Sunday, August 30, 2015

132 bottles of beer on the floor. ..

I'll post about my all grain  Mr beer brew day tomorrow. 

For now know this. .. sometimes our hobby takes a lot of work.  I bottled 132 beers this weekend. 

  • Belgian abbey. .. Freaking amazing.  
  • Wimpole street brown.  A tried and true partial mash recipe that I've been making for years.  So very good.  
  • Cool gales cream ale,  my partial mash version of cream of 3 crops.   I try to never run out of this beer.

I also brewed an all grain clone of Bell's two hearted ale.   Perfect brew day,  should be great. 

Update on miller the muggle, and the beer from way back,  the disastrous brew day, remember?  the one where my mash got way too hot?  I have added amylase enzyme to both now.  The miller the muggle on Saturday,  and the disaster ale last Tuesday.   Miller the muggle has formed a mini krausen and is bubbling 1 per ever 4 seconds, it was bubbling at 1 per second 12 hours after I added the amylase enzyme.   Can't wait to try it.  My beer that I screwed up with a mash that was to hot was stuck at 1.024 for a long time, it tasted like candy.  I tried all the tricks,  swirling,  warming,  yeast nutrient. .. nothing.   So I tried the amylase enzyme. ... it dropped to 1.012  so... very cool.  I have dry hopped it with .5 oz of centennial to help balance it even more.  Will be packaging soon.   Very cool to know that you can save almost any beer (sans infections and burnt beer)  

Keep brewing, and keep sending your questions and ideas... special thanks to Schlenkerla at for his help.  Check out his recipies, he's a good guy who is happy to help, and he never acts like a Tommy Know it all.

Friday, August 28, 2015

What to do with your old Mr. Beer stuff... YOU CAN GO ALL GRAIN!

Many of you got into brewing by means of Mr. Beer.   You probably even made some drinkable stuff with Mr. Beer.   Mr. Beer is a great way to get into this hobby.   A couple of years ago Coopers purchased Mr. Beer.   And from what I have heard the ingredients have improved dramatically.  That is great for the Mr. Beer fans.   You may have noticed I said... from what I have heard...  because I don't really know.  I have never used the ingredients,  but I do own 3 of the fermenters.

I own 3 of the LBKs (little brown kegs)  and a bunch of their bottles etc...whenever I can grab these at a garage sale or off of craigslist for cheap, I do.  They are nearly perfect for making small (2 gallon) batches of beer.  Consider:

  • Large opening, easy to clean.
  • Small size allows for stovetop BIAB (all grain) 
    • IF you are a Mr. Beer fan, I am here to tell you all grain and partial mash really do taste better... they just do.
  • Small size allows for easy lagering. 
    • