Saturday, May 30, 2015

Cream Ale Brew Day...

Ok first off let me say this, brew how you can, where you are, and whenever you can.  Brewing is all about having fun making beer.

I brew in my kitchen... hence the name counter brew.  I am a little contrarian on modern brewing practice hence the name counter brew.  But don let that mislead you.  I still keep records.  I still measure gravity... I just don't go in for some of the recent "have to do" advice that is out there in the modern home brew world.

For instance,  You may have read that you cant brew 5.5 gallons of beer on an electric turkey fryer... to that I say... hog wash.   I do it all the time, and I'm doing it right now as I write this post.  I  Cool Gales Cream ale is about to boil.   Tomorrow Ill brew again, also in my kitchen but... Ill be using 2 2 gallon beverage coolers for my mash tun, and collecting about 5.75 gallons of wort for a 4.5 gallon batch of beer, that I will boil in my turkey fryer... the point?  THERE ARE NO RULES.  CREATE WORT AT THE GRAVITY YOU INTENDED, ADD HOPPS, COOL, AERATE, ADD YEAST.

 I for one don't care if you brew in a washing machine if you can figure out how.   So when people tell you, "you can't do that!"  Remember... No Rules... just beer.

Now having said that my turkey fryer is pissing me off.  Temperature control is me and a thermometer, getting to the boil takes for ever, and the dang valve handle broke.   So now a pair of vice grips is doing that duty.   It is clearly time for the Brau Supply System.

Any way good brew day here got started late, 3:10 pm.   Mashed in at 142 dropped to 131.6.  Perfect for a nice 20 minute protein rest.  We'll See if it matters on this brew.   Mashed for an hour between 150 and 152.  Right where I wanted to be.  But I had to constantly manipulate the controller to keep the mash at temp.  Im too old, and I've been brewing too long for that crap.  Next decent commission, Im getting the BrauSupply Mini.  Ill do extract with grain on the turkey fryer, and All grain on the Brau Supply After I pay my bills of course.  Always remember kiddo's "Bills before brewing, you can't brew if they turn your water off".  If you haven't seen the Brau Supply Mini check it out.  It's a cool system that can do 3.5 gallon eBIAB batches and it plugs into 110V GFCI.  I have that in the kitchen...That's still on the counter.  Which is where I want to be. In my kitchen brewing beer and hanging with my family.   Anyway, After the mash I rinse sparged with 2 gallons, squeezed, and added 2.25 gallons of nearly boiling water.   At boil, i skimmed off my foop.  always skim your foop.  Then added 1 oz. of Hallertauer at 60, .5 oz of Hallertauer at 30, and .8 oz of Tetnanger at 0.    Irish Moss and Yeast Nutrient were also added.

Friday, May 29, 2015

My first infection... 24 years in... a happy accident I give you "American Wild Ale"

I am meticulous about sanitation.  Some might say I am overly cautious.  After the boil nothing ever touches my beer that isn't sanitary.   I even wash and starsan my hands before I dry hop, and the dry hop bags, sit in starsan for an hour minimum.   It is just what I do.   I spray my hands with starsan if I am going to add water or starsan to the fermentation lock.   I spray everything that might conceivably touch anything to do with my dang beer with starsan.   If the dog walks by... you got it... starsan.

Because of my practices I have never had an infection.   For 24 years no infections.

That streak (longer than Cal Ripken's) has come to a happy end.   "Happy" you say?  How can an infection be a happy thing?  It is a happy thing because my beer is infected with lactobascillus. Lactobascillus is a great wild bacteria that creates some amazing wild and sour beers.   So I'll have to wait 6 months to a year, but after the waiting I should have some amazing wild ale.

The pelicle is really cool looking.  It looks like a human iris.   The spot in the middle is the hop bag.  How did this happen?  No idea.  But I have a guess.   My theory is that the hops I bought were not sanitary.  They were repackaged by the LHBS. My theory is that the hippster kid, you know the type who wears his jeans way to tight, his beard way to long, his ironic thrift store clothing way to proudly, the same guy who looks down his nose at anyone who doesn't brew exclusively all grain wild and sour beers, yeah that guy, was touching a "lacto yeast" package before he packaged my hops. Which by the way he touched with his fingers.  That's my theory, at least that is what I want to believe.   But like I said, a happy accident, clearly lacto and now apparently I have a fermenter, air lock, plug, syphon and tubing dedicated to sour beers.  So expect more of those from me in the future.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The elusive cream ale...

