Friday, March 8, 2019

A brief Rant. 2019 Edition...

Ok, well they've done it again.  The trolls have come out from under the bridges and from deep in their mom's basements and pissed me off.   So once again it is up to your old uncle Dave to set you numskulls straight. 

First, there is no bad style of beer.  PERIOD.   There are styles you may not prefer, there are beers that are made poorly, but there is no style of beer that sucks.   And if you think that the big breweries suck at making beer... you are an idiot.   

Macho Man... always original!
The jokes you are telling in response to people's posts on social media about macrobeer being horse p!ss in a glass are old and trite and completely unoriginal.   The jokes about macrobeer being water are also boring.    Do better.  Be better.  Or at least be original. As Herman Melville famously said "it is better to fail in originality, than succeed in imitation"  Don't be a troll regurgitating the same crap others have already said.  Say something new, brew something new... be original.  What the hell is it like to wander through life with out original thoughts?  life as a pale imitation of other men's better ideas?  Be freaking original... 

Listen, be who you want to be, and brew what ever you want to brew.  I'm not your mom, you can make whatever you want. But, there is nothing the matter with macro lager beer.   If you like it drink it.  If you want to make it make it.   But please for the love of all things hoppy stop making the easy jokes...  Don't know what I'm talking about?   Well, let me set the scene for you.  The place is a chatroom or a facebook Group.  The time is now, the place is wherever you are right now.

Brewer A -  "Hey does any one have a good American light lager recipe?"
Brewer B - " Just piss in a bottle and add some water"
Brewer C - "Why would you ever brew that?"  "big beer is evil"
Brewer D - "Conglomerate beer sucks... "
Brewer F - " just make a cream ale"
Brewer E - "low oxygen is the key... here is everything you didn't ask about low oxygen brewing..."
Brewer A - "I just want a recipe from someone who knows how to brew this style please, my wife prefers it and I want to make it for her"
Brewer B - "Get a new wife"
Brewer C - "Divorce her"
Brewer D - "is she dumb"
Brewer A - " You guys are jerks"


You can't tell me this doesn't look refreshing! and don't try
to say you thought it was some bizzare IPA we all know exactly
what this is a bowl of... yummy delicious American Lager.
Enough already, we get it, you don't like American Light Lager beer.  You prefer craft beers, we get it.  But if you are an ass hat to other brewers who do enjoy this style... then you are a jerk. PERIOD. 
American Lager and American light lager are most people's preferred beers, they have so much mass appeal, they are so easily consumed, they are so thirst quenching... that they dominate the world beer scene.  Yes, they are fairly low in hop and malt flavor.  But who cares.   They are still great to drink, when made well they are well balanced and slightly malty.  They are hugely refreshing, they are perfect on a hot day, or even a cool autumn day, or a crisp spring day... just about any day...

They are also very hard to brew well.  Most of you who make fun of American Lager and Light lager couldn't brew a great one if you had to.   They are tough to brew. You have to be the best at what you do.   You have to control every aspect of the brewing process, you have to limit oxygen at some points in the brewing process and dissolve the right amount in other points in the brewing process, you have to pitch correct amounts of vital yeast, and you have to learn to do a concentration brew with out screwing up your IBUs.  And if you can master all of that you also have to be perfect in cleaning and sanitation.  One flaw, one screw up and your beer is ruined. 

You suck! You could't brew a BUD
if you had to!  And your mom wears
Army boots!
Making fun of American Lager and American light manufacturer's makes you everything that is wrong with craft beer snobbery.  Any one of you would be honored to work at AB, any one of you would be proud to brew at Miller, or Coors... or even at Old Milwaukee.   Don't act like you wouldn't.   But you want to know a secret? Almost none of you would be qualified, because those guys are the best in the world at what they do.  They have advanced, degrees in Oenology, brewing, and Biology.  They love brewing as much as you do, and they are damned good at it.  They brew the exact same product all over the world with the exact same taste with different ingredients and different water profiles.  Can you even brew the same exact IPA twice?   

Couldn't find one with Kelly in front!
So get off the back of mega lager.  It is what it is, but it isn't evil.  It isn't horse P*$$, it isn't water.  It's beer, made by people who also love beer.   If you want to keep making fun of mega lager, at least find an original way to do it.  Quit using the same damned jokes we used in the 1990's. "lame"  "As if!", "That's so funny...NOT"

But wait there's more...

