily life throughout the colonies no matter the geographic or economic differences.  The English believed that water was bad for a person's health. Given the sanitary standards of the day, this was probably true. Beer consumption, especially, was seen as a healthy substitute for water.
Pre-Heating Mash-Tun and New
Water filter

     So, I've decided to brew up a slightly historical recipe for the 4th of July.  I found a recipe online that was extrapolated from Thomas Jefferson's ingredient orders for his home brewery.  I'm not actually going to be using any historical brewing techniques or anything that involved, but my goal is to brew something that might be similar to what would have been enjoyed in that era.  This recipe calls for barley, wheat, and one pound of molasses.  Molasses was a common adjunct in colonial beer because of it's common availability.  I am a little concerned about the addition of that much molasses for a 5 gallon batch, but I decided to follow the recipe the first time and maybe make adjustments for next time.
   So... Up until this current brew, I had been using my refrigerator to get the filtered water I use for brewing.  This normally resulted in the first hour and a half of my brew day standing in front of the refrigerator slowly filling a gallon pitcher, dumping it into a pot and repeating this process until I collected 8.5-9 gallons of water.  On my last brew day I ended up collecting the last drop of water I needed and then the water pump on the refrigerator went out.  That's how I found out that the refrigerator is not designed to work that hard.  So after I got the refrigerator fixed, I bought a water filter and hose that would connect and disconnect to the kitchen faucet.

     Now the process moves a whole lot faster.  I was able to finish collecting all the water by the time the tap water was hot enough to pre-heat the mash tun.  So I heated the water to my strike temp (168*F) and loaded the heated mash-tun with the water.  By the time I got all the grains stirred in, I was at my ideal mash temp of 154*F.  With my tea pot of boiling water I made additions through out the hour to maintain a constant mash temp for the full hour.
I ended up going with a thick mash (1.12 qt/lb) as I have with most of my recent brews.  During recirculation I noticed, with the wheat in this mash, that it took a lot longer to set the grain bed to get a clear wort run off.  In fact, I don't think I ever got it to run 100% clear.  After recirculation I drained the mash into the brew kettle with the bittering hop addition for a first wort hop (FWH) then started the first of two batch sparges at 170*F, recirculated and drained into the brew kettle. I ended up collecting 8.5 gallons of wort at a specific gravity of 1.048. After starting the boil I actually forgot to start the boil timer.  Because of this, I didn't start the 60 min. timer until 15 minus into the boil. That wasn't a big deal though as I was planning to do around a 90 min boil time on this brew anyway.

Adding the molasses to the boil
  As soon as I added the molasses to the boil the color went from a brown straw to a dark brown and I could smell the molasses.  Since molasses is relatively viscous, I poured boiling wort into the jar and shook to dissolve the remaining molasses and added that to the boil.     

Rapidly cooling the wort
With summer weather here in Arkansas it takes a lot longer to cool the wort than it typically would any other season.  I ended up cooling the wort off to 70*F in about 45 min. (not too bad). While cooling the wort I quickly cleaned the primary fermenter with the new carboy cleaner I recently got.  It's pretty neat.  The video below is a little corny but you can get the idea.

OG of 1.072 and next day strong ferment
After the wort was cooled and the fermenter cleaned and sanitized, I got an original gravity reading of  1.072.  That equates to about an 88%  overall efficiency on this brew.   I drained the brew kettle into the fermenter and started adding oxygen with my aquarium pump and diffusion stone.  Then I pitched at package of US-05 dry yeast and placed in the fermentation chamber at 65*F.  The next day I had a strong fermentation going.
Founding Fathers Ale Label
 So after transferring the finished beer to the keg (Final Gravity 1.020) and one week later it is ready to drink.    After sampling it I have to say surprisingly refreshing for a nearly 7% beer.  I would say that most of the molasses fermented out completely leaving a slight flavor but mostly contributing to color and dried the finish out a little.  I wouldn't be concerned about 1lb of molasses in 5 gal batch anymore. 
Founding Fathers Ale
Thomas Jefferson's
Molasses Wheat Beer

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Brewing up an English Extra Special Bitter (ESB)

   An English Extra Special Bitter or ESB is really an English pale ale.  By 1830 pale ale and bitter were synonymous terms over in England.  The English verity of pale ales are often less hop-focused, lower alcohol session beers.  I decided to brew this style frankly because it's one of the few common styles that I haven't attempted to brew yet and I wanted to make more of a session beer.