I find that delicate flavored beers like lite lagers, chek pils, heles, cream ales and even american standard lagers are tough to get right.   I have huge appreciation for brewers who have a delicate hand and can get the subtle nuances of these beers correct.  If you have never tried a Genessee Cream Ale,  or a Spotted Cow go get one.   Ill wait here. 

Taking a break from brew cycle, your next brew cycle recipe is for next weekend anyway... so lets talk about good ol basic beer...  Any one can brew an over top american pale ale... but can you make basic beer that tastes good?

Some how the flavor is the exact representation of what a good basic beer should be.  It's just beer.  Your MBC friends will like it, and you will drink it noticing the full flavor and body that are neither over powering or too heavy, and somehow the dang thing is still crisp and dry.  It is really amazing stuff when done well. The fullness of flavor, and "creaminess" come from the balance achieved by, and the restraint shown by the brewer.

I have been brewing beer off and on for a long time.   And that whole time I have never found an extract cream ale recipe that I though was awesome.  I think this is because you loose something when you are not using real pilsner malt.  I'm no biological chemist, I wont claim to know exactly what that something is.  But I have brewed this style more times than any other so I have some experience.  And I believe I am the single reason why Genessee is distributed here in Kansas City.   I'm never with out it. And although I've never found a near perfect extract recipe, I do however think that there are some partial mash recipes that are amazing.   Northern Brewer has one.  And I think I have a pretty darn good one too.  It's called Cool Gales Cream Ale.  It is loosely based on Biermuncher's (HBT handle) Cream of 3 crops.  But I replaced the rice and corn, with corn syrup and rice syrup.  It always comes out clean and full, and crisp and it almost doesnt matter what bittering hop you choose.  This is not a hop bomb.  DO NOT OVER HOP THIS BEER, not everthing is a pale ale.  Ok I'm off my soap box now.

This is the perfect beer to perfect your brewing process with.  If you get it right you'll know.  If you screw up, you'll know.  It is also the perfect beer for learning about hop styles.   You can try different styles for aroma, and bittering, or just use one hop and really learn the taste of that hop.  But stick to american and german noble hops.  Ill give you recipes for trying pale ale hops, and ESB hops on another post, ok? deal?  good.  Now the recipe.

5 gallon batch
3.75 lbs of Pilsner (yes you'll have to boil a little longer)
2.00 lbs of DME Light or Extra Light (don't substitute Dark or Amber and think your innovating, you're not)
1.00 lbs of Rice Syrup Solids
1.00 lbs of Corn Sugar (added at High Krausen)  from the grocery store light corn syrup not dark
.8 oz of Cluster Hops at 60 of a 75 minute boil
.5 oz of Liberty Hops at 0-5 minutes of the boil (you'll have to tune in the hops to get them perfect)
Safale US05
Irish Moss
Yeast Nutrient

  • Mash the grains in 3 gallons of water at 150 F for 1 hour.
  • Rinse the grains with 2 gallons of 168 F water
    • Im going to admit that I vorlauf, because I can...(I have a valve on my ebiab set up) and because its what I have always done. 
      • So after I Rinse the grains I try to recirculate the entire volume of wort.   My beers are very clear when I do this.
      • Important Note: my BIAB friends swear you don't have to, and they make some clear brite beers. 
        • Another important note: your brew in a BAG, bag matters.   Get a good bag from BrewBag, or Wilser.
  • Add 2 gallons of near boiling Water
    • This should give you 6.5 gallons of wort
  • Add the Rice Syrup Solids
  • Start your 75 minute boil
  • please please please skim off the hot break
    • And please don't waste my time telling me that commercial breweries don't skim the break. commercial breweries have .003 micron filters for their beer. 
  • at 60 minutes to go add the Cluster Hops 
    • This is where you'll learn to customize to fit your tastes.  I put my cluster hops in at 55 M
      • Brew this multiple times and move the hops around, keep notes. eventually youll open a beer that is perfect for you.  if you kept records... you'll be able to repeat this beer. 
  • at 10 minutes the yeast nutrient
  • at 5 minutes the Irish Moss and your wort chiller
  • at 0 minutes the Liberty Hops
  • Chill it to pitching temps (70 or under)
    • rehydrate your yeast during the chilling. 
    • if you're chilling outside cover your pot
  • Aereate your wort by pouring into the bucket, O2, shaking, whatever.  
    • Aeration is highly over rated.  
  • Pitch
  • Ferment at around 65 (not 75, not 80)  65 you can do this with a swamp cooler (laundry tub water and wet t shirt) if you have to.  
  • Let it ferment for 14 days
  • Transfer to 2ndary for 7-10 days.
    • Leave behind the yeast cake youre trying to make a clean clear beer
    • Fine the beer with Brewers Gelatin, BioFine, or Super Kleer Kc (the last two work fine at room temperatures)
  • Bottle condition for 10-14 days or keg,
    • 2 volumes of Co2
Ill be posting this as a brew day really soon here, and on Brew Toad, so keep following up on this post.  I just posted a less than satisfying all grain Cream Ale recipe brew day.  My wort was a chunky monkey.   So now I'm jonesing to brew it again the way I know it will come out awesome.