Second, major issue recently... Brewing priorities are again out of whack.  So I have to review them again for you all.  All around the internet I am seeing $1000.00 - $5000.00 wort production machines.   Listen I have no problem with electric brewing, I myself often brew on an electric system, what I have a problem with is a lack of understanding of the priorities... So... from the home office in Sheboygan Wisconsin, here is today's Top 10 home brewing priorities.  
  1. Cleanliness & sanitation - minor infections ruin beer
  2. Vital yeast pitch - covers a myriad of sins... hides most every flaw
  3. Correct amount of yeast - see above
  4. Oxygenation of wort before yeast pitch - yeast needs oxygen to replicate. 
  5. Temperature controlled fermentation - yeast makes bad flavors at wrong temperatures.
  6. Low oxygen packaging - oxygen ruins finished beer. 
  7. Freshness of ingredients - duh. 
  8. Low oxygen fermentation (many styles) - there are many styles where oxygen should be limited. 
  9. Patience & mindfulness - don't get hammered until you are cleaning up from your brew day, have a plan, be patient, be calm
  10. Wort Production - here it is at the end of the list.  The most fun most active part of brewing is not even close to the most important part of brewing.  
this is 100x more important than
a wort production machine!
Think I'm wrong? Well then go ask the guys who actually win the awards in your area.  They will knowingly nod at my list.   So by all means please support and buy awesome brewing gear from the amazing companies who produce the amazing array of products we now have available.  But for the love of Pete, start out with the fermentation related products they manufacture.  The very last thing you should buy is a wort production machine.   Remember more and more awards are won every year by guys brewing BIAB.  And all you need for that is a kettle and a bag.   So please do not over inflate the importance of the wort making phase of beer production... it is important to be sure, it requires your concentration, no doubt... it just isn't the most important part of the process.   It is the most fun part of the process, so why in the hell would you want to make it less interactive?  Makes no sense to me.  Some of you can literally brew from the couch via blue tooth.  My question is, do you actually enjoy brewing or do you just want to say you brew?  Give me a spoon and control knob any day over that crap!

Duke... laying down some truth son!
So now lets handle the questions I am sure to get... What about stainless conical glycol controlled fermentation should I invest in that?  sure... yes... of course... good idea... Should I get a counter pressure bottle filler?  yes, if you package in bottles or compete in contests you probably should.  Can you tell my wife I need two more fermentation fridges in the garage?   Yes, after my date with...your mom.  Don't forget the temperature controllers.  Should I get more kegs? yes, excellent... good plan... What about a stir plate?  Wait...are you freaking kidding me? what the freak? yes of course...seriously,  you mean you were even considering purchasing a wort machine before a stir plate?  What the hell is wrong with you?  have I taught you nothing?  Should I get a spunding valve?  Yes excellent plan!    What about an immersion heating and cooling system for fermentation?   Definitely,yes  good plan.  (although aquarium chillers cost a little less so watch for the sales.) You really think aeration should come before wort production?  YES, duh freaking duuuuuuh!   Should I get a $2k wort production machine when I don't have anything saved for my kids college or my retirement?  NO, NO, NOOOOOOOO! What the hell is wrong with you?  

strong yes is the dumb in this one...
Guys win awards every year with extract batches of home brew.  Big major shinny awards.  And guess what?... they don't use a wort machine when they make extract you nincompoop.  But when they do everything else right... it still turns out great.  So, my advice is to get your focus on what matters... As for me and my tribe of misfit brewers, we will keep on mashing in our super awesome ultra customized, plastic cooler mash tuns.  We will sanitize the living hell out of anything that comes near our beer.   Our minds will serve as our temperature control computers.    We will continue to pitch healthy yeast starters,  we will continue to aerate, we will continue to be patient, and we will continue to drink the awesome fruits of our labor.  (Unless one of us wins the lottery, in which case all bets are that case we will build a home brew system so ridiculously cool it will burn your eyes to look upon it. It will feature mirror polished stainless steel, be automated by magical woodland elves and be controlled by Jedi Mind power.... It will be awesome... but I'm not holding my breath.)

Soon I will be brewing some cool beers for you all again, a Belgian IPA (can anyone say La Chouffe Houblon? think I have it cloned)  and a Belgian Summer ale (somewhere between a wit beer and a Belgian single) until then keep brewing, keep thinking, and keep on drinking... home brew... in moderation... and with friends. 

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Ghetto Brew: Affordable advanced brewing! The mash tun.

This is the beginning of a new series on counterbrew about affordable Advanced Brewing.  In this series well try to show you all some common sense affordable methods for advanced home brewing.

