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.