Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Wine HACKING part 1... Using Kits and Concentrates to make great wine at home.

So obviously here at Counter Brew we are mostly focused on beer.  But,  I also have a passion for great wine.  Not just drinking it, but also reading about it, and making it.  For most beer dudes, wine has kind of a negative stature.  After all, we all know the "fake ass" wine snobs who claim they can detect a hint of "lemon balm softened by a touch of french milk chocolate" in a glass of average Cabernet.   But, you'll find that people who actually know and love wine, are kinda like home brewers, they are happy to talk and share what they know about wine.  And they are happy to help you appreciate wine more completely.  And wine appreciation is a blast.   You really can pick out all kinds of flavors if you learn how.

But this time of year we wine makers are playing the waiting game.  The harvest is months away.  Oh sure we could just grab kits at the LHBS, and there are some great kits out there.  But kit wine is kinda like the extract beer of the wine world.  It is good, but it just isn't the same.  In truth,  Home made wine is almost always delicious,  and it can be great (think Grand Cru, world class stuff).  But making kit wine is not the same as crushing the grapes, punching down the cap, pressing the wine and adjusting the acids to make the exact wine you want.  I should stress again the high end kits make world class wine, wine that would cost you $35 to $80 a bottle at the liquor store (it's that good).  But it just isn't the same as making wine from grapes.  So let me assure you if you can make beer, and you or your SWMBO enjoys good wine, you can easily make great wine from a kit at home.  Don't worry, you don't have to become a wine snob to enjoy good wine.  But you shouldn't be an anti wine guy either, you'd just be depriving yourself of a lot of fun.

freezing strawberries and using them
as ice cubes in a Strawberry wine
So what is a guy who likes to make wine to do in the summer months?  What can I make to get that wine making kick?  The answer: fruit wine.  Strawberry Moscato wine.  And that is just what I did.  I am also making a 1 gallon wine expert Pino Noir, and a 1 Gallon Merlot with Blackberries and Raspberries.  Pino Noir and Merlot are very drinkable young, so I will probably drink a bottle and age the rest for 6 months.   (UPDATE I got a hold of a Wine Expert Trinity White Kit and made it too).  In a later post I will talk about what to age and, what you don't really ever need to age.

When you make fruit wines (as we have before here on Counter Brew) you can just use the fruit to give the wine flavor and color, and table sugar to get the fermentables that you need to make the alcohol.  And that process is the standard way to make fruit and country wines.  But those wines are kinda hit or miss, and without a grape wine base, fruit wines can be kinda thin and flabby. (Even with tannin additions.)

So when I make fruit wine I generally start with a wine concentrate base or a 1 gallon kit. This gives the fruit wine more interest and rounds it out. To give you a beer comparison,  think of it this way- it is like adding 20 and 30 minute hop charges so there is no hollow area in the taste of a hoppy beer.  For strawberry wine, I usually use Moscato or Savignon Blanc ( Reisling is incredible with green apples).  I usually make 3 gallons with a can of Alexander's wine concentrate.  Alexander's Muscat will give you the gravity you need for 2 gallons of great fruit wine, you'll add sugar for the remaining gravity.   And for those of you who already make wine, yes I know Alexanders is not vintage level concentrate, but it works really well for this practice.  To be fair, I sometimes just make 1 gallon of fruit wine with a Wine Expert Kit.  Both approaches make great fruit wines.

Now it is important that you know that wine is easier to make on brew day than beer, but where beer is all about the skill of the brewer, great wine is all about the quality of the ingredients.  "World Class" wine can take years to make and age and it will never be better than the grapes (fruit) you start with.  And there are advanced techniques in wine making just like brewing.  So, if you are trying to make world class award winning wine you need to purchase the highest level kit you can afford ($175 - $200) or learn to make wine from actual wine grapes and frozen grape must and skins.  Just like brewing, you will need to learn how to adjust the acids, pH, and sugar level of your wine to make a world class wine.  Just like brewing and blending sours, you will need to learn to blend wines to make a world class wine. But have no fear Mark Anthony and I will be doing that for you all in the fall.  But today is not about world class wine, it is about the best strawberry wine you have ever had.