Ok... I get it...I've said it before... I understand... you want the shiny bling...the mirror polished stainless $15,000.00 brewing system and the 14 gallon glycol controlled uni-tanks... I get it... really I do.  You've drooled over photos of some basement in some far off state or province that has been turned into a miniature temple of fermentation.   You imagine (wrongly) that if you just had that level of brewing equipment, you would win 5 Ninkasi awards in a row, and the whole world would know of your brewing excellence.

Brewhardware's pre wired rims tube
set up. Just add a pump.
And you can call me a grumpy old curmudgeon... but I don't really want any of that stuff any more. ( Maybe I should say I don't want more of that stuff...In full disclosure I have a gas fired, mirror polished, medical grade welded, 10 gallon recirculating system with a pump, tri-clover valves, built in thermometers, acid etched sight gauges, and false bottoms...I rarely use it. It is in fact in storage right now. Part of it may be at Jakes... I may change it over to a Rims Tube  system in an effort to continue to minimize oxygen ingress with out the use of chemicals.  There is a follow up post on LODO coming soon. )

For the most part I brew small batches on the stove top.  So when I think about a brewing system, I only want easy to clean equipment that improves my final product.   And I want to continue to brew a lot.   Which means small batch.   I want variety.   Which also means small batch.  Basically, I want to brew a lot.  And again that means stove top small batch.

Don't get me wrong I like shinny brewing equipment as much as the next guy.  I've spent literally hundreds of hours over the years drooling over systems.  I am especially attracted to the High Gravity brewing systems, Blichman Engineering, Brausupply, Clawhammer Supply, and especially to Colorado Brewing Systems.  But alas, I have yet to win the lottery.  And even if I did win the lottery, I'm not convinced I would buy one of these systems (see above, I would probably just add a Rims Tube from to my 5 gallon system). Heck, I may add one of those anyway.   But unless I win the lottery, I'm not buying more expensive brew gear.     Especially, when I can make advanced gear at home for a fraction of the cost.  On our brew crew we are very proud of focusing on what really matters, and we can make the equipment we need for advanced home brew mashing.  That's right, I can make great equipment, and you can to. 

Fancy Gear, is no substitue for experience and
knowledge.  No amount of money spent on
equipment can make good beer if you don't
know how to brew!
You see i know the truths...I have read the secret ancient tomes... I possess the ethereal mystical knowledge of the brewing art... and I will share it with you. 
  • Its the brewer not the equipment. 
  • There is no substitute for sanitation,
  • Fermentation is eminently more important than wort production.  
  • Fresh quality ingredients are more important than recipe design. 
  • Simple is usually better
  • Packaging matters, oxygen can ruin finished beer.
  • Brewers make wort yeast makes beer, yeast vitality and health are of paramount importance. 
These are the things that matter.   If you are focused on wort production above all else, your beer will suck, well maybe not suck, but it wont be as good as someone who focused on sanitation, yeast health / vitality, and on fermentation control. 

So how do I go about making great beer on the stove top, or with out spending a fortune?  Well I think I have figured out what will work for me, and I will share it with you in hopes that it will work for you as well.  Or in hopes that it will inspire you to create your own small batch system.   I also have figured out what I can afford, and what any serious brewer can afford.  (in follow up posts I'll be showing you how to make a boil kettle, a fermentation chamber, and a stainless fermenter...affordably.

My goals.  Super easy to clean.  Minor infections are the bane of the home brewing world.   I can not tell you how many times I've tasted a beer that was slightly off.  Still pretty good, but just not everything it should be, not the taste the brewer was trying to produce.  The brewer would swear it was due to stale malt or a change in the recipe, or a slightly different mash temperature...   But you and I both know the real flaw was probably a lack of complete cleaning and sanitation.  Some minor infection didn't ruin the beer but certainly competed for the resources of the desired outcome.  Or there was some weird flavor left over from poor cleaning.  In an effort to keep the system easy to clean I am eliminating pumps and limiting valves.  I know this may sound shocking to you all, but when you think about it you don't really need a pump. Pumps are convenient, pumps are kind of cool. But pumps are also places where minor infections can hide. And I don't know any of the world's great large breweries that use recirculating Mash systems (although they do all use pumps to move wort around). I do know a ton of them that use mash paddles.  The whole point of stirring or recirculating is making the enzymes more effective, enzymes are proteins they only work when in contact with starch.  So stir your mash.  It really doesn't matter if you stir or recirculate.   And please don't give me the clear wort argument.  Numerous studies, prove that (with the exception of light lagers)  crystal clear wort is meaningless.  If you are producing a light lager or a beer that needs clear wort, there is no law that says you can't vorlauf (even when you are doing biab style or no sparge.) 

