Thursday, January 19, 2012

Newcastle Brown Ale Clone... (Or Something Close)

Even though Newcastle wouldn't pass the reinheitsgebot (because it is brewed with some level of the corn) it is still one of my favorite commercial brown ales.  I found a clone recipe on the forms for this beer and decided I wanted to try it out.  The real Newcastle is a blended beer crafted by brewing two different beers and combining them in a 60/40 ratio.  BierMuncher got the recipes for the two blends from an issue of BYO and blended the ingredients down to a single recipe.  From his comments, it sounds like he got close to a clone by doing this.  Since I was going to be dealing with liquid yeast on this one (Wyeast - 1099), I made a 1 quart starter.  I bought 2 smack packs and used one for the starter and pitched the other on brew day.
 My mash-in took a strike temp of 168.5*F to reach a mash-in temp of 154*F and a 1.1 qt/lb mash thickness.
I heated up my sparge water to a little over 170*F in order to heat the grain bed up to a mash-out of 170*F.  My sparge thickness was 2 qt/lb, which brought the water level to the top of the mash tun.  
After run-off from the mash and sparge, ended up collecting about 8.25 gals or wort.  Plan was to hit around 8 gals and boil down to around 5.5 gals to leave 0.5 gal of trub.
After the boil I added the last of the hops and cooled down to 70*F in 15mins.  Over all easy brew day... Hit my numbers without any road blocks or problems. I did take this opportunity to calibrate my hydrometer and the refractometer that I got from my loving wife for Christmas.  
Using distilled water I found out that my hydrometer I have been using for years is off by 4 gravity points!  While my new refractometer is spot on and thanks to some calculations I found online I can completely replace my hydrometer with my refractometer.  With the O.G. at 1.055 that should put us right around 5% ABV.  

This was one of the fastest fermentation times I have ever seen!  I brewed this on a Saturday and it was finished by Monday afternoon.  I took a gravity reading and got 1.020, which was a little high for what I wanted.  So I pitched some amylase enzyme and over the course of next few days, took it down to 1.014 which was right in line with what I wanted.  

Monday, January 9, 2012

Honey Wheat Ale... Ale's What Cures Ya!

     It's been awhile since I last brewed because I've been reserving my beer budget for the kegerator bar build that I just finished.  I knew that in my next brew I wanted to do a honey beer and something with a fairly fast grain-to-glass time.  I felt that my founding fathers ale had a solid wheat base that would probably pair nicely with honey.  So I pulled up the old recipe and went to work putting honey with it.
Brice stirring the mash.  Target temp was 153
I decided to leave the grain profile the same but change the hop profile.  In fact I thought I might experiment by pairing honey wheat grain bill with more of a pale ale hop profile.  Since one of my favorite hops is centennial I wanted to use that.  However, didn't have any centennial or cascade so I ended up settling with a new type of hop I haven't tried before called Zythos.
Recirculating the run-off
I started the boil at 8.5 gals and boiled down to a little under 6 gals.  I pulled off 5.5 gals to leave ~.5 gal of trub.  I ended up forgetting to drop in the whirlfloc tablet during the last 15 mins of the boil but since it is a wheat beer the final product will be cloudy enough that it wouldn't have mattered.
Rapi-Kool Paddle in action
Cooling went very fast with the new addition to my cooling setup (Rapid Cool Paddle).  The OG was 1.070 with a overall eff of 85%.
Hop butt...
12 hours later I had vigorous fermentation...  FG came in around 1.012 for a total ABV of 7.6%.

After tasting I have to say I like the results (still a little young) but with as much hops as I added to the brew I expected a much more hop presence than I have.  With these results I will probably not brew with Zythos again or at least not for an aroma or flavoring hop.
Three Weeks Later from the keg...
Southern Sweet Hard Cider Brew

About a week or so after brewing this I still hadn't got my fill for brewing for the month. So I decided to re-brew my southern sweet hard cider that has been pretty popular.  It's a very simple recipe.  The trick is that in order to back sweeten you have to stabilize the cider (halt fermentation).
Southern Sweet Hard Cider Ingredients
There are a few difference ways to do this.  You can chemically stabilize the cider using K-Sorbate and K-Meta-Bisulphite.  You can also use pasteurizing methods.  Keeping in mind some people have sulphite allergies.  I instead choose to keg my cider.  That way since my kegerator is <40*f the cider will not pick up and ferment any further after back sweetening.
The catch is that if I bottle off the keg the bottles need to say cold. If the bottles warm up to room temp they could explode.  Cider seems to take a lot longer to ferment than beer.  So it will probably be 2-3 weeks before I'm ready to keg and back-sweeten.

New Kegerator Build

After drooling over kegerator builds I had seen on and other places, I finally decided to pull the trigger on my plans to build one of my own.  

So I bought a old  15 cft. Gibson chest freezer for $100 and me and my father built a coffin style bar casing around the freezer.  I'll eventually post some pictures showing the build process start to finish but for now I thought I would just post some pictures of the finished product.

As you can see the chest freezer lid is bolted to lid of the build.  I can fit 6 kegs and a C02 tank in this chest freezer (hints the 6 taps).  And Yes... If you were wondering, the top is tiled with granite tiles and it is very heavy.  The base of the build provides just enough height to ensure that the freezer seal is not overly pressed by the weight of the top.  If you look at the picture to the left you can see I added pressurized gas support lifts to the lid in order to cut down on the weight of the lift.

The coffin box was designed with future access in mind.  I have a small fan to circulate cold air from the chest freezer cabin into the coffin around the taps and back.  This is to help with the temperature differential between the beer in the keg and the beer coming out of the tap.  If there is not proper circulation between the coffin and the freezer every first pour would be foamy until line cooled.