Friday, April 28, 2017

What would they drink in the shire? Warminster Maris Otter Brown Ale...

Years ago, while watching an episode of BrewingTV, I was inspired by the idea of a beer that the hobbits would have enjoyed.  A beer that would have been drank by the pint at the "green Dragon" and the "Prancing Pony".    Mike Dawson was interviewing John Palmer, and during the interview, MD asked JP, what would the Hobbits drink... out of that nerdy question (no judgement #NERDPRIDE!) came John Palmer's incredible recipe forBelladona Took's Oak Aged Mild.   If you haven't made the BTOAM... it is is a fantastic beer.  I have made it several times, and in an ultimate nerdery session,  last year I made a small batch of it (2.5 g) and I drank it as I re-read the Lord of the Rings.  It was an awesome experience that has lead to a pantheon of recipes inspired by film and books.

But I am never one to leave, well enough alone.   I for one am always messing with recipes and trying to create a new taste sensation.   And over time our recipe has grown, and changed.   It is now a Brown ale aged on oak, with a touch of smoke... I give you Bywater Brown Ale.

Saturday Mark Anthony and I got together to brew this awesome beer.  We generally brew small batch at Mark Anthony's place, and today was no exception.  I gave you a 5 gallon recipe, but we only brewed 3 gallons.  2.5 to 3 gallons are easily handled on most stove tops, and since Mark Anthony's stove seems to be nuclear powered, his stove makes it really easy.   This was a simple straight forward brew day.   Single infusion mash, no sparge, full volume, no chill... every thing easy.  Jazz on the radio, soccer (football) on the television.

We began with basic water treatments.   The brewing water in Kansas City is like many other cities, great for some styles, lacking for others. We treated our water with 5.2 stabilizer and because this beer is at least somewhat English in its inspiration, we did add some gypsum. We targeted a pH of  5.4.   Yes, 5.4.  when you are doing Full Volume BIAB you want to keep the pH a little higher.  Trust me you will still get full conversion and great efficiency.  It's a thin mash afterall.

Love the color of this beer.
For this brew day we were excited to be trying the Warminster Maris Otter.  This is another fine product from the good folks at Cargill.  (It looked and smelled amazing) We used specialty malts from our local home brew store.  The most interesting specialty malt was walnut smoked malt.  Man there are a lot of smoked malt options on the market these days.  I remember when we had to smoke our own malts for a Scottish Heavy or for a Rauch Bier.

Mash in went well, MAs stove quickly brought the water to strike temperature.  Almost immediately the kitchen took on the aroma of bread, and toast, with the slightest hint of campfire smoke.  Since we were brewing a beer inspired by literature, MA decided to ponder the mash for a moment.   The mash was stirred every 15 minutes and we began tasting the mash at 45 minutes.   Conversion was complete but the mash wasn't fully developed, so we rested for another 15 minutes.   Sometime in that 15 minutes is when the magic happened.  The bread like character of the Warminster Maris Otter came to the fore front, and the taste shifted from "really good" to "damn son"

We bag our hops during the boil to reduce
kettle trub.
At the end of the mash we pulled the bag, gave it a squeeze... and checked the gravity... 1.042... way too high for a pre boil mild... the solution... we rinsed the grains, grabbed some more English hops from MAs freezer... and Bywater brown was born.   We knocked it down to 1.036 with our rinse, targeting a post boil volume of 3 gallons, and a OG of 1.046.  One thing you can count on when brewing with MA, he will always have some kind of English Hop and some Czech Saaz around... I think he puts them on his oatmeal.  Our efficiency was over 80%, so the recipe you see above is adjusted down to 75%.  

The boil was uneventful  We added hops as indicated by the recipe, at the end of the boil we just sealed up the kettle and let it cool overnight.  The next afternoon, MA transferred to the fermenter, and pitched a package of Fermentis S-04.  The beer is fermenting away, and soon, the beer will be aged for a couple of weeks on toasted Oak chips.

OK so we've been a little inactive recently.  Two of our team member have had babies in the past couple of months.   But were back with a vengeance.   You can expect lots of posts coming up.  I'm brewing 2x this weekend, I will of course post about it.   Even when we're not posting, I am still brewing.   Ive brewed a BGSA (ridiculously good), a hoppy wheat, a Citra Saison, and a Pale in recent weeks.  Increasingly, I brew 2.5 gallon batches.   There is just no reason to brew 10 gallons all the time. But 1 gallon isn't enough beer for the effort.  I think it can be argued that most brewers should brew more small batch.  Not just for experimenting, and practice, but also because this is alcohol we are talking about.   One of the hazards of our hobby is excessive consumption, and possibly alcoholism.  Obviously small batch brewing doesn't solve the inherent issues of alcoholism.. but it can shift your focus from making a whole bunch of beer, to making the very best beer.  It also costs less...  In fact, I will be posting soon about responsible home brewing, and the easiest most affordable way to make world class beer at home.   We'll be examining what is and what is not important to create world class beer at home.   I will also be sharing tips for the brewing of small batches, and for the construction of a small fermentation chamber, and a kegging in 2.5 gallon kegs.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Saison brew day featuring Cargill Malts

So it has been a while, but Saturday,  John and I gathered at his place to make 10 gallons of our flower power saison.   Flower flavored saisons  are a tradition for us in summer time.  (In the fall you may recall we make a heavily spiced saison inspired by Saison d'Pipaix.)   This years Flower power has a change from previous versions.  This year's Flower Power would be all Chamomile.   This change was inspired by John's recent trip to St. Louis, where he tried Saison de Lis... a wonderful, wonderful beer.