Other goals for the system are that it hold temperature well, reduce oxygen ingress, and that it will allow me to step mash.   I am generally a no sparge brewer.  And I am often a step mash brewer ( at least with my Belgian Inspired beers).  So I need an easy way to step mash as well.  

For me the best solution is a 5 gallon cooler as a mash tun.   I use a brew bag as a filter, which allows me to crush finer, which means I maintain decent efficiency even with no sparge brewing, usually 76.4% (which I think you would agree is awesome for no sparge in a cooler)

But there is a problem with a cooler mash tun.  You have to open it to stir.  And you have to open it to do an infusion step Mash. Well have no fear brewing nerds, Old Uncle Dave has the solution for you. I'm going to show you all how I modify a cylindrical cooler mash tun in order to accomplish all of the goals set out above.  And you probably own 90% of the tools you'll need.  And the materials you need are cheap at your local big box hardware store.  Here is what you need.
  • A 5 gallon (or 10 gallon) cylindrical mash tun with a screw on lid (they're thinner)
  • 1 1/2" PVC Female Trap Adapter with Nut and Washer, Hub x Socket $2.59
  • a 1 1/2" hole saw.  (any big box hardware store will have this)
  • A large funnel  or better yet Your LHBS
  • A worm clamp - Your LHBS
  • 2' of  1/2" inside diameter silicone tubing - Your LHBS
  • a #10 stopper - Your LHBS
  • A large brew bag, I have lots of these from Wilser, BrewBag, and my LHBS 
  • A stainless steel 8" drip pan as a false bottom ( make sure it is stainless steel not chromium or painted, stainless won't be quite as shiny as chromium)  Any big box will have these. 
So here is the finished mash tun. With the port on top. The port has a mash paddle sticking out of it... with foil wrapped around it.  A waterproof digital thermometer probe goes down into the wort.  My awesome daughter bought me a 13" fast read long probe, so I can take temps at different places in the mash as well through the port.  So far so good.  I'm on my 16th brew with it and it is performing well.  We are getting right at 76% ever time.  If I extend my mash to 90 minutes I get over 80%.  Despite what you have heard; iodine is not a good test of mash conversion, and mash length does matter somewhat.  With apologies to the short and shoddy crowd (who I really enjoy), a 90 minute mash will always create more conversion and fermentability (thinner beer).  Well be posting on using time of mash as a component in excellence soon. 

Here's how it works.  I strike at 12 degrees above my target temperature.   Every 15 minutes i stir...with out opening the lid, that's it.  If I need to step mash I add a funnel with a silicone tube attached and I pour boiling water through the port.  It fits even with the mash paddle in place.

When I am done... I drain into the boil kettle.  Shocking right?  If I'm making a very high gravity beer I have to sparge. When this is the case, I lift the bag, set it into a colander, squeeze/press, and then rinse the grains.  Simple affordable mashing without temperature loss.   You don't need a $5k brewing system, you just need common sense. 

I realize I am kind of a knucklehead, but I think I am right on point with this one...We are focused to much on things that don't really matter.   We are focused on the active part of brewing, we are focused on those halcyon days in the garage with friends brewing beer.   And that is great, but we need to be focused on cleaning, and on making good healthy yeast starters.  (I have some crazy theories about the absolute importance of yeast health that well be tackling soon).  We need to be focused on fermentation temperature control, and proper aeration of wort at yeast pitch.  If you can't make a yeast starter and you want a $1000.00 wort production machine your priorites are wrong.  If you can't control fermentation, and you want a $1000.00 wort production machine, you're nuts.   If you aren't kegging yet... well that comes before fancy wort machines.  If you aren't fermenting in stainless steel, that comes first.  You get where I'm headed here... there's lots to handle before a wort machine.

I'll close by saying, as always, there are no homebrew police, brew how you want to brew.  It is all about having fun making beer.   Cheers!

On our next brew I'll post a picture of the funnel in place during a step mash.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Room Temperature Marzen with Cargill Idapils and Meusdoerffer Munich

Sorry for the lapse, life got busy. Have
no fear we're back.
One of my favorite things about home brewing is that there are no rules.   You can brew the beer you want to brew, the way you choose to brew.  You can add hot peppers to cream ale, or use all Vienna malt for a pale ale. You can even add ridiculous ingredients to a stout... like lobster or oysters. It's your beer, do what you want.  And although there are always opinionated trolls on the internet who are more than willing to tell you that you are doing something wrong, there are no brewing police.