Pre-Heating the Mash-tun and the strike water
I decided to go for a thick mash at 1.13qt/lb and a target mash temp of 154*F for 60 Min mash.  I calculated the strike temp for mash-in at 167.45*F.  I ended up hitting my target temp and successfully held it there for the full 60 mins. with the help of boiling water additions along the way.  I have had good luck with thick as opposed to thin mashes.  Seems like I get better efficiency that way.  I also opted to do my normal two rounds of batch sparging this time around. 
Brew day often times is hard on the appetite because you can't really go anywhere for 6 or 7 hours and my kitchen is an absolute mess while brewing and next to impossible to tend to anything cooking.  So my loving wife called in a delivery and of course where there is pizza there is beer (Maibock).
After a 60 min. mash it's time to re-circulate the mash until the runnings are clear then into the brew kettle.  This brew I decided to do some First-Wort Hopping (FWH). This is where you steep your bittering hop addition in the first runnings from the mash-tun.  So basically just adding your bittering hops earlier in the process.

After running two rounds of batch sparges I collected 8.25 gals of wort into the brew kettle and started the boil.  I also started the process of cooling off a sample to test for mash efficiency.  I ended up getting 79% efficiency on this batch.  I was estimating 75% so my expected numbers ended up looking close.  My SG after mash-out was 1.042 with 8.25 gals.  My plan was to boil for 60 mins and then further if needed to end up with 6 gals in the kettle.  Estimating 0.5 gals loss due to trub resulting in 5.5 gals in the fermenter.

Starting boil - hot break starting to show
Wyeast Thames Valley II
All-in-all this brew day went smooth and quick, but there was a small hiccup.  I have two propane bottles for convenience (if one empties I can use the other to finish the boil).  I picked up a second one once I had the unfortunate experience of running out of juice during the last 15 mins of the boil and too many beers in my system to drive for a refill.  Well so this time it looks like I had forgotten to get one of them filled prior to planning this brew day.  Fortunately for me this became apparent while trying to reach boiling so I took that opportunity to pick up a refill.  The key ingredient, to really any beer, but especially the ingredient that makes similar beers different is the strain of yeast used.  On this beer I decided to go with a liquid yeast (Wyeast Thames Valley II).  This is one of Wyeast private collection English strains that is used alot in ESBs.   
Top: Just dropped in the wort-chiller, Bottom Left: recirculating ice water bath, Bottom Right: Cold Break
Typically I sanitize my wort-chiller in Star-San for 30 mins prior to dropping it into the boiling wort.  Some people choose not to do this because the boiling wort will sanitize the chiller itself.  I choose to pre-sanitize because the copper tends to oxidize and I don't want that coming off into my brew.  So I sanitize it not so much for sanitation purposes but more for just cleaning all the oxidation off of it.   I start off with just tap water from the hose in the chiller and then after I get below 100*F I reconfigure my pump and start circulating ice water for the remainder of the cooling process.  This allows me to get super fast cool downs producing lots of cold break as seen in the above picture (bottom right).  With this brew I ended up going from 212 to below 70 in about 20 mins.
Transferring to the fermenter and adding oxygen
OG of 1.059
 After transferring to the fermenter I pulled a sample to measure the OG.  My OG on this beer was 1.059. I use a aquarium air pump with a HEPA filter and a diffusion stone attached to pull oxygen back into the wort before pitching the yeast.  This helps ensure a healthy environment for the growing yeast.  Oxygen is needed at the beginning during the growth stage of the yeast.  After the yeast have multiplied to sufficient numbers to tackle the job of eating all the maltose then any added oxygen would just taint the taste of the finished product.    
6.5 gal carboy in a wine chiller that I converted to a temperature controlled fermentation chamber 
 So off to the fermentation chamber with the temp control set to 63*F.  At this point I left for the weekend and came back 3 days latter to find that fermentation had not started.  Usually 3 days in I start to see at least some signs of fermentation such as at least a low kraeusen layer forming.  My first thought was that the Wyeast pack that I received must have been old and I probably should have made a yeast starter for this beer.  At that point I planned on calling up the home brew supply store that I purchased the yeast from and asking for them to send out more yeast to replace the defective yeast.  I ended up bumping the temp up a few degrees to 68*F and next day there were signs of fermentation.  So this is just a lesson in RDWHAHB (Relax Don't Worry Have A Home Brew).


Well, RIP ESB.  After a week of sampling and contemplation, I have decided to give this batch the dump.  This will be only the second time I have ever dumped a batch.  Turns out that the package of yeast I used was old and weak.  I would have needed to pitch triple the amount or had made a starter with this yeast.  With the yeast being stressed it created a cloudy product (That won't clear) that taste as best I describe it like a Moldy/Musty rag.  All is not lost because I did shed some light as to the reason for previous failed batch.  So brewing lesson of the day:  Check the date on the yeast and be sure to pitch the proper amount of yeast.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Quest for the "BIG" Beer

A few months ago after watching an episode of Brew-Masters on the Discovery Channel, I learned about Dog Fish Head's 120 IPA.  When it comes to unusually large brews I know that Dogfish head's 120 weighs in at an 18% and Sam Adams has Utopias at 25%, neither of which I have tried (can't get them here in Arkansas), but with all the hype about these unusually "Big" beers I've set my sights on brewing something around 15-20%.  So I set out to create a recipe with big enough grain/hop bill to keep up with the increased amount of alcohol.  With this much alcohol we are pushing the limits of typical beer yeast.