Can you say "Saison?"
So Saturday at 11:00 We started our brew day.   Now,  there was another special thing about this brew day.   We had the privilege of brewing with Moterij Dingeman's Pilsner Malt.   That is the real deal folks.  Dingeman's is a Cargill Partner.   As you have heard me say countless times.  If you haven't tried Cargill malts, do it.  Do it now.  The flavor is outstanding and the extraction is consistently as predicted.   Our adjunct grains were also from Cargill.    I should say now that we are so thankful to the wonderful people at Cargill for their continued support and advice.  We are rich with pilsner right now, and that is in no small part because of their support.   So in the coming weeks you can expect loads of pilsner based brews... "Children can you say lager season? I knew you could"

Our recipe was pretty straight forward.  And while John was setting up the brewery I started crushing the 20+ lbs of grain.  Now there is one change from the recipe you see below.   That being,   in the recipe below you will see German Spelt.   We actually used Meussdoerffer Spitz malt.  Spitz malt is an under modified grain which improves head retention.

We have been playing with Spitz malt as a replacement for Carapilsner in our traditional beers.  So far we are very happy with the results.

We have also had another realization that may prove beneficial to the group.  STEP MASHING IS FASTER THAN SINGLE STEP WHEN YOU ARE DOING A NO SPARGE MASH.   That's right.  I said it.  And I own it.  

We have a beast of a burner.  So no lack of heat
in our brewery.  12" / 231 K Btu.
Listen, we are blessed to have a 12" banjo burner, that puts out incredible amounts of heat.   And heating 14.5 gallons of water from ground temperature to strike temperature... just flat out sucks.   It takes forever... We can recirculate, we can stir, we can make sacrifices to the heat gods... doesn't matter.  The laws of thermodynamics are still, laws.  They dictate that water can only heat up so fast. They also dictate that the total amount of time for heating, per kCal / Btu is linear.   So why not put that energy to work earlier, especially if it makes better beer.  

You know what doesn't take forever?  Heating 5 gallons of water.  And we can have 3 separate burners that can heat  5-7 gallons to a rocking and ready state as brew day begins.    And the first addition doesn't even have to be boiling.   The first addition only has to be hot enough to start a protein rest.   Here's an example below.

For this recipe we have 22 lbs of grain.   We absorb about .08 gallons per pound after a gentle squeeze.   We loose 1.5 gallons to the boil.   We loose .5 a gallon in general.   This is a recipe for 11 gallons.   So we need 14.76 gallons of water treated, heated, and ready to roll.   To start off the day we will heat 6.76 gallons of water to 134.5 F.  We will dough in there and rest for 20 minutes.   During that time we bring 2.55 gallons to a boil, then infusion mash in bringing our mash rest temperature up to 146 F where we rest for 35 minutes,   then 1.85 gallons of boiling water to bring the mash up to 156 F for 15 minutes.  Then 3.6 Gallons boiling water to reach mash out.  And that's it.   That is our total volume of water.  The mash is so well converted after our basic step mash that we just drain and boil.   And yes I am telling  you this is faster than heating 14.76 gallons of water to the temperature necessary for a single step mash.   And unless you have a high powered electric brewing system,  It is faster for you as well. Don't argue this point, try it.  it is physics.   The laws of physics are not up for argument on a home brew blog site.

The thick Beta Glucan rest.
So we stepped in and came to rest at 125 for a protein rest.  We rested there for 20 minutes.   The protein rest was thick and milky... that is good.  That means the gummy substance betaglucan is being broken down.   Breaking down betaglucan will result in more effective starch conversion, more complete attenuation, and more clear beer.   We have written about this comprehensively in our step mashing series.  The links are to your right.

The mash after the final infusion. 
The brewery / garage filled with a wonderful bready aroma.  The aroma of a world class pislner malt.   Listen, all pilsner smells great when you mash in (for that matter all grain smells pretty darn good when you mash in).  But great pilsner is especially potent.  And this Moterij Dingeman's Pilsner Malt,  well let's just say Cargill has a winner on their hands.

After 20 minutes we added 2.55 gallons of boiling water to the mash tun.  And we rose to 146 F. This is our main saccrification rest.  We held at this step for 40 minutes.

As you can see the mash goes from extremely thick to very thin.  But that is ok.  Using our process we save a tremendous amount of time and actually produce better beer.   Our final infusion brought us to 156 F where we rested for 15 minutes.

Draining the wort, with Bella
the brew dog. 
Now we are no sparge brewers.   We started doing no sparge a year ago and we have never looked back.  We are seeing efficiency at 72.5% every batch.  We have our process locked in.  But, today we overshot.   Our initial gravity was supposed to be 1.045 and it was 1.055.   That's 85% efficiency.   All I can figure is that the Moterij Dingeman's Pilsner Malt extracts like crazy in a step mash. Remember in a step mash that includes a beta glucan rest, you are removing the gummy beta glucans and the amylase is more effective.... It also tasted amazing. 

So we drained our mash and started the boil.  The power of our burner makes boiling a breeze.  In fact, we have to watch to boil to make sure we don't boil off too much.   But we light the flame and put the spurs to it as soon as the first of our wort is in the kettle.

The boil was uneventful until the addition of the organic chamomile tea pods. When those went in the entire garage brewery filled with the magical floral smell of chamomile.   Listen to me round eye.  Do not spend big money on chamomile.  Organic chamomile tea is 100% chamomile flowers.  That is all it is.  There is no reason to go to a spice store or a specialty merchant.  just go get 1 ounce of organic chamomile tea at Walmart.  Simply make sure it is just 100% chamomile.