A couple of weeks ago we set out to make a Marzen for consumption later in winter.  I realize we were late to the party and that we should have made it a long time ago.  But like you, our lives get busy.  Like you we have jobs and families and sometimes we don't get around to brewing something, or at least posting about brewing.   But things are settling down now, and we should be posting again weekly.  We will be starting a series on advanced ghetto brewing soon.  In it we will show you easy and more importantly affordable ways to step mash, decoct, control fermentation temperatures, aerate, make starters, and naturally carbonate your beer.

Yeast produces CO2, Ethanol, and Glycerol.
But also lots of esters in different combinations
Depending on it's own genetics. Ethyl acetate,
Isoamyl acetate, Isobutyl acetate
Being prominent in fermentation. 
Right now my fermentation chamber is full of tailgate beer.   Cream Ale, Centennial Blonde, and Dry Stout.   So we are making and fermenting this one at Mark Anthony's place.   And MA doesn't have a fermentation chamber.   So we are fermenting at room temperature.   A lot has been said over the past couple of years about lagers at room temperature.  Let me assure you, this is not a best practice.   If you can ferment in cool controlled temperatures, you should.  But if you can't that doesn't mean you shouldn't brew a lager.  It won't be gross, a lager yeast puts off less ppm of esters than an ale yeast, even when you ferment at higher temperatures. They just happen to be lager esters.  In fact, I often use 34/70 at room temperature for a blonde ale, cream ale, and even some IPAs. So just go ahead and make the damn thing, and use a lager yeast that can handle room temperatures, there are many of them on the market.

With the growth of German styles there has been an increased demand for and discussion about malt selection.  Remember, the most important thing in malt selection is freshness.  And when most of your malt comes all the way from Germany... that means most of your malt was subject to the harsh conditions of shipping all the way from Germany... on a boat, on a train, and on a truck.  So malts that have been shipped from overseas have been subject to all kinds of temperature swings.  Not a huge deal for malt, but still an area of concern.  Foreign Malts... they may be awesome, they may be crap, you just don't know until you brew with them.  So for my base malt, in every recipe that calls for Pilsner, I always use at least half North American Malt.  I like Idapils  by Cargill.  I just want to make sure that a good portion of the grist is fresh.   In truth, for lots of recipes, Idapils is my base malt.   I can't explain the bready, slightly sweet aroma and cracker like taste.  You really need to try this one for your self.  So while I do use some European malts, they never make up the majority of my grain bill. I'd rather use fresh North American Malts, where I know I will get good conversion and great flavor. 

So if you don't have fermentation control, don't let that stop you, go ahead and make a lager at room temperature, or just make a swamp cooler with a laundry tub, some frozen 1 and 2 liters, a fan and some dish towels.  Easy lagering, no big investment. In truth a used mini fridge and controller will be about the same price as the other items I just described, but you probably have most of the stuff you need for a swamp cooler.)  Alternatively, find a cool place in your basement.   A swamp cooler with a fan can easily hold your fermentation down to lager temperatures.   

The key to brewing a a room temperature lager is yeast selection.  Any yeast that is called a "steam beer" yeast, or a "california lager" will work just fine.   Personal favorites are WY2112 and wlp810.  I have made many lagers over the years with steam beer yeast.  And they all turned out just fine.  You can also use Saflager 34/70 or WY2124.  I haven't tried the L05 by Imperial yet, but I may at some point.  In truth, I generally just use Fermentis 3470. It is crazy reliable, and a great attenuator.  I know the guys at Brulosophy have done several xbrmnts with 3470.  Their most famous, they fermented it at 70 F.   But in truth we were doing the same thing in the 1990's.   Full disclosure, we didn't really know any better.  We knew we needed more lager yeast to get a good healthy fermentation, but most of us didn't know we needed specific temperature control.   And the beers turned out just fine. 

Digression warning - I for one believe that the home brew world has gone crazy with expensive gadgetry. You can literally spend thousands on brewing equipment. But before you do, ask yourself, should you? My brewing mentor used to say,  "it's the brewer... not the equipment, and if it is hard to matter how cool it seems" (miss that guy and his wisdom).  We are about to embark on a series called "advanced brewing ghetto style"  In that series we'll be showing you that you can brew even the most advanced styles with out spending a fortune.
equipment. I know guys that have spent over 10K on their home brewery.  And their beer... isn't any better than ours... In truth not usually as good as what we brew.  Which brings me back to the word's of my brewing mentor...

But today, today we were making a "steam marzen", here is how we did it.  We chose Liberty for the hop because it is so similar to a noble hop and we had lot's of it on hand.   We also are trying the Mangrove Jack's yeast for the first time.  We'll let you know how it turns out.   The malts are all Cargill. 

The recipe:
Method: All Grain 
Style: Märzen
Boil Time: 60 min 
Batch Size: 3 gallons (fermentor volume)
Boil Size: 3.75 gallons 
Boil Gravity: 1.043 (recipe based estimate) 
Efficiency: 75% (brew house)
Source: Counterbrew 

AmountFermentablePPG°LBill %
3 lbAmerican - Munich - Light 10L331049.2%
3 lbAmerican - Pilsner371.849.2%
0.1 lbAmerican - Chocolate293501.6%
6.1 lbTotal   
0.6 ozLibertyPellet4Boil60 min18.47
0.2 ozLibertyPellet4Boil0 min
Hops Summary
0.8 ozLibertyPellet4
0.8 ozTotal  
Mash Guidelines
3.6 galStrike at 165Infusion154 F60 min
Starting Mash Thickness: 2.4 qt/lb
Other Ingredients
0.6 tspYeast nutrientOtherBoil15 min.
1.2 eachWhirflockFiningBoil10 min.
Attenuation (avg):
Optimum Temp:
64 - 68 °F

Target Water Profile: Recipe: Lunatic Fringe
Kcmo water. 
1 Camden
5 g calcium chloride
.5 table salt acidify to 5.6 pH before dough in.
The day began with water adjustments, like always.   We can get away with using city water for any amber to dark beer, Mash in was spot on.   The mash went as expected.  By the way, do you like our ghetto advanced mash tun?  An up coming post will show you how to make one.  We are averaging 75% mash efficiency with it on a 60 minute mash and 82.5% on a 90 Minute mash.  On this brew day we decided to do a decoction for the mash out step.  Decoctions are not strictly necessary.  But they are fun and we are among the brewers who are convinced that decoction adds a certain flavor that you just can't get from a normal brewing process.  We also enjoy some of the traditional processes.   We are guys who find brewing to be relaxing.  We don't stress out while we brew.   We have all brewed enough batches that we really know what we are doing and how to react to anything that may come our way.   On this day our mash fell by 4 degrees over 60 minutes... no big deal we'll just do a decoction.  
The boil was uneventful.   No boil over or other shenanigans to report.   A lot of you turn your brew kettle in to a magma like cauldron... boiling hard and always at full power.   To you I say... why?  You don't need to boil at full power, just above a simmer is just fine, it will still evaporate and concentrate your flavors, it will still break down proteins, and hop utilization will still be fine.  In fact there is a phenomenon called boil shock, which we will cover in a subsequent post.   It takes a while to get used to a gentle boil but once you do, you will never go back.   This beer is currently lagering.  Can't wait to try it soon.     When it is done, we will of course post updates with tasting notes.     The good news, we're back, and should be posting regularly again.   Sorry for the lapse. Up next a couple more brew days, and then we will all embark on Advanced Ghetto Brewing. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

MC2 IPA with Cargill 2 row

John and I set out to make an ipa using two of our favorite hops and some of our favorite grains... On a week night.  On a stove top.  Yup we brew small batch to.  I know you're all more accustomed to seeing us brew 10 gallons in the garage, but we enjoy brewing and stove top makes it possible to brew any night of the week.  From the time I got there till we were all cleaned up was. Just over 3 hours.   Not too shabby. And we watched basketball, and we tried some sours.  All in all a good week night.

Our goal was to make an ipa with much of the flavors we enjoy from an New England ipa, but with out the cloudy murky appearance of the same.   We wanted a flavorful malt background but The Malt would not be the star of this recipe. We chose a combination of 2 row malt,  Cara/Crystal 40 and a little bit of wheat malt. But not enough wheat malt to make it cloudy or murky. The Malt we chose was all Cargill.  
Cargill Two Row Barley is a blend of Metcalfe and Copeland Barley.   Some Maltsters want you to believe that barley from a single plant (Harrington) species is superior to a blend.  But think that through sports fans.  Harrington is a 22 year old varietal.  Newer and better grains have come along. Metcalfe and Copeland are just as enzymatic and field hardy as Harrington, but they simply taste better.  Harrington is very neutral.  No doubt Harrington is still excellent for producing lager.  But we find that the flavors from Cargill two row are superior and we continue to have fantastic conversion and extraction from the Cargill grains.  Our mash efficiency was excellent.  John got a fancy new gas stove, so we were off on our brew house efficiency, no big deal we added 1 lb of extra light dme, and we ended up with an extra .23 gallons of wort.  Our IBUs will be a little lower, but this thing is 79 IBUs and almost all of it late.   We can afford to give a little there.  The moral? These things happen your first time using new equipment.  But we are experienced and prepared, and we knew what to do.