For easy drinking delicious fruit wines... this is the way to go.  So here is what you will need need to make a great summertime strawberry wine.  Everything is available at your local home brew store.

Memories Last - a Strawberry Moscato ( Alternatively titled - Soccer Mom)
1.074 OG
.980   FG
1.014 Back sweeten level
12%  ABV
.65 g / 100 ml  Acid Titration Level
Profile - Sweet and loaded with Strawberry flavor - Smells like fresh berries.
Color - Red and clear


  • 1 Can of Alexander's Moscato (Alexander's Muscat)
  • 4 lbs of frozen mixed berries (this will provide some interesting flavor and  deeper color Strawberry wine can turn kinda orange over time)
  • 5 lbs of fresh or frozen strawberries (very ripe but not rotting, I prefer frozen berries and it took me years to accept that they make better wine)
  • 2 - 2.5 lbs of sugar (you will have to use a hydrometer to figure this out)
  • 2 crushed Camden Tablets
  • 1.5 tsp of Pectic Enzyme
  • 1.5 T of Bentonite
  • 1 tsp of Yeast Nutrient
  • 1 tsp of Acid Blend (or exact amount needed if you can test.  Adjust wine to .65 / 100 ml acid level)
  • 1/2 tsp of wine tannin
  • Wine Yeast - Lalvin 71B 1122 is my go to for this one
  • Brewer's Gelatin or Super Clear KC - fining agent.
Equipment needed
  • 5 Gallon Food Grade Bucket with a lid and air lock. (good idea to add a racking spigot if you will be racking your wine)
  • 3 Gallon hardware store PET water jug ($7 at Walmart by the primo water)
  • Hydrometer
  • Auto siphon and tubing
  • Wine Thief or Sanitary turkey baster, or .75 inside diameter silicone tube.
  • Wire Whisk or wine whip
  • Air Lock for secondary fermenter
  • 3 1 gallon jugs with screw caps.  or 6 half gallon jugs.  
    • I am not recommending you buy an Italian floor corker quite yet.  Lets see if you enjoy this first. (I suggest the 1 gallon jugs because you can use them for pico batches of beer as well)
    • Plus if you really get into wine you will need to make 1 gallon batches of wine for blending with larger batches.
Acid Test Kit (worth it, and necessary if you get into wine)