Normally we chill with our Jaded Hydra chiller.  But this time we decided to do a no chill.   We just thought it would be cool to leave the chamomile steeping for an extended period of time.

John and Boomer
brew buddies.
The next day we pitched 1.5 packs of Belle Saison.  (.75 packs per batch)  We are big believers in making saison yeast suffer a bit.   We know from our experience that our batches that are "under pitched" and our batches that ferment warm, with temperature swings up and down produce the best saisons.

As of today the batches are bubbling away.  I am looking forward to having these on hand for the summer.   These along with my recent IPAs and my "cascadian summer" saison will be the basis of my summer beer menu.

Big thanks to Cargill for their on going support.  If you have never tried their malts, I can't encourage you enough.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

East Coast IPA Brew Day... and Vertical Tasting of Boulevard Rye on Rye.

The team gathering in the
garage with Bailey the
On Saturday morning the team gathered for an epic brew day.   We were determined to brew our version of an East Coast IPA.   10 gallons of hoppy deliciousness.   The recipe was set out in the previous post.  Basically a whole lot of Mosaic, Citra, and Cascade, with a touch of Warrior, and Simcoe, to add some bitterness on the front and in the middle.

Beth and Mashy Hoppinton
visited during brew day.  What
a cool mom, notice the beer.
This was a fairly medium gravity brew, only 22.5 lbs of grain.   The base grain was Vienna 20 lbs, and the only other additions are  2.5 lbs of wheat malt, and 1 cup of white flour (to make it murky).  The flour is the wild card,  we have never done that before.  We have never tried to make a beer cloudy before.   It was a real weird feeling, adding something to the mash for the express purpose of making a beer appear cloudy.  All of our grains came from Cargill.   The Vienna from Cargill is amazing stuff.  Malty and bready... gives an awesome back bone for a hoppy beer.  Meussdoerffer Vienna... We have made ECIPAs in the past with pale ale, or two row malt, and they were delicious, but the Vienna adds something that can stand up to all those hops.    

22 lbs of crushed grains about
to go into a 100 quart no sparge
mash tun. 
We crushed the grains fine  (35 mils) the day before at a friends who has a seriously big mill.   Like the kind you see at a home brew shop... But like an idiot, I left the grains in the car overnight, so they were at 51 F as we started the brew day.   We know from experience that when we brew no sparge in our cooler we loose about 7 F.   Even if we pre heat the mash tun.  So our software suggested we should be at 160 F Strike, so we added our grains first and then added 165 F water.    John had treated the water with Camden,  Lactic (2ml) and Calcium Chloride 2 g.   Our pH settled in nicely at 5.2, at temperature, so it was probably closer to 5.4 or 5.5... which is fine with us.

Brew in a bag in a mash tun
our favorite way to brew.
We know that 5 F to 6 F over
strike temperature will hit
our strike temp every time. This
cooler has a door in the lid, so
we can stir during the mash.
The mash went well.  We stirred every 15 minutes.   Our mash tun has a door on the top of the lid that we can open with out losing too much heat.  Our mash temps remained perfect at 149 to 152 F for the entire 60 minutes of the mash.   And we ended up overshooting by .004... which means we got 77% efficiency on a no sparge, brew in a bag, in a cooler... pretty darn cool.  This is by far the easiest and fastest way to brew.  Even with our complex boil schedule.  We were done brewing in 3.5 hours.   Although the brew day was much longer, due to bottling 20 gallons of beer, and the vertical tasting.

East coast IPAs are fun to brew, and relatively easy.  The boil went as planned due in no small part to organization of the ingredients, and preparation.   Jake got the group more disposable plastic cups for measuring hop additions.  The cups were labeled  and set out in order.  There was well over a pound of hops going into this 10 gallon hop monster.

Jaded hydra is the king of
all worth chillers.. pay heed
and homage!
The fun thing about the ECIPA style is so many of the hops go in at the end of the boil, and there are hop additions during the wort chill.  We made our flame out additions and then we used our trusty Jaded Hydra to chill the batch to 180 F.  At 180 F we added more hops and let them whirl pool for 30 minutes.  Then we chilled the batch to pitching temperatures.  The jaded hydra makes chilling the entire batch lightning fast.  It chilled from 212 F to  179 F in under a minute.  Of course cool ground water temperatures helped a lot.

10.5 gallons in the
chamber turning in to awesome
Early in the day, John re hydrated three packs of US05.  They were ready to rock and roll when we pitched.   As of today (Tuesday) Both batches are fermenting well in the fermentation chamber at 65 F.  Tonight Jake and John will add 1 ounce of Mosaic, Citra, and Cascade to the fermenters.   In a couple of days the batch fermentation temperature will be raised to 68 F to encourage complete fermentation, then in a week another charge of dry hops.   The second dose of dry hops will only be exposed to the beer for 3 or 4 days.   Then it will be time for packaging.   We package beer when it is ready.  Well how do you know it is ready.   It is really simple,  take a gravity sample.   Take a sample and when it is at terminal gravity let it sit a couple of days to clean up.  That is all it takes.

We should be drinking this beer in about 2.5 to 3 weeks.   Can't wait.  This one should be great.