Here's the recipe. 
Style - 21A American IPA
2.75 Gallons at 75% efficiency
1.058 OG
1.011 FG
9.67   SRM - Morey
79.49 IBUs - Raeger

The grain:
4.00 lbs  Cargill Two Row
0.25 lbs  Cargill Wheat Malt
0.25 lbs  Cargill  Cara 40
10 ounces of Cane Sugar

The Hops
.4 ounces of Columbus at 40 minutes
.5 ounces of Citra at 5 minutes
.5 ounces of Mosaic at 5 minutes
.5 ounces of Citra Whirlpool for 15 minutes starting at 180 F
.65 ounces of Mosaic Whirlpool for 15 minutes starting at 180 F
Yup thats' the super cool small
batch mash tun with a port for
stirring the wort!
.5 ounces of Citra Dry hop for 3 days
.5 ounces of Mosaic Dry hop for 3 days

Brew day starter of Fermentis S04 - 9 g of yeast in .5 liter of water with 50 grams of DME.  Or just rehydrate during brew day with goferm. 

152 F for 60 minutes - stir every 15 minutes
168 F for 10 minutes - stir and let rest for 10 minutes

Ferment at 65 F for 7 days then raise to 70 F to let it finish strong.  Dry hop with 3 days to go!

Fermentis s04
100% of the time, it works
every time!
Small batch is a great way to spend an evening.  Brewing small batch gives you more variety.  Yes, you will need some different equipment, no it isn't expensive. Check back for upcoming posts on Affordable Advanced Home Brewing.  If you haven't tried Cargill, let your home brew shop know they should get some.  If you haven't used Fermentis S04 in a while, give it another try it is excellent stuff.  The dry yeast from Fermentis gives us consistent reliable performance.    

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Make wine... because chicks dig it... Master Vintner Pinot Noir

Happy Big Brew Day 2018... I'll be posting about Big Brew in a subsequent post!

I know most of you come here for beer knowledge.   I know most of you love beer.  Hey, I love beer to.  I've been in this hobby for 28 years.   But this hobby is not really just the beer making hobby.  It is the fermentation hobby.  The skills you have learned making beer apply to other fermentables as well.  With the skills you have learned brewing you can make world class Bread and Pizza,  Fermented Pickles, Cheese, Cider, Mead... and Wine. 

Most of you also make Mead, and Cider... but not Wine.  And I think I know why.   Wine has a certain je ne sais quoi, an unidentifiable aura.   There are entire libraries of books dedicated to wine.   There are people who spend their entire life studying wine.  They enjoy tasting wine and smelling wine and trying to pick out the subtle flavors and aromas.  You can make a fortune, by finding words to describe wine in a way that others have never thought to say.

 If you like to try to pick out the subtle fruit flavors of a NEIPA, you would probably enjoy doing the same with a Pinot Grigio, a Pinot Noir, or a Syrah.  There are so many people who love wine, and who enjoy tasting different wines.  And there are a whole bunch of snobby idiots who think "wine love" is a symbol of refinement, achievement, and fine breeding.  They are quite simply Jerks.

Wine making and trading doesn't have to be snobby.  Making wine doesn't mean you have to join the local snooty patooties at some expensive exclusive club and argue about the merits of the 1961 Petrus vs. the 1982 Latour.    You can still be a beer guy and enjoy wine as well.  The best thing about home brew... there are no rules.   

And there is a benefit.   Chicks dig wine!  It's a fact.   Most chicks (forgive me ladies) enjoy wine more than beer.    In my scientific research (wine tastings) your SWMBO will find you significantly more attractive and even tolerable if you make some wine.  Alas, my SWMBO is gone.  It's my fault, I should have made more wine...

Over the years I have made hundreds of batches of wine and over 800 batches of beer.  I've also made some cider, and some mead, and pickles. I have made wine from fruit, and from grapes.  And it is always fun.   Making wine from grapes is a once a year thing for me.   I go to the LHBS and order 90 - 120 lbs of grapes.  I use their destemmer and crusher.   There are 30 to 40 other wine makers there, there are horderves, and loads of beer and wine to try.   The rest of the year, I make wine from Fruit (frozen berries) and from Kits.   I have used every major manufacturer.   I have settled on two manufacturers.  One by preference (Master Vintner), and one because it is what my LHBS carries (winexpert)  Both make excellent wines.   