Brew Day -
  1. Add .5 gallons of water to your sanitized fermenter add the bentonite, and with a sanitized whisk get it dissolved. 
  2. Add the Muscat concentrate 
  3. Add 2 gallons of water to the fermenter stir with whisk to get the Muscat Concentrate mixed in, check your gravity.  It will be around 1.050.   
  4. In the remaining water dissolve enough sugar to bring the gravity up to 1.070, the fruit will provide the rest.  For me it is always 4 to 5 cups of table sugar.  
    1. Remember when you are doing this you will have to account for the additional water as well.  So 2.5 gallons at 1.050 means that if you just added water to full volume your gravity would drop to 1.042.  (Because you are going from 2.5 gallons to 3 gallons.)  2.5 is 83% of 3 gallons. 1.042 is 83% of 1.050 (roughly).   So you need to add enough sugar to get your gravity up 28 points per gallon.  1 lb of sugar has 42 gravity points per pound per gallon.  so you need to add .66 lbs per gallon.  28 / 42 = .666   or 1.9998 lbs of sugar = 2 lbs.  or 4.5 cups of granulated sugar, dissolved in the .5 gallon of remaining water.
  5. Add the sugar and water to the fermenter - check gravity  you should be at about 1.070, the fruit will provide the remaining gravity points. 
  6. Add the berries to a disposable brew bag (nylon paint straining bag, 4 for 2.50 at my local ACE Hardware store in the paint area).  Tie the top closed.  If you are using frozen berries, thaw them first and don't lose that precious juice as they thaw. 
    1. I like frozen berries for this.  Half the work is done for you already and I have to tell you they tend to make better wine.  You need 3 to 3.5 lbs of berries per gallon of wine you are making.   For this batch I used fresh berries, well see how it turns out.
  7. Crush the berries with your clean and sanitized hands - get them well crushed.
  8. Add the berries to the fermenter
  9. Test the acid if you can, if not just add a tsp of acid blend.
    1. Adjust as necessary to get to .65 / 100 ml. 
  10. Add the pectic enzyme
  11. Add the wine tannin
  12. Add the crushed camden tablets (crush between two spoons) - 
  13. Cover your fermenter with a clean towel, hold it in place by setting the lid on it.
  14. Walk away for 24 to 36 hours.  Why isn't this precise?  well you have to wait for the Sulphites to off gas.  When the sulfur smell is gone, you can pitch your yeast.  
Day 2
  1. Uncover fermenter
  2. Check gravity with sanitized hydrometer, it should be deep enough to float in the must, just hold the fruit bag off to the side with a sanitary whisk. Record the Gravity
  3. Add yeast nutrient - stir in to dissolve 
  4. Add the yeast (follow the manufacturer's instructions for this) You may need to re-hydrate.
  5. Cover with towel and lid
  6. Walk away for 24 hours
Day 3-7
  1. Uncover Fermenter
  2. Check Gravity and Record
  3. Remove fruit bag to a sanitary bowl
  4. Whisk the wine - you are de gassing as you go, this isn't beer don't worry about adding oxygen at this phase.  
  5. Add the fruit and any juice that drained off back into fermenter.  Give the fruit a squeeze- I usually press it against the fermenter wall with the whisk.
  6. Cover with towel and lid
  7. Repeat
Day 8 - 1st Racking
  1.  Use your auto siphon to transfer wine to a clean and sanitized 3 gallon fermenter of your choice.
    1. This is not a wine you will age.  So PET works just fine.
    2. Make sure you squeeze all the yummy goodness out of the fruit, before you start your transfer and stir it in.   
    3. The wine is safe to taste, so go ahead and try some.
  2. Fill it as full as you can - leave only an inch or so under the air lock.  If you need to add wine, choose a light fruity wine like White Zinfandel.  I use other wine or mead I have made.
    1. Now we care about oxygen. So go easy and don't aerate the wine.
      1. This is not always the case...some big red wines you actually want to aerate at this point. 
  3. A fix and air lock and walk away for at least 2 weeks
Day 21 - 2nd - 4th Racking (OPTIONAL)
  1. If you want to clear your wine naturally (no fining agents)  you will need to let it sit and rack it a couple of times, and it will take a couple of months minimum. 
  2. Each time it is clear and lees develops on the bottom of the fermenter, transfer the wine to another 3 gallon fermenter - top it up if necessary with other wine.  I use bottle I made previously, but if you don't have those just use a cheap White Zinfandel. 
Stabilizing and Fining Your Wine
  1. Check your gravity, it should be around .990-.980
    1. If it is not, it is not done. 
  2. I do not rack fruit wine more than once - it's fruit wine not Grand Cru. If you are like me you will probably choose to stabilize and fine the wine in secondary. 
  3. To stabilize your wine you will add 1/4 tsp of potassium metabisulfite and 2.25 tsp of potassium sorbate.  
    1. Stabilizing will stop fermentation. 
      1. When a wine is stabilized you can then back sweeten the wine. 
    2. Stabilizing wine will provide preservatives for the long term storage of the wine
  4. At the same time you stabilize your wine you will want to fine the wine.  Fining makes the wine brilliantly clear.  
    1. Since you are a brewer I suggest you consider using Brewer's Gelatin to clear the wine.  
      1. Do it just like you would a batch of beer
      2. Dissolve 1 tsp Gelatin in cool water, then heat it to dissolve. Then add it to the wine.  It will clear just fine at room temperatures. 
  5. Add your fining agent to the wine and stir / degas.  this is when you degas the wine.  This is when you hook the whip up to your drill and go to town.  Your goal is to get all of the CO2 out of the wine.   You may need to rack a gallon of the wine to another container while you de gas, so that there is room for the bubbles and the spinning wine. 
  6. Walk away for a week.  When you return the wine should be brilliantly clear.
Back sweetening and Bottling
  1. Transfer the wine to your sanitized bottling bucket.
  2. Fruit wines taste best with some sweetness.  I generally back sweeten to 1.014. You may prefer more or less.  
  3. To do this you have to calculate how much sugar to add, just like above.   
    1. Most of the time you are going from 0.0098 to 1.0140, that is  .0042 gravity points per gallon.   1 lb of sugar has 42 gravity points per gallon.   So you need to add .1 pound of sugar per gallon, or .68 cups of sugar dissolved in a warm liquid of your choice, I actually usually use another wine I have made for this but you can use water.
  4. When the wine is back sweetened to your liking, it is time to bottle.
  5. Drain your wine into the 1 gallon (or half gallon) glass jugs.  Put the screw cap on the jugs. 
    1. If you are able to cork, then really you probably already know how to do this. 
  6. Fruit Wine is ready for drinking as soon as you bottle it.
Well beer nerds, that's it.  That is how you make awesome wine from fruit. It is a lot of fun, and it makes a reliably delicious batch of home made fruit wine. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