At the end of the brew day, after all clean up, we gathered in the house for a vertical tasting of Boulevard Rye on Rye.   2012 through 2016.    If you are not familiar with Boulevard's smoke stack series... Smoke Stack brews from boulevard are made on their smaller original brewing system.  And they are world class.   This is where Boulevard makes their limited release beers.  This is where Boulevard brewers are encouraged to experiment.   This is where Tank 7, and Lovechild, and Tell Tale Tart were born.  And Boulevard Rye on Rye is an outstanding beer.  It is a Rye Beer, aged in Rye Barrels.

We all had different impressions.   My favorite was the 2015.  It still had some of the Spicy Rye character.   I think everyone else preferred the 2014 version.   Love this beer, and I am thankful that my brewing partners can store and save beer.  I don't seem to have that discipline.   If you have never tried it, stop what you are doing and go get some.

Friday, November 11, 2016

How to make a ridiculous IPA - East Coast IPA...

So over the past year we have done a lot of research into what makes an IPA taste the way an IPA taste.   We have talked with experts at BSG and Yakima Valley Hop Union about hops, and hop oils, isomerization, and flavor.  We have shared with you all the technology of Scott Janish's  Hop Oil Calculator.  And we have brewed a whole bunch of IPAs.

But now it is time to really apply what we have learned to an everyday, medium gravity IPA.   Sure, we designed and brewed Hoptonite.  And we are so flattered that so many of you have downloaded this monster and brewed this beast.    And it is an amazing beer.   But you don't always want a high alcohol, extremely high IBU beer.   And that brings us to this weekend's recipe.   "Persuasion IPA"

With Persuasion we are bringing the knowledge we learned in the ridiculous double IPA series and applying it to what we have learned to an East Coast IPA.   Yes, we are the first to acknowledge that ECIPAs are sweeping the brewing world faster than beanie babies swept through the early 1990s.  Yes, we acknowledge that this is the latest brewing fad.  But... who really cares.  The ECIPA is more than a fad it is a delicious beer.   Here is our take on it.  Backed by the research we have done.  Loads of late hops, loads of whirlpool hops.  and two additions of dry hops.   First addition before fermentation (so the yeast can work on the hop oils), second addition after active fermentation (for pure traditional dry hop goodness).

And here is what it will taste like according to Scott Janish.  If you are not using the hop oils calculator on you are missing out.  It is the best way to predict the flavor and aroma of your late hop additions.  

Friday, November 4, 2016

Coming soon to Counterbrew

So this is an exciting week at Counterbrew.   John and Beth had a beautiful healthy baby girl who they named... "Hoppy Mash Paddle"... just kidding this is a public blog, did you really think I would give out the child's name. Despite my best efforts, they did not name her "David, Jake, Mark Anthony".  So the writing and the editing is down a little bit this week, hope you all can cut us some slack.

In the brewery.

The KBS clone has been transferred to secondary on oak chips that were soaked in quality bourbon. This beer should be amazing.  Really looking forward to enjoying it by a fire place with snow falling out side.

The golden boy sour - remember the disaster batch from over a year ago?  Well it got hit with brettanomyces dregs from Boulevard Love Child series - it is ready for bottling.  The problem is we need to make a new wort to put on top of it, and life is crazy right now.   I may see if MA can brew on Sunday afternoon. Then we'll just bottle and pitch sometime next week.   We may make a simple partial mash.  (OK we are brewing a celebration batch next weekend.  While we do that I will brew a wort to go on top of the sour. Just a simple heavy adjunct wort with lots of corn and oats to give the brett something to work on over the next 6 months)

The Saison Brett is not quite ready yet - but it is getting close.   We are monitoring it and tasting.  At this point we are just waiting for that perfect flavor to develop.

Mark Anthony was a trooper last night.  He took the time to clean the brewery, and divide up the spoils of brewing.   Here is what we all got from recent brewing activities.

4 bombers each of Bourbon Barrel Quad
6 12 ounce Festbiers
3 bombers, 5 bottles of standard BDSA
10 pumpkin ales
6 bombers two hearted ale clones
4 bombers of  Karma Citra
7 grapefruit Sculpin clone

That is a lot of beer.  Just in time for the holidays.

Coming soon

Here is what is coming up for the blog.   First I am very excited to be doing an advanced series on Malt and mashing.  We will be joined by industry experts from Cargill to take a much deeper look at what makes malt taste the way malt tastes.  So many of you know so much about yeast and hops, but really next to nothing about the chemical composition of malt.  Does it matter?  You bet your mash tun it does.

We will also be doing two more episodes in the actual truth about yeast series with Kevin Lane of Fermentis.  The first one will be on maximizing attenuation, and the second on blending yeasts. Really exciting stuff.  So stay tuned.

We will also be getting back to brewing more beer.  There are some exciting developments on that as well, as we launch our new 10 Gallon BIAB Recirculating system.
So stay tuned, keep on brewing, and remember brewing is 45% Cleaning 45% learning, and 10% brewing.

Friday, October 28, 2016

A beer geek guide to step mashing - Even more advanced information.

"Enzymes are the real control panel of mashing." -  The great and powerful Brewer X

The most common questions we field on this blog are related to step mashing and I know it can be confusing. We clearly have touched on something with this topic. To be honest I am surprised that more of you don't know more about step mashing.  After all, in the old days we had to step mash. We have written about this process a lot, but it is important to go back and clarify some things and to review what we have learned already.