Brice stirring the mash
Recirculating the mash
The biggest challenge this beer brings to the table is getting it to completely attenuate.  Attenuation refers to the ability of the yeast to completely eat the simple sugars in the wort and is usually expressed in percentage.  When brewing an "all grain" beer there are many things going on at once.  So it's always nice to have a brew partner to help.  I asked my friend Brice to come and assist.  Brice was actually the one who got me started with brewing beer in the first place.  After tasting his home-brew I knew I had to start and after that first extract kit I was hooked.  With a strike temp of 166F, we hit our target temp of 152F and successfully held there for the 60 min mash.  Because this brew required so
Heating the sparge water
(Yes it does take a while
on the electric stove)
much grain (16.5 lbs) we had to try and avoid getting the mash too thick by not using enough water (Mash 1qt/lb: Sparge ~2 qt/lb).  So we decided to only do one round of batch sparging.  Although I like to do two rounds of sparging, I only have a 10gal brew kettle, so I can really only boil 9 gals max and that's with special attention to boil-overs.  Even with only one batch sparge, we ended up with 91% efficiency, which is my best efficiency on record and is amazing considering the amount of grain used.  I've got to give kudos to the Brits with their well modified Maris Otter malt.  Even though it is more expensive, ever time I use it I end up getting great efficiency and it has a great flavor.

Boil over management
We added the bittering hops as soon as we got to a rolling boil and managed the boil over.  Thanks to Brice continually stirring and adjusting the gas, we didn't end up with a boil over.  While he was keeping an eye on the boil I went in and cooled off a hydrometer sample to see where we were at.  As I mentioned previously we got 91% efficiency on the mash so ended up with hydrometer reading of 1.060 before the boil. 

Celebration of the finished boil
Aerating the wort and making the starter
We started with 9 gallons before the boil in order that we might have closer to 5.5-6 gallons left after a 90 min boil.  Since this beer is so big we will be fermenting it with two different strains of yeast.  One strain (US-05) will be used first for the flavor profile up to 11% (its alcohol tolerance) then 5 days or so into fermentation we will use the second yeast strain (WLP099-High Gravity Yeast) to finish attenuation.  We will be taking 0.5gal from the finished wort to use as a yeast starter on a stir-plate for the high gravity yeast.  After we finish the boil, time to pull a hydrometer sample and check the OG.  We ended up around 1.076.  So you might say that's nowhere near high enough to get 15-20% and you would be right, but the secret to this brew is dextrose additions during fermentation.  The thought is that adding dextrose during fermentation helps feed the yeast into continued fermentation and will help it attenuate fully.  On second day of fermentation I started adding the dextrose 8-12oz 3 times a day. The goal is to have 12lbs of dextrose added to the beer over the course of  14 days.  After aerating the wort and pitching the yeast in both the starter and in the carboy, we put the carboy in the fridge at about 63F.
Dextrose additions
The next morning (8 hours later) we have liftoff.  Active fermentation going in the carboy and in the starter.
Adding Dextrose
Ended up adding a total of 14lbs of dextrose over the course of 14 days (FG at 1.028 and 16.5% ABV).  At 28 points it is still a little sweet but workable especially since with the added sugar that's about 81% attenuation.
Below is the dextrose addition schedule i used:

3/26 - fermenting
3/27 - added 1.5 lbs dextrose 3 additions of 8oz
3/28 - added 1.5lbs dextrose 3
additions of 8
3/29 - added 2.3125 lbs dextrose 2
additions of 8oz, 12oz, 9oz
3/30 - added 2 lbs dextrose 1
additions of 8oz 2 of 12oz
3/31 - added 2.25 lbs dextrose 3
additions of 12oz
4/01 - Nothing added
4/02 - added 0.5 lbs dextrose
4/03 - added 0.75 lbs dextrose 12oz
4/04 - added 0.75 lbs dextrose 12oz
4/05 - Nothing added

4/06 - added 0.5 lbs dextrose 8 oz
4/07 - added 0.5 lbs dextrose 8 oz
4/08 - added 0.5 lbs dextrose 8 oz
4/09 - added 0.5 lbs dextrose 8 oz
4/10 - added 0.5 lbs dextrose 8 oz

Transferring to Keg
 I transferred the beer to the keg.  I'm planning on lightly force carbonating (about 1-1.2 vols).