But first a HOP BOMB!

I have always loved Raspberry Wheat beer. Say what you will
but when it is done right, it is truly awesome!
I miss the craft beers of my misspent youth. Honey Brown, Raspberry Wheat, Cream Ale, Pale Ale,BDSA, Belgian Blonde, and Steam Lagers.  Don't get me wrong I still love the newfangled IPAs and Sours, who doesn't love a juicy NEIPA, or a complex Bret Beer aged on whiskey soaked oak or an Oud Bruin aged on Cabernet soaked currants? (we have 20 gallons of complex sour beer fermenting right now) But recently I find myself missing the more basic beers of my younger days.

I think what is motivating this is my need to make beer that more people will appreciate.  Sure it is nice to drink interesting craft beer with beer nerds, but it is also nice to be able to give your bud drinking uncle Leroy a beer he will enjoy.

So I am putting out a series of recipes and brew days called... wait for it... younger daze.  (I'm so damned creative.)  In this series I am going to brew 2.5 gallon batches of the beers we loved in the mid 1990's and early 2000's.  These are beers that anyone could make well. These are beers that didn't require a pressurized fermentation system and oxygen free transfer. There was no water chemistry required.  And these were beers that always tasted better when you made them your self.  These are all beers than can be kegged or bottled, and they will taste just fine.

Who doesn't love the beer and the TV of the
1990s and early 2000s
Heck I may just put these beers back into rotation full time.  I like them... that's right, after years of cognitive therapy and home brewing, I'm able to stand before you right now and say... I like basic craft beers.

I invite you to brew along with my younger daze series.  Return to basic awesome beer that all of your friends and neighbors will enjoy.   If you have never tried all grain, well now is the time to get started. None of these beers require advanced equipment or advanced water adjustments.   Although, making water adjustments is certainly an acceptable practice. I will certainly be starting with RO water and making adjustments.  (Remember sports fans, John showed us all an easy way to adjust water for a low IBU beer last week, mixing RO water and tap water 50/50 and using 5.2 stabilizer.)

So over the next few weeks I will be posting the recipes for these beers.   All 6 of them, I'll probably brew the BDSA first so that it can age properly before the fall and winter.  But I'll probably brew 2 a weekend.  And I am returning to Step Mashing all of the time.  That's right every single beer get's step mashed.   I may be crazy, but I am more and more convinced that (overall) we made better beer in the early days of home brewing. Not as complicated, but better over all. Our mash process was more complete. We made beer with real head retention, and real mouth feel.   I am pretty sure my millennial brewing partners would agree with me on this controversial claim. The beers we step mash are more complete.  They have real mouth feel, and real head retention.

