Monday, June 29, 2015

disasterous brew day... when life hands you lemons

These things are facts;  I have been brewing for a long time. I have won some awards (local only).  I make really good beer.   There is a thin line between confidence and arrogance... and I crossed the line on Sunday.

After church (a service that left me angry by the way, all people should have the same basic human rights!) I decided to brew. Nothing fancy, another cream ale...partial mash... you probably saw the previous post.

Unfortunately for me, I was trying to cram a brew session in before a
Sunday night engagement I had.  And quite simply I wasn't paying close attention.   I doughed in, put the lid on my electric mash kettle, and forgot to turn off the heat.   So when I opened my mash tun to stir... boiling mash...  So since it was boiling any way.  I stirred and let it boil for 20 minutes then shut it off.   (tested the gravity on this error and it came out to 1.056)  So...I packaged that wort for now.  Ill grab some lager hops, and some lager yeast, california 2112 from Wyeast and make a fully decoted lager from it.  I have no expectations that it will be good, but well see.  This is home brewing, most of my accidents turn into beer that gets poured out.  Sometimes, once in a great blue accident is awesome and you spend years trying to recreate the happy incident that created it.

Meanwhile on the stove top 2.25 gallons of water and 2# DME was heating slowly to 190 F.  So I added  .5 # of flaked rice in a bag for 20 minutes, cut the heat, added 2# of DME and 3.3 LBS of Briess Golden LME.  
Oh and 1 Gallon of Hot water.   I proceeded to boil this 3.25 gallons of water and extract adding hopps at 60 and 0.   1 oz of mount hood, and 1 oz of liberty.   So... yeah an imperial cream ale, that's what ill call it.  if it doesn't taste amazing Ill add a hop tea or perhaps a fruit extract.

The lessons (re) learned

  • Don't brew when you're pressed for time
  • Organize organize organize
  • stay on top of your details
  • slow down,  slow down
Even an old brew hound like me screws up every now and then.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Partial Mash Cream Ale Recipe for you all

Ok, I've gone a little overboard recently.  I currently have 28.5 gallons fermenting.   So what is the logical thing to do?  Brew more of course.

I promised I would post partial mash recipes here on line.  So here is a new version of Cool Gales Cream Ale.  The only major change is that I am using Irish Malting Company Stout Malt.  My understanding is that it is a version of 2 row Maris Otter. But I have to tell you the kernels are huge. The flavor is nutty and sweet.  I have been told that the yield is far higher too.  So here it is.  Probably brew it tomorrow, or maybe tonight.

4.5 # Irish Malting company stout malt.
2 # of Extra light DME
1 lb of flaked corn (not corn flakes, thanks for the question but No breakfast cereals)
.5 of Flaked rice (see above)
.5 oz of Cluster Hop
1 oz of Liberty Hop
US 05 yeast
1 tsp irish moss
1 tsp yeast nutrient.

Strike grains with 3 gal of water at 158.2 °F. Mash at 150 °F for 60 min. lift the basket and the bag and set on a grate above the kettle drain bag, gently squeeze add 2.25 gallons of 190 f water in which you have dissolved the dme.
Rinse the grain with approximately 2 gal sparge water at 168 °F. Stop when volume is 6.5 gallons Combined runnings gravity should be about 1.037 follow hop schedule.
add wurlfloc tablet at the 5m mark at the end of the boil you will have about 5.5 gallons of wort (maybe a little less) chill wort OG should be about 1.047 transfer wort to fermenting bucket 5.25 gallons pour wort into another bucket then back into fermenter to mix and aerate. Pitch US 05 rehydrated in 3/4 cup of 90F water. FERMENT at 63-65 for 14 days Transfer to bottling bucket, use finings (super kleer kc or brewers gelatin) bottle and let condition for 2 weeks If this is for competition etc...Cool Ferment for an additional 7 days if possible at or near 40F Consider finings. This beer should be brite.

Feel free to ask any questions, Ill answer if I can.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Update on the cream ale... tasting notes...