In this modern home brew world you have been taught that mash temperature is a dial that you can turn up or turn down in order to create the wort that you want to create. Turn it up to create more mouth feel; turn it down to create more fermentability.  You have been told that modern well modified malts do not need a multi step mash, and that it is kinda a waste of your time to do a 2 hour multi-step mash... and I am here to tell you... all of those statements are kinda true.  Kinda, but not entirely true.

"What? OK, once again I got on your blog and you are giving me almost truths, and cloistered mysterious statements, just tell me what to do..."

Ok, I will tell you what to do. The first thing I want you to do is, quit looking for absolute procedures and rules. Intstead.... Learn.  Brewing is 45% cleaning,  45% learning, and 10% brewing.  So the most important thing to do right now, as you are reading this blog, is learn.  Learn about the major enzymes that we as brewers use to control our mash and get the desired results.  Learn that there are so many more enzymes at work in your mash than just alpha and beta amylase.  Learn that enzymes work in temperature ranges not at absolute specific temperatures.   If you are determined to do only single step mashes... well then go read another blog today.  It wont hurt my feelings.   I've said it before I know an award winning brewer who mashes everything he brews at 150 F. (65.5 C).   Doesn't matter what style.... 150 F.  He makes grain or sugar additions to make up for what he is not getting from the mash.   Who am I to say he is wrong.   So learn what works best for you.  For me,  I enjoy step mashing and the benefits that it yields.

Here is the truth, as I understand it.  When you brew with modern well modified malt, you do not have to do a step mash.  The mash will convert just fine at the temperatures you are accustomed to using.  Higher temperatures will produce a wort with slightly more mouth feel.  Lower temperatures will produce a wort with slightly more fermentability.  But only SLIGHTLY.  As Marshall Schott, the Brulosopher showed us on Brulosophy, the difference between a wort that finishes at 1.005, and 1.014 is not reliably perceived by the human taste mechanism.

Here is why.  When you are only using alpha and beta amylase to create mouth feel, or adding grains with more proteins, you are asking sugars to do the job of medium chain amino acids, and sugar isn't very good at doing this job.  That is the problem with this approach... you can't make a highly attenuative beer with a luxurious mouth feel.  Don't argue this point, it cannot be done, once again if you don't believe me read the Brulosophy article linked above.  The human taste mechanism can not perceive the difference.  As an example, I will present our Desir Tripel.  Desir is a 1.084 OG beer,  It drops to 1.014.  That is 83% attenuation.  But when you drink it, it is luxurious and rich.  The last batch was almost too rich- almost cloying.  Comments from random tasters and BJCP judges universally called the batch sweet.  And obviously, at 83.33% attenuation, it wasn't sweet at all.  But the perception of sweetness associated with rich mouth feel pervades our community like a cancer.  (Rant warning!  We used to know better.  But we have all been brewing single mash rest so long, that we have forgotten what a rich beer tastes like.  The association of mouth feel and sweetness is a problem in our hobby.  And that is because of single step mashing.  But I'm not bitter.).  Next time we'll shorten the protein rest and increase the hops slightly.

So the temperature of a single step mash is one way you can create the beer you want.  But an even better way?  Multi-step Mashing.  But to multi-step mash you have to know what the enzymes do, and how they can help you make the beer you want.  And to do that, you have to know what enzymes are, and a little bit about how they work.

What is an enzyme?

Representation of an Enzyme
An enzyme is a protein.  A protein that works on other components of your mash.  And like most proteins that act as catalysts,  the proteins in your mash are trying to stick to another component, and change it in some way.  For our purposes, the proteins are trying to break things up.  The enzymes can work on starches, proteins, and sugars in your mash.  For the most part the enzymes that we care about in your mash are Amino Acids (most proteins are but some are RNA).  The enzymes do not actually eat away at the sugars... I know you all think of them like pac man... but they are not alive and they are not eating.  They are just proteins.  They actually bond to different sugars (based on their shapes) and break them apart.  The enzymes are hydrophilic, and they themselves change when a water molecule "bumps" into them. They then break apart the sugars, or the proteins, or the starches, to which they are attached.  (By the way, the fact that enzymes are hydrophilic is a good thing.  It is the reason we can do decoction mashes, more on this in another post)

More than one enzyme can be active at any given time.  And this is a really good thing.  That means more than one process can be going on at a time. 

A catalyst is just a name for a component of a biological or chemical reaction that creates a change of some kind.  For our purposes, the proteins are almost always breaking things apart.  By understanding what the various enzymes are and what they do, you can truly fine tune and control a mash.  Remember, brewing is not about following some exact protocol that you read on some crazy man's blog.  Brewing is about learning- learning your system, and learning how things behave on your system.  It may shock you that when I brew a hefe on my system I know that my protein rest needs to be 32 minutes.  Not 31, not 34.  32 minutes.  Why?  Because that created the exact taste I wanted, several times in a row, at my old house, with my old water profile.  Now... that I have moved, all bets are off.  I'll have to re-learn what is perfect at my new place.  For our BDSA at John's house, I think we all agree that 30 minutes was a little too much, but 20 was not enough.  So next time we will be extending the protein rest to 25 minutes and seeing how that tastes.  See? it is all about learning... and cleaning...

So the important question, what enzymes are we concerned with in brewing?

The ACID rest:  Temperature Range 95 F to 113 F,  (35 to 45 C0  Active Enzyme Phytase, Glucanase

Ok, during an acid rest there are two potential enzymes working: Phytase and Glucanase.  (And honestly you can pretty much ignore one of them).  Phytase works actively on a molecule found in grains called phytin.  It creates phytic acid which can and will lower your mash pH.  But it takes a long time (60 minutes) and really only does well in soft water.  If you ever want to do a true, rustic brew with minimal additions, this is the way to lower pH without chemicals.  It is also a pain in the ass and takes forever.  It is much easier to add some Acid, or Acidulated Malt to the grist.  