My preferred wine Kit manufacturer is Master Vintner.  Every single wine I have made by them has been excellent.  The customer support is fantastic.  If you post a question, Tim (the curator)  will actually get back with you.   The website is great, and loaded with information.  And the prices, are much more reasonable than other manufacturers (about $70 for a basic kit). 

Now compared to most people I am an advanced wine maker.  I have the gear to test for sulfites, and acid (not pH actual acid), I have a pump and filter (somewhere in storage).  I have a large primary fermenter dedicated to wine, big mouth bubblers with spigots, and loads of glass carboys. (you don't need all this stuff it's just fun).  Compared to my sister and brother in law I am a GOD OF WINE...I am Bacchus himself.  But they wanted to learn to make wine and so, being a beneficent wine god... I agreed to teach them.  I contacted Tim at Master Vintner just looking for advice on teaching others to make wine, and he said "why don't I send you a Weekday Wine Pinot Noir. You can make it and tell me what you think."   What do I think?  Free wine and the fun of making wine... hell yeah, that's what I think.  And so the adventure began... teaching my sister and brother in law how to make wine.  I should point out that the Weekday Wines kits are only about $50 bucks.  So they are as affordable as the lesser quality kits that you see on Amazon. 

The kit arrived, we already had all the gear we needed.  But if you need gear to, they have a $99 starter kit,   The kit instructions are easy to read and very straight forward.   Much better than the others I use (although in fairness the other major producer has "reimagined" their instructions recently, and they are now much better).  

There is nothing super difficult about making wine.  It really is easier to do than extract brewing.  If you are reading this you are probably a brewer.  You already know how to be clean and sanitary.  The only difference in the production of wine is that you have to be clean and sanitary from the beginning.   Many wine makers use sulfites to sanitize, but your regular Starsan will work just fine.  Although, with wine I usually rinse it out after it does it's voodoo.

Master Vintner Kits come
with everything you need!
The next step,  Add the bentonite.  Make muddy water.   Yup, the first step in making crystal clear wine is almost always making muddy water.  Bentonite is a gray, clay powder.  It is used in wines as a clarifier. It has a negative electrostatic charge. (static electricity) This negative charge along with hydrogen bonding, causes suspended particles in the wine to cling to it as it settles to the bottom of the fermenter.

After that the process is easy.   You add the juice concentrate, fill to the specified amount with water, add your oak (sawdust), pitch your yeast, add your air lock, and wait.  That is it.   You just made wine.  

Now unlike beer you will need to rack the wine once or twice.   For making wine, I always use fermenter's with spigots.  But a sanitized auto syphon will work as well.   

The instructions tell you when to rack off of the lees (trub for you brewers).  This kit was started at 1.089, we racked the first time at 1.020.  The wine was already clearing up nicely.  Now there is one small change we made,  we wanted an off dry "young pinot" So when the wine hit 1.009 (the next night) we went ahead and stabilized it and began the degassing and clearing (fining).   But again, I am a little more advanced and I knew exactly what to do to get the result we wanted.   The kit instructions tell you to ferment it all the way out (.998) WHEN YOU ARE JUST STARTING IT IS ALWAYS BEST TO FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS.  

So I mentioned degassing.  That is one specialty piece of equipment you may need to get.  You have seen them before at your local home brew store.  You just sanitize, and attach them to a drill.   They knock the CO2 out of the wine, which helps it clear up and stabilize.  

We then waited another 2 weeks and bottled.  A corker is included in a basic kit.  I happen to have an italian floor corker, which can do wine or champagne bottles.  It is a minor investment if you make a lot of wine.  Mine was $50 bucks 20 years ago, but you can still get them for about $70.  My niece likes to make and apply labels to our wine.  She called this one "Peace out Pinot".  I call it awesome.  

Testing, recording, and
evaluating is part of
the fun!
The color is garnet to purple, it is ruby to garnet in the light fading to violet at the edge. Beautiful.  The wine would fade to a brick red if it aged, as the blue compounds denatured.  But this wine won't be aged.  Awesome aromas of berry jam (blackberry and ripe raspberry).  The flavor is also vigorous berries, balanced by a nice oak presence and good mouth feel. exactly what you want from a young Pinot Noir.  There is no chocolate or tobacco aroma or flavor in this one, but that is ok, that is what we were going for all along.   It will be perfect for sitting by the lake and watching boats go by.  

So, start making wine.  It is fun, and delicious, and it makes you a much better brewer.  The things you learn making wine apply to brewing more than you probably realize.   And remember chicks dig wine.