Update on the Cream ale we brewed 5/30/15...
If you're like me you always try a sample at bottling.   The wine glass (really a chalice) has a sample of the cream ale. I would say the color is spot on.   About a 4 SRM.  The aroma is very light hop,  it smells like beer.  This is not a hoppy style. This is lawn mower beer.   This is watching the game with beer muggles beer.   Initial taste impressions... wow!  The body is too thick for competition... but I love it.  The flavor has a definite corn flavor, but not like a DMS sweet creamed corn flavor, more like a pleasant corn flavor.   Time to force carb this and see how it really is... The body should lighten some.

Force carbonated the beer in 2, 2 liter bottles.  I do that a lot.  It is easy, reliable and lets me consume my beer immediately.   So the taste was balanced some by the carbonation, now it tastes even better.  The body is still there but it is balanced by the carbonation.  There is just a hint of hops.  SWMBO did not like it... "too thick and bitter" Cool I must be doing something right, cause if it doesn't have fruit or honey in it she doesn't like it.   Very low bitterness and hop aroma.   This beer is all about the combination of grains.   I think this beer would get dinged in the cream ale category, too much body.  It would probably do ok as a blonde... except for the corn.     The beer cleared beautifully.  That is the TV screen through the beer.  Ill keep working on my cream ales, but this one was very encouraging.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Mr. Beer Fermenters... UPDATE

There is nothing wrong with Mr. Beer.  It is the way many of you got introduced to brewing.  I'll say that I'm confident the ingredients have improved too since Coopers purchased Mr. Beer.   Having said that, I have never brewed a Mr. Beer kit.  But I own one of there fermenters, and I use it.  The equipment they make is great. And it fits perfectly with my philosophy... brew in your kitchen...brew a lot... keep things simple... focus on process and sanitation.

So apparently there are 4 Mr. Beer fermenters at a local thrift shop... I'm heading out now.   Ill keep you updated but in general.  If I can switch my all grain batches to 2.25 gallons.  I can no sparge BIAB and I can easily cold crash and lager any of my batches.   Further I'll eliminate the head space created by a 3.5 gallon batch in a 5 gallon better bottle.   The head space can promote film yeast, which although harmless is gross.   That will mean all 4 of my better bottles are available for partial mash and extract batches of beer. And Ill have 5 Mr. Beer fermenters for 2.25 gallon all grain batches, which Ill say my ghetto turkey fryer will easily handle.   I also suspect 2.25 gallon batches are a better size for me to brew... I brew almost every weekend. And currently have 84 12 oz bottles and 18.5 gallons awaiting bottling.   That's 281 12 oz beers...   Yeah...well...uh... that's a whole lot of beer... maybe too much?

But at 2.25 gallons per shot I'm only brewing about 9 gallons a month. That is only 96 beers... even with my help yourself open garage policy... my neighbors and friends don't even drink that much...

Im guessing what Ill end up doing is a partial mash batch occasionally, and lot's of all grain small batches.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Pliny the Toddler... Brewday

OK, Im obsessed.  I admit it.  (isn't that the first step?)  I enjoy beer,  I really enjoy brewing beer,  I even enjoy bottling beer.  So, yes... I brewed again this weekend.  This time a beer that I have been wanting to try for years.   Pliny the Toddler.  The original recipe is by Drew Beechum.   If you don't know who Drew is, he wrote (along with Denny Conn) Experimental Homebrewing a great book.  He also wrote the best book on home made hard cider, The Everything Home Cider Making Book.   Several years ago he developed a recipe inspired by Russian River's Pliny the Elder.   (look it up).  The idea was to make a recipe that was similar in flavor to Pliny, but far lower in alcohol.  I love Pliny the Elder.  It is probably the best beer I have ever tasted.  So I have been wanting to make this for years.  So... here you go.