The real reason to do a rest at this temperature is to break down beta glucans (gummy gelatin gunk). Beta Glucan is a gummy carbohydrate that surrounds the starch molecule of a grain.  They get in the way of the amylase and other enzymes, and glucans are the chief contributor to chill haze in your beer.  A brief rest at these temperature ranges will allow glucanase to break down the Beta Glucans.  End result- clearer beer and slightly better conversion.  Especially important for wheat and rye.  When you do a Beta Glucan Rest your wort will be very milky, that is normal and good.    

The PROTEIN rest:  Temperature Range 113 -138 F (45 to 59 C),  Active Enzymes Proteinase, Peptidase

Why perform an protein rest?  Well, you perform a protein rest if you want to accomplish one of two things: you want more clarity or you actually want a phenolic expression in your beer.  You should view the two protein related enzymes differently.  They work at different temperatures.  Both of these enzymes are referred to as protease enzymes.  You may hear that term thrown around as well. 

Proteinase works at 131 F to 138 F (55 to 59 C) and is thought to reduce haze without reducing body.  It breaks long chain amino acids into medium chain amino acids.  You want medium chain amino acids in your beer.  They improve the mouth feel of your beer.   They can create a luscious beer that isn't overly sweet.  I for one really appreciate this quality in a beer.  If  you are looking for clarity, without a loss in mouth feel, you should consider a mash rest that maximizes Proteinase action (around 136 F). 

Peptidase works at 113 F to 128 F. (45 to 53 C)  Peptidase breaks medium chains into their components.  So if you want to express maximum esters or phenols in a Hefe weis or in a BSDA, you really should consider a protein rest around 115 F.  The key acid you are trying to maximize is called Ferulic acid.  A Peptidase rest will help you maximize it's availability.  Then all you have to do is use a yeast that is POF+ or phenolic off flavor positive.  And do not worry, if you are not trying to create these esters, just choose a yeast that is not POF+.  

Review: what we have learned so far is that a rest at 113 F (45 C), followed by a rest at 136 F (57.5 C), would be a really good idea if you want to make a very clear beer with good mouth feel and still have a highly efficient mash. 

The Saccharification Rest; Temperature range 132 F to 162,  (55.5 C to 72 C) Active Enzymes; Beta Amylase, and Alpha Amylase

Most of you are already familiar with the Sac rest.  You already are using temperatures in this range to craft your delicious home brew.  This is the main activity going on in the mash.  The main thing we are concerned with- conversion of starches to sugars.  And it happens more quickly than you may think.  Most amylase conversion is done with in the first 25 minutes.  But if you want to maximize conversion we strongly suggest you stir your mash every 10 to 15 minutes and rest for at least 45 minutes.  We have used this approach to get over 90% efficiency on Brew in a Bag, with a sparge rinse, multiple times.

Beta Amylase
Beta Amylase only works from the ends of carbohydrate molecules.  Beta amylase is active from about 132 F (55 C) to about 151 F (66 C).  A long rest at optimum beta amylase temperatures can produce a highly fermentable wort that will finish dry.  It works by breaking the first bond of a carbohydrate molecule.  It literally breaks a carbohydrate into two sugars (maltose) at a time.  Beta amylase is present in every seed or grain.  Alpha amylase and the protease enzymes are not present prior to malting.  That is in fact why we malt barley.  The ideal pH for Beta Amylase is 4.0 to 5.0.  The pH of 5.2 is an arbitrary number that strikes a balance between the needs of alpha and beta amylase and seems to create the most efficient wort... bet you didn't know that... Remember beta amylase can not break up the longer chains of starch.  Only alpha amylase can do this.   

Alpha Amylase
Alpha amylase breaks down long-chain starches and carbohydrates.  Alpha amylase is active from about 150 F (65 C) to about 163F (72.7 C).  The optimum temperature is around 156 F (68.8 C).  A rest at alpha amylase will slightly improve the mouth feel of a beer.  It creates Maltose and maltoriose.  An interesting fact about Alpha amylase is that it is completely unable to function in the absence of calcium.  It works by attaching to random locations along a starch chain.  Because it can act anywhere on a carbohydrate molecule alpha amylase tends to be faster acting than beta amylase.   Alpha amylase ideal pH is 6.7–7.0, 

An enzyme after mash out.
The MASH OUT rest: Temperature range 168 F +, Active Enzymes - none.  
The point of the mash out is to turn off the enzymes.  The brewing enzymes are, in fact, proteins.  Like all proteins they are trying to bind to something; trying to work on something; trying to interact.  By raising the temperature above 168 F, you are damaging the working parts of the enzymes and basically turning them off.  This is called denaturing proteins.  They can no longer act on the starches and proteins.   By doing this you create a less viscous ( Less thick) wort and a wort that will flow more completely and with more of its desired sugars and flavors into your boil kettle.  Again this is a fact, there is no reason to argue it.  You can argue whether or not it is worth it, but you can't argue the science behind the reasoning. 

So I took this from the previous post.  Here are some time tested proven step mash programs.  I have used them all.  They all work.  And yes, they take longer.  If you have an automated system then these are a walk in the park for you.  If not, you'll have to do some math.  Fortunately Brewersfriend has a great infusion calculator for you to use.    If you are infusion step mashing you will need this calculator open on brew day. 