Monday, May 25, 2015

A small batch No Sparge BIAB for your viewing pleasure# F

So yesterday I decided I needed some more Cream Ale.  It is one of my favorites when I get it right and it is terrible when I blow it.  I usually brew this style extract or partial mash.  I like the safety net provided by the malt extract.  But on Friday, when I sourced my ingredients, I got a wild hair and decided to try a no sparge BIAB.    Here was the recipe for 3.5 gallons of Cream Ale
3.5 gallon batch
5# 2 row
.5# Flaked Corn
.25# Cane Sugar which I add at High Krausen
.4#  Honey Malt
.25 Flaked Oats
.5 oz cluster for bittering
.5 liberty for flavor and aroma

Now that I look at it again, that's a lot going on. Well see how it turns out.   Below is the brew day.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The brew cycle: The extract Batches, batch #1

Here are my choices for the extract batches of the brew cycle.  These are the first three beers in the cycle.  And they build on themselves, and provide the foundation for the beers we are brewing later in the cycle.

Beer #1  American Pale Ale - 
Most beer lovers love a good basic american pale ale. And truthfully, they are really hard to make at a competition level.   But they are really, really easy to make when your goal is a good drinkable acceptable beer.  The hops hide any mistakes a new brewer might make. I always think a heavy handed beer is a good place to start, they are very forgiving.   So here is my recipe for an extract with specialty grain, pale ale.   This beer is however, fairly low OG.  So it should go from stove to glass in a fairly short period of time 4-5 weeks total.   I selected fermentis S04 yeast, also a quick finisher with high floculation.

NOTE:  if you can not do a full volume boil,  increase your hops.  You will not get full hop utilization with partial boil brewing.  Best way to do this is log on to brewtoad, create an account, and make a variant of "everyday pale ale".   go into the batch and boil section and let it know you aren't doing a full volume boil.   adjust your hops accordingly, we are shooting for 35-40 IBUs.  As an example I just calculated that if I could only boil 3.5 gallons of wort, I would need to bump the Warrior up to .6 to keep the IBUs at 35-40.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Brew Cycle... Taste is the thing

In the brew cycle.  We are focused on learning the techniques of brewing great beer at home. (and as Counterbrew I suggest in your kitchen).  We are putting special emphasis on the fundamental aspects of brewing. Techniques like, sanitation, well established techniques, cooling wort quickly,  when to add hops, how to re hydrate and pitch yeast, how to re use yeast, late extract additions, easy fruit additions, easy bottling, and dry hopping.

We are not focusing on the following.

  • Commercial clarity (although we will use biofine, and gelatin finings late in the cycle)
    • The brews in the cycle are the beers that I find the easiest to have success with early in your brewing career, none of them require commercial clarity to be awesome to drink.
  • Decoction Mashing (I will do another series on small batch lagers, yeast starters ((which I almost never use)) decoction mashing, noble beers)
  • Late or High Krausen fermentable additions
  • Kegging (although if you can, please feel free)

So what else should we focus on? 

What else should we avoid?

Friday, May 8, 2015

THE BREW CYCLE...a new series

THE BREW CYCLE...Your first 9 brews...a path to partial mash...and then BIAB.  A new series from Counterbrew.

This is a plan for your first 9 brews... yes 9.   The reason why 9 is the number of brews will become apparent as we move forward in this blog post.