We've been brewing August Hyppo for years.
It is our version of a Classic West Coast IPA.
We always shoot for about 75-80 IBUs.
That is the range where we really feel like you can
get the best taste, and still experience the bitterness.
But before I do any of that, I will be brewing a hop monster, well a hop hyppo.   Why?  Because I happen to have the ingredients for one, and because I really like this recipe.   Here it is feel free to brew along with me.

By the way the Hop Bomb is the last of the 2 hour beers I will be making for now.  I will only be mashing until the mash is done, and boiling for 30 minutes on this beer. update: I mashed for 45 minutes, and boiled for 40 minutes. the dang 1oz package of Warrior was only .7 oz, so I had to extend my boil. Still brew day was only 2:48.   The recipe is for 5 gallons, but I will only be brewing 2.5 gallons.   Enjoy.

August Hyppo 3.0 Classic West coast IPA
1.051 OG
1.007 FG
6.7% ABV
76     IBU (1.25 IBU /OG)
5.5    Gallons
72.5% efficiency on a step mash no sparge

3.8 #  6 Row Brewer's Malt
3.8 #  2 Row Brewer's Malt
1.0 #  Cara 20
1.0 #  Pale Wheat
  4 oz  Acidulated Malt

Mash at 150 F until the mash is converted then raise to 168 F to denature enzymes.

1.6 of Warrior  (16%) at 30 minutes
2.0 of Cascade (7%)  at 5 minutes
1.0 of Centennial (10.5%) whirlpool (175 F for 20 minutes) update a neighbor stopped by so whirlpool lasted for 25 minutes.
1.0 of Cascade (7%) whirlpool (175 F for 20 minutes)
1.0 of Simcoe (13%) whirlpool (175 F for 20 minutes)
1.0 of Centennial (10.5%) dry hop 3 days
1.0 of Cascade (7%) dry hop 3 days
1.0 of Simcoe (13%)  dry hop 3 days

US 05 yeast

Make a vitality starter - 1 cup of sanitary water + 3.5 Table spoons of DME at the beginning of brew day.  Should be around 1.035 to 1.040 (I use my refractometer and get it in this range).  Performance will be as fast and easy as liquid yeast. update with the vitality starter the beer took off.  It is Now Tuesday and the wort is at 1.014...arent sample ports great!

I will be adding 1 g of Gypsum to my water pre mash.  I will be adding .5 tsp of Gypsum to the boil (late).   I will be using yest nutrient, and whirlflock.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The wedding brew day... featuring Cargil IdaPils

Saturday the crew gathered at John's brewery / garage for a special brew day.  You see Mark's brother is getting married to an awesome girl.  (how awesome?  she loves beer... and not just beer... the girl loves Sour and Funky beer).  And we were asked to brew something for the wedding.   Now the wedding is coming up soon, so there wasn't time to make a sour. (yes I know we could have done a Berliner Weiss, but this is a wedding, how many Bud guzzling muggles do you think would actually enjoy that beer).

We were joined by a whole bunch of Mark's cousins.   And it made for a fun brew day.  Mark and John explaining the process, and why we were doing what we do.  Great beers were sampled, and hi-jinks and shenanigans ensued.

On this brew day we were making Biermuncher's classic Centennial Blonde ale.   If you have never made it, well to be honest if you have never made it, where have you been?  It was the number 1 recipe on home brew talk.  It is a home brew classic.  Equally loved by craft beer fans, and beer muggles alike.  Medium gravity (1.046 target) and low bitterness (21 ibu)  make this beer a home brew classic.  At my home I always have Centennial Blonde or Cream ale available for beer muggles.