Orgainized my stuff.   This is an all grain batch.  3.5 gallons (5 gallon boil).  A great thing about smaller batches is the cost is way less.   This whole batch cost me less than $20.00.   It uses the same hops that Pliny uses.  The basic recipe is

  • 4.3# of 2 row
  • 1 # of Corn Sugar
  • .5# of Biscuit Malt
  • .3# of Carapils
  • .4 oz of Warrior at 60
  • .4 oz of Centennial at 10
  • .4 oz of Columbus at 5
  • .4 oz of Cascade at 0
  • 1 tsp of Irish Moss
  • 1 tsp of yeast nutrient
  • 6-8 grams of Lallemand Nottingham Ale Yeast
  • Dry Hop .2 oz of Cascade, Centennial, & Simcoe at 4 days to bottling.
As I have stated here before, I often dough in low, and slow rise to strike temperature.   This approach yielded an 84% efficiency on this batch. The low dough in temperature creates a quasi protein rest.  It allows the enzymes that break down proteins to do their thing.  Protein rests are not necessary with fully modified barley malts, and they can create a thin bodied beer, so you have to think your way through on this topic.   Here is my general guideline, for light bodied beers I dough in at about 135 and let it slow rise to strike temp.   With full bodied beers I generally dough in right at strike temp (which is generally higher for full body beers) and bring it back up to rest temp.  It works for me.  

Here is the mash resting comfortably at 150.  It stayed there with almost no fiddling around for the entire 60 minutes.  It is all about knowing your system.   What works on my ghetto electric turkey fryer, may not work on your system.  Babysit your brew!

Before the sugar addition (always late in the boil) I was at 1.030.  That is spot on.  The sugar will add roughly 1.006.  So after boil we get a gravity of about 1.045.  Which is what we want.  You always gain gravity in the boil.  Water evaporates, sugars do not. By the way I need to get a new hydrometer tube, that one is just too big, it takes way too much wort to determine the gravity. 

The boil.  Nothing fancy here just 5 gallons of boiling wort.  No boil overs this week, I was diligent.

I force chilled it with my wort chiller.  It was raining out side, so I had to use the sink.  Chilling it took 45 minutes.  Gotta figure something out to chill the wort faster and use less water.  Still thinking the jaded brewing chillers, or a prechiller system is probably the way to go.

 My final gravity was a little higher than expected. (.002 higher) Just means I did a good job with my mash and boil.  And here is Nottingham pitched into well aerated yeast.  I shook the heck out of this one.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Saturday Brew Session Champagne Lager and a Cascadian IPA

 Your brew day should always begin with a clean kitchen.  There are no exceptions to this rule.  If you want SWMBO to appreciate your brewing hobby, it begins and ends with cleaning the kitchen.  After a crazy Friday night our kitchen was a disaster, if you look closely you can see half of a 6 of Genesee Cream to the right of the stove.  The pink pitcher,  is my one gallon brewing pitcher.
 I have some fining and bottling to do today to, it is going to be a very long home brew hobby day. (In fact is was a long day.  Started cleaning at 8 am finished cleaning at 8 pm.  But took a break for a 2 hour movie in there, and a trip to the LHBS.  But I walked away with 6 gallons of great beer,  I bottled 5 gallons, I fined 10 gallons.) You know you're a home brewer when... You have empty glass carboys in your breakfast room, and a bucket of sanitizer...
 I always organize and then re organize my stuff.   I keep a brew log and check off my boxes. I find that when I don't follow my brew log... I screw up.  Even after 20+ years.   Our hobby has lots of little details that make big differences.  You can't screw them up if you want to make truly excellent beer.   As you can see this is  a partial mash batch.
 Headed to strike temperature,  My brewery was suddenly invaded by hobbits.  "hobbits my precious...what are hobittses? filthy breakfast making dont clean up after themselves little creatures ...Hobbitses ar our friends.... not on brew day."  What are they doing up early?  They're never up before noon.  There must be some dumb "one direction" special on Nickelodeon.   Oh no maybe that one guy got a hair cut...

 Warming on the stove are my DME pot and my rinse sparge pot.   When I do large batches it is almost always partial mash.  5.5 Gallons is large for me.  So I add the DME with a whisk to a pot that I can gently heat.  I don't add the DME until after the mash.  You have to calculate your mash water correctly, and to do that you need to see how much water the grain absorbed.  The other pot is heating to 168 for rinsing the grains. A very easy repeatable way to make good beer.