You have the equipment necessary to brew beer.  If you don't have it, or you're not sure... return to the blog menu and read the post "all you really need to brew great beer"

You enjoy great beer, and you are understand that part of the fun of this hobby is that you can spend a lifetime learning about great beer.

The plan and the goals of the plan...

  1. Make and learn to make great beer at home.  Beer that you can be proud of, beer that you will enjoy.
  2. Minimize complication and expense associated with brewing.
  3. Brew beer that you, your SO, and your friends will enjoy.   Build support for this hobby.   Trust me there will be resistance early on in your brewing hobby.
    1. It's kinda messy.
    2. It takes up some space that someone else may have wanted for her scrap booking obsession, or space that may have been intended for other uses, I quote "bathtubs are for baths, not beer"... 
  4. Minimize the expense of brewing great beer. 
The plan is pretty straight forward
3 extract batches
3 partial mash batches
3 BIAB batches

Re use the healthy yeast cakes, by starting with lower OG beers and keeping the flavor profiles similar.   i.e.   cycle one is a basic pale ale extract, followed by an american pale ale, followed by an imperial pale ale.  All on US-04 yeast.  Cycle two is a brown ale, followed by John Palmer s Elevensies, followed by a Sweet Stout all on an english ale yeast (nottingham). Cycle three is a Session table beer, followed by a Cream ale extract followed by Centenial Blonde, on US-05.   By following the cycles you'll experience all of the basic brewing techniques.   

Please notice, there are no Continuously hopped, chocolate, heather blossom Saisons, Raspberry Wild Lambics,  or Vanilla Bean Russian Imperial Stouts on the cycles. Although they are fun to brew, they are not consistent with the goals and plans of learning and perfecting your brewing techniques.  

If you don't have the equipment for large BIAB, you just continue with Partial Mash Batches, or you employ the Texas two step method.  Texas Two Step is a great method for making beer with just two 4 gallon pots.  If you want to scale the recipes, by all means do so.

A couple more points I have to make.  Regardless of what your home brew shop tells you,  You should always boil as much volume of wort as you can safely boil.  If you do not have a wort chiller, it is better to boil all 6.5 - 7.5 gallons of wort, and let it cool overnight with the lid on (wrapped in saran wrap once it cools a bit), than boil partial volume of wort.   There are many reasons why this is the case.  Not the least of which is the isomerization of the hop oils.  But really guys and gals, buy a wort chiller, I'm often the most broke guy I know... and I managed to get one for less than $40.00 on ebay.   Point two,  get on some brewing software and learn it.  I prefer BrewToad.   Hops behave differently in 3 gallons of water than they do in 6.5 gallons of water.   Use the software to adjust accordingly.  When in doubt do not assume that you will get maximum efficiency, assume you won't.   Bump things up a notch, but just a notch.  

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Mr. Beer Fermenter... Garage Sale Gold.

Image result for Mr. BeerThere are 6, count them 6 females who live in my home.  Fridge space is a premium.  Which means, for the most part lagering is not realistic for me.   There are already two refrigerators in the garage.  One is for food, the other is the fermentation chamber.   So when i found a Mr. Beer kit at a garage sale for $10, it was an obvious choice.

I'm not a Mr. Beer fan.  Truthfully, my opinions have been shaped by your opinions about the product.   I have never used it. I have tasted the beer one time, it was OK.  But I have heard that the equipment is excellent.   So, Why not give it a try.  The keg is 2.25  gallons, and they fit very easily in to a normal refrigerator.   I think that I will look for another one soon so that I can do small batch Partial Mash and BIAB lagers.  I also think these would be great for super high gravity small batch (barley wine, RIS, phat ass blonde).   I'm also thinking that small batches will allow me to afford brewing more often.  Doing some quick math a 2 gallon batch of lager will cost me about $15 to brew, and that is if I use new yeast...

I'm wondering if any of you have experience with the Mr. Beer fermenter? If you do leave me a comment and let me know what that experience was.

Image result for Mr. BeerMr. Beer sells just the fermenters on their website for $10.  I may buy 2 more.  Who knows this could be my new counterbrew obsession.  Brewing more often, brewing small batches, trying more beer... sounds fun.   And I know the Cajun Injector could easily rock out a 2 gallon batch of this BIAB style with no Sparge...