If you are not familiar with infusion step mashing, you should get your self familiar with it.  Basically you start with a thick mash, and add boiling water to the mash to raise the temperature.  It is actually faster than most recirculating mash systems. Boiling water additions are faster than a heating element.

A Step Mash for clarity and body.
100 F for 20 minutes
134 F for 20 minutes
145 F for 30 minutes
155 F for 20 minutes
168 F for 10 minutes

A Step Mash for maximum phenolic expression.
100 F for 20 minutes
113 F for 35 minutes
134 F for 10 minutes
150 F for 30 minutes
168 F for 10 minutes

A simple step mash for maximum extraction of sugar
100 F for 20 minutes
150 F for 45 minutes
168 F for 10 minutes

Step mash for dry beer - dry stout & dry lager like ales
145 F for 30 minutes
152 F for 50 minutes
158 F for 30 minutes
168 F for 10 minutes

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Clone Wars; Designing Home Brew Recipes

Hello all.  John here.  Today, I am going to tell you all about my approach to cloning beers.  I am not afraid to admit it.  When I began my home brewing saga, my buddy and I had no idea what  we were doing.  We knew we liked super hoppy IPAs but also wanted to make beer that would appeal the general public.  Our first attempt was an Irish Red, which we had really high hopes to become the "next big thing" in the home brewing community.  I am not sure what we were thinking...we knew next to nothing about brewing beer.  The end result of our effort was a terrible overly sweet batch of first time home brew.  Fast forward 18 months, we have advanced quite a bit, by using one method to help us connect to our beer on a higher level.  We design all of our recipes from top to bottom, start to finish.  We plan the malt, the yeast, the hops, and the water every single time.

Now I am certainly not the first person to post about designing a home brew recipe, but maybe I can shed some light on my process to make it less intimidating for those looking to "up their game".  The easiest way I can explain it is, I work backwards.  I start thinking about what I want the finished product to be like.  It is not too different from that coach you had in middle school that told you envision that buzzer-beating shot going in, or your boss telling you to dream about  your next sale.  If you know where you want to get to, it is pretty easy to complete the process to get to the promise land.

Plan your beer, take comprehensive records.
First thing first, write down what you want your beer to taste, smell, and look like.  Once we have accomplished this, we turn to several trusty internet tools to help us put the structure together.  Our group uses or for recipe construction and we begin to pull in the ingredients desired to meet the agreed upon results.  Brewtoad is easier to use.  Brewersfriend is more comprehensive.  Our brew sensei often uses Beersmith, it is the penultimate brewing program.  This includes our malt bill (all-grain brewers here), hop additions, yeast selection, and any other additives or adjuncts we would like to add to the batch.  After pulling in the ingredients, the recipe tool you choose should begin auto-populating the parameters of the beer; including Original Gravity, Final Gravity, SRM (Color), and ABV%.

I would say that this guys clone looks pretty dang close!
Todays Recipe:  Pilsner Urquell - Now if you are not familiar with Pilsner Urquell, it is the world's first, and arguably best light colored lager.  Pilsner Urquell was developed in Plzen Czechloslovakia, in the state of Bohemia.  That is where the term Pilsner, and the term Bohemian Lager originate from.  It is perhaps the most influential beer in history, and is the inspiration for 2/3rds of the beer produced in the world today.  It literally changed everything about how beer is brewed.   Before Pilsner Urquell there were no light colored lagers.  Now historians argue as to whether or not there were even lagers before Pilsner Urquell, but there we definitely no golden pilsners.   Apparently prior to 1840 the beer in Plzen was so bad that in 1840 the city burghers ordered 36 casks of the beer to be poured out, and a new brewery to be built.  The people of the town invested in the new brewery, and helped build it.  They then hired Joseph Groll (a Bavarian) to come to Plzen and develop a new beer for their new brewery.  On November 11th 1842, Pilsner Urquell was first served at the feast of St. Martin.   And very little has changed about it over the years.   It is still fermented in open oak casks.  It is lagered in underground tunnels carved from the earth for the purpose of lagering.  The lagering tanks are oak, and are coated with pine tar pitch.  The boilers and mash tuns are coal fired, and are made of copper.   When you drink this beer you are drinking history.

We are fortunate to live in a large metropolitan area with some great beer bars.  One of the best is called Bier Station.   And on Friday the 14th of October, Bier Station hosted a great event.  Pilsner Urquell, unfiltered and un-pasteurized.  Wow!  This beer is good the way we get it here in the states. But holy cow was it good unfiltered and unpasteurized, fresh and balanced, malty and hoppy. The good news... We can make this beer when ever we want we just need to find and perfect a reliable recipe.

Pils Urquell unfiltered
and un pasturized was
an amazing experience.
So, where to find a reliable clone recipe? Well, here are some good sources for clone recipes. - Brew Your Own Magazine.  The American Homebrewer's Association (AHA) , major bloggers (like this one, Brulosophy, The madfermentationist, Bear Flavored, and Scott Janish.)  On these blogs you will find a whole treasure trove of carefully vetted and award winning brewers and brewing recipes.  You will also find helpful articles and tips.  The recipe we chose to start with was Michael Tonsmiere's Pils Urquel clone.  Well known blog (themadfermentationist).  Michael Tonsmiere is a great authority on sour beers.  His book is a valuable resource for those of you who want to dabble in sour beer making.  So it may surprise you that we chose a lager recipe from him.  But we know the caliber of brewer that he is, and we knew that we could use this recipe as a starting point for developing our own version.