Now one thing to know about brewing 10 gallons.   Step mashing is usually faster than single infusion mashing.   Yes, you read that correctly.   Step mashing is usually faster.   Why?  Well use your common sense.  It is much faster to heat smaller volumes of water, and it takes less time to get your mash going.   The entire brew day for 11 gallons of Centennial Blonde, only took  a little over 3 hours, and that included clean up.
infusion mashing won't be
equalized unless you stir it
to make it even out
 On this day we were doing a no sparge 4 step infusion mash, with rests at 132 F, 146 F, 156 F, and 168 F. Now, remember we brew a lot, and we have our process down.   John chose to do a simple water profile for the day.   He mixed tap water with RO water 50/50 and used 5.2 stabilizer to buffer the pH.  Worked like a charm  We were at 5.46 for most of the mash.  His chief aim was making the water softer to let the malt shine a little more.  But we sometimes make Centennial Blonde with tap water and a basic acid adjustment, and it comes out just fine.  Great beer for new all grain brewers.

stir your infusions to equalize
and to get better efficiency.
We doughed in at 142 F, and the mash stabilized at 132 F.  We loose 10 degrees this time of year.  In the winter we pre heat the mash tun, and we still lose about 12 degrees Fahrenheit.  As soon as we doughed in we started our next water heating.  1.3 gallons of nearly boiling water would take the mash to 146 F The 2nd rest is our long rest, it lasts for about 35 minutes. At the end of that rest we added 1.7 gallons of nearly boiling water to get to 156 F.  where we rested for 15 minutes.  Finally we added 3.3 gallons of boiling water to get to 168 F where we rested for 10 minutes.   The smell of the Cargill IdaPils dominated the garage, and driveway.  You can use IdaPils for German Beers, American Lagers, heck you can even use it for Belgians.  Although we prefer the Dingeman's Pilsner for the Belgians.   It really is excellent malt.  An iodine test and taste test confirmed that our mash was complete.  One note on Brewing with John, don't leave an open bag of IdaPils near him, he eats it like pop corn.

There are so many advantages to a step mash, not the least of which is the ability to manage your proteins more effectively. We breakdown long proteins into medium length proteins.  What is left behind gives great head retention and great silky mouth feel. It's the way beer used to be, it's the way beer should be. Have you ever experienced a creamy meringue like head on a Belgian beer? Well, they step mash.  Step mashing also gives you very complete and predictable conversion of your starches.   The multiple temperatures are a more reliable methodology for conversion than just a long single infusion mash.   John collected 11.5 gallons of delicious pilsner wort.

The boil was uneventful.  Our 12" Banjo Burner quickly brought the 12.5 gallons to a boil.   John added .6 of Centennial at 60 minutes, .6 of Centennial at 35 minutes, .6 of Cascade at 15 minutes, and .6 of Cascade at 5 minutes.   That's it.  It is that simple of a beer.  The deliciousness of the beer has much more to do with it's simplicity.  The combination of Centennial and Cascade is the key.  Don't over do them.  Your target is 20-22 IBUs.  Do not half ass this thing into an "almost pale ale, or a "not very hoppy IPA".  Although these hops work for those styles just fine, do your self a favor, and just follow Biermuncher's recipe.  If you want to mess with something mess with the malt.

step mashed wort has lots of protein break.  That is a good
thing, that is what you are trying to created.  RDWHAHB
At the end of the boil, the wort was quickly chilled with our Jaded Hydra immersion chiller.  This thing is a beast.  The wort went from 210 F to 74 F in 5 minutes.  John and Mark then transferred into carboys, and put the beer in the chamber to continue chilling to 64 F.   When they got home from the Sporting Kansas City match (a Champions league 3-0 drubbing of Minnesota United)  John pitched Fermentis S-04.   The original gravity was 1.046 (spot on). Now, one important note, when you step mash you will have lots of protein break in your wort.  Don't freak out, it will settle out.

the proteins have settled
This beer will ferment fast, and will easily be ready in time for the wedding.  It will serve to protect the "special beers John has created for Rob on his big day.  But I suspect it will be enjoyed by all.

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 ScottJanish.com you are missing out.  It is the best way to predict the flavor and aroma of your late hop additions.