After dough in, pretty much spot on.  I was at 153, but 5 ice cubes solved that.   "Listen to me young padawan... If can mash at correct temp good beer will you have... if too HIGH VERY BAD."  You can accidentally "fix" the fermentability of your wort. Not fix as in repair, fix as in affix, fasten, glue... Your best strategy is to dough in low around 135 F for a protein rest and rise to your mash temperature.  Multi step mashing is a key to excellent beer. Doughing in low cant hurt anything, doughing in TOO HIGH, can ruin a batch.  And btw, when did it become a big deal to nail your saccrification rest temp? No Belgian brewer ever tweeted about nailing his strike temp. How dumb is that, just add a protein rest.  It improves your beer, and eliminates the risk of overshooting strike temperatures.

 These warriors are ready for service.  California Lager Yeast.  A lager yeast that thrives at ale temperatures.  And you can make just about any full bodied lager with it.  I'm not kidding on this one, it makes great lawn mower lager, great steam beer, great bock, and great Oktoberfest.  Give it a try if you are an ale brewer.

The boil. Nothing too exciting here, as you can tell from the leavings on the side of the pot, I had a near boil over.  So yeah, clean up sucked.
Chilling on the patio.  Large batches get chilled on the patio.   Need the full power of the garden hose to cool them faster.  They still take 25 -30 minutes.  I hate that water waste, so I have to improve my immersion chiller in the near future.  I may just buy a Jaded chiller. Or I may turn mine into a double coil, I haven't decided yet.
 I like to use my grains again for a second 1 gallon batch.  Here you see the one gallon fermenter the cascade hops, the S04, and the strike water coming up to temp.  There have been many days where the 1 gallon batch was the better of the two batches.  In this case the grains and a pound of DME were turned into a pretty big cascade hopped APA.  1.068 OG.   .4 oz at 60, .3 at 15, .3 at flame out.  It will have .125 of cascade, and .125 of centennial for dry hopping.   It should be a tongue stinger.  It's kinda for a friend at church who loves the big APAs and IPAs.

I suggest that if you are a partial mash or small batch all grain brewer you should almost always do a partiguyle batch when you brew.  Its fun, easy, and only adds about an hour to your brew day.
Here is the carbonated and pretty clear result of the partial mash "every day pale ale" from a couple of weeks ago.  It is dang good.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Beer Book Study Guides... "How to Brew"

So, I'm re reading John Palmer's "How to Brew".  For those of you who don't know who John Palmer is... well he's an author, and home brew enthusiast.  You know the joke... "he's no rocket scientist?" ... John Palmer actually is a rocket scientist.  I think his education is in metallurgical engineering.   So, he's smart.  But more importantly he makes brewing beer easy to understand.  Something many of the other really smart guys in home brewing don't take the time to do.   John is also a very funny cool person, and like me he loves Tolkien.  So yeah... FRODO LIVES!

As I'm re reading this great book I am taking notes and really studying the material.   I'm treating it like a course in brewing.  I'm creating an outline of every chapter and reviewing the chapter notes as I go.

Wondering if anyone wants me to turn these Notes into a study guide?  A series of worksheets that you can fill out as you read the book?  I don't know about you, but I find that kinda stuff helpful.   If it is helpful I'll probably do it for several of the other brewer's publication books.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The New Rules for Me...Common Sense Home Brewing

As home brewer's we all have a tendency to want... to want a better set up, to want more equipment, to want cheaper prices, to want the perfect recipe.   I am no different, but what I want... to consistently make excellent (near competition quality) beer with my current set up.  To that end I have developed some rules for my self.  By following these rules I avoid wandering all over the fertile landscape of home brewing.   These rules are my road map.   I'm sure you have all been tempted to try many different methods, recipes, and techniques.  By having rules, you can try different things in a way that you know, that you have proven will work for you.

Image result for follow the rulesSo with out further adieu, I present my common sense rules for making excellent beer.  The first rule is of course have fun.