Now a lot of you begin your cloning career by just choosing a recipe and brewing it, with no modifications.   Here is the problem with that,  you need to be modifying that clone to fit your brewing style and your brewing system.  We get 73.24% from no sparge, we get 77.8% from a decoction no sparge. We lose 1 gallon of trub in a 10 gallon batch.  We boil off 1 gallon per hour, so 1.5 in a 90 minute boil.  If we want 11 gallons into the fermenters we have to boil 13.5 gallons. Michael gets about the same efficiency as we do, but not exactly the same efficiency.  So we will have to adjust the grain bill for our slightly higher efficiency.

Now pilsner Urquell is entirely Saaz Hops. So no problem there, easy to source.  But we need to modify the hop bill as well.  This is the biggest mistake that brewers make when trying to clone a beer.   The don't modify for the current alpha acids of this years crop of hops. And if you don't modify for current acids, your beer can be way off.   Here is an example. The alpha acid units are calculated by taking the ounces x the alpha acid percentage.  So 1 ounce of a 10% alpha acid hop is 10 AAUs.  2 ounces would be 20 units.  But alpha acids change from year to year.  And sometimes radically.   Saaz was 9.9% in 2015, it is usually about 3.75% obviously in 2015 we needed less hops. So here is how you calculate for correct replacement.   1 ounce of 3.75 AA% hops = 3.75 AAUs.   So to get 3.75 AAUs of 9.9% Alpha Acid Saaz you only need.  .378 ounces.   .378 ounces x 9.9 = 3.75 AAUs (alpha acid units).   Always calculate your alpha acid units.

Modifying the recipe for special ingredients, or special characteristics of the brewery.  In the case of Pilsner Urquell,  they ferment open in oak barrels, and then they lager in pine tar pitch lined barrels.   This lends the beer a unique character.  Well obviously we are not going to do that.  But we may to a semi open fermentation. just covering the fermenter loosely with a towel affixed with a bungee cord.  We may also sanitize some oak chips and put them in during fermentation.  That should create similar fermentation and similar atmospheres of pressure, and still keep the nasties out.  But some of the traditions of the brewery can only be replicated with common sense on a home brew level. Obviously we are not going to line our fermenters with pine tar pitch.  So how do we replicate that on the home brew level?   A touch of smoked malt, should do the trick in this recipe for duplicating the pine tar character..  How much... well that is the fun of the cloning process.   We wont know until we try it.  We do know that you do not taste smoke when you drink a pilsner urquel, but there is a unique character.  So we will only add a tiny amount, an ounce or two.  We have loads of saaz hops, so in all likelihood we will make 10 gallons and ferment 5 gallons with our traditional method, and 5 gallons with our changes (intended to replicate the brewery).  Is it necessary to replicate the brewery?  No, but it is fun.

Choosing the right yeast.   Does it really matter? Yes, and no.  In some beers is is critical.  In some beers the yeast is a big part of the character of the beer.  In most lagers, the yeast is not a predominant feature of the beer.  So Yes, a lager strain is needed.  And No, the strain you use is not really that critical.   We prefer Fermentis 34/70 for almost all of our lagers.  And 34/70 is a dependable reliable yeast.  This amazing lager strain can make authentic lagers (not hybrid or mock lagers, actual lagers) at 60 F.   This has been displayed by many blogs, including this one.  Now, you need to know that Pilsner Urquell has a malty sweet finish, and a touch of sulphur.  So with a Pilsner Urquell you need to consider stopping the fermentation a couple of gravity points higher than the terminal gravity, and if we don't get the yeast character we want, we will use Saflager S189 next time (it has a touch of sulphur).   You can halt fermentation easily with a good cold crash.  But in our case, we will be bottling these beers so we will just let it finish out and then we will count on a certain amount of sweetness from the bottle conditioning.  Remember we are trying to make this as similar to the golden unfiltered, unpasturized lager we got to try at Bier Station.

The recipe.  Our inspiration can be found here.  And here is our final recipe modified for this years hops, and for our efficiency.   Is this the ultimate final version of our recipe?  No, of course not.  But it will be fantastic beer that we will enjoy.  We will also take notes and talk about how to change it to be exactly what we want it to be.  We often start out trying to clone a recipe and then end up deciding not to continue the cloning process. Electing instead to focus on another aspect of the beer, and focus on making the beer exactly what we want it to be, rather than copying the original beer.  As you review this recipe you can see that we made subtle changes to Mike's original recipe.

Dave jumping in here.   Now you may notice that this is a triple decoction recipe.  If you are not familiar with decoction, I really encourage you to go back and read this blog.  And read this blog.  Oh, and watch this video.  Decoction is not hard, once you learn what you are doing.   Basically you are going to do a multi step mash, and to raise the temperature of each step, you are going to remove 2/3rds of the grain in the mash tun and decoct it.  That means you are going to bring it to 150 -155 F for 10 minutes, and then to a boil for 15 - 20 minutes.  You will need to stir constantly.  If you are a new brewer, this might not be the recipe to try to learn decoction on.   So In that case just mash for 60 minutes starting at 156 F and letting your mash fall naturally in temperature over 60 minutes.  At the end of the mash remove 1/2 of the grains and bring them to a boil, stirring constantly for 15 minutes, then add them back into the main mash before draining, and or sparging.  So your total mash time will be close to 75 minutes.  This process is called a false decoction.  It will get you very close in terms of color and mouth feel.

That's all for today. Thanks for reading.