  1. .
  2. It's about the skill of the brewer.
    1. It's not the equipment
    2. It's not the recipe
    3. It is about the skill of the brewer
      1. The cleanliness of the brewer
      2. The sanitation of the brewer
      3. The organization of the brewer
      4. The subtle tricks, nuances and processes picked up through experience... and failure
  3. There is no substitute for Sanitation. 
    1. Clean everything. 
    2. Sanitize everything.
  4. Know your equipment, and it's limitations
    1. Stick with your process
    2. Do not change from 3 vessel, to BIAB, to Partial Mash, to No Boil constantly.  
    3. Find your process and stick with it. 
      1. For me that process is Partial Mash.
        1. I don't do all grain 5 gallon batches
        2. I don't do purely BIAB, although I use a bag.
        3. I don't do purely extract
  5. Proven Recipes tend to work well.
    1. Proven means vetted out, tested, published in a reputable journal of home brewing.  BYO or ZYMURGY
      1. Get BYO Here
    2. Proven means recipes from sources you KNOW and trust.
      1. It may mean a recipe off of Beer Smith, or BrewToad, or Brewer'sfriend, if you know the brewer and their quality.
        1. Be careful with online recipes... I saw a so called partial mash "stout" recipe that had 4 lbs of chocolate malt in it. and 9.9 lbs of LME... uh... well... no... hard pass sir.
  6. There is no substitute for Sanitation.  YES I'M REPEATING MYSELF
    1. Clean everything. 
    2. Sanitize everything. 
  7. Record everything
    1. Have a brewing log for every batch.  Record Everything that happened while you were brewing.
      1. Successes
      2. Failures
    1. I've been brewing for 24 years, and I still learn all the time.
    2. I'm currently re reading "How to brew" by John Palmer. This time I'm reading it with a note book, studying everything.  
      1. get the book here
    3. Next up "Principles of Brewing Science" by George Fixx.
      1. a very technical book for more advanced brewers
      2. Get Principles of Brewing Science Here... but have your learning cap on.
What are your rules for home brew success?

Monday, June 1, 2015

Strawberry Blonde Brew Day 1.052 NO CHILL

Yup, I brewed again.   2 days, 2 brews.  So much fun.  But Today things didn't go exactly as planned. You see, today wasn't supposed to be a no chill brew day but a meeting at church cut my brew day short.   So for the first time we here at counter brew bring you... a no chill brew day.  It's a strawberry blonde ale, so I'm not worried about the hops. We'll see how it turns out.
Of course Ill keep everyone posted, and if it is great beer, I'll probably start no chill brewing when ever I can. To be honest it has always bothered me how much water is wasted in the chilling of beer.  I know the theory is sound, I know that down under guys do it all the time, but I haven't had the courage to try it yet.  But, hey, anything that makes my brew day easier...

Today was a blonde ale... in my crazy head a blonde ale is a cream ale at a little higher OG and with a little more freedom on SRM and gran bill.  I know classically I should use Windsor or an English ale yeast but I usually use US05.  And this one is destined to have strawberry flavor added, so no reason for a yeast with any complication at all. Truth be told this one is for SWMBO and her girl friends.  It is a classic summer beer.   Ill probably brew a wheat next weekend and that one too will have a flavoring added (apricot or raspberry).  Easy way to create fun summer beers.  My new fermentation chamber can hold 6, 5 gallon fermenters so... yeah, lets fill them all.  When that is done, Ill begin my Lagers and Stouts.   I know many of you brew lagers in the winter for summer, but I brew them in the summer with Wyeast 2112.  The idea is to have plenty of non challenging beers around for football season, and to build a series of beers on one yeast cake (standard lager, premium lager, bock, ocktoberfest)

Today was also a traditional brew day.  No partial mash or BIAB.  A relatively small grain bill meant it was time to use the 2, 2 gallon  beverage coolers with the bags as filters.   Using the bags as filters means you don't need to vorlauf.  A quality voile bag will create a clear grain free wort.  Nice time savings.  Even though I could't chill my beer, it was still a fun brew day, and I continued to learn a lot about the Cajun Injector as a brew kettle.  I think I actually figured out my main practices from here on out.   So regardless of how the beer turns out this was a great brew day.  Crazy as it may sound I plan on brewing Partial Mash, most all of the time. A grain bill up to 6 lbs with 2 lbs of DME means I need about 3 gallons of water for strike, 2 gallons of 170 F for the rinse, and 2.25 gallons addition.   It's the addition that makes this perfect... Into the addition, on the stove top, I dissolve my DME.  I bring it slowly to near boiling.  This weekend Ill post a step by step of how I rule the brewing world with my Janky, Ghetto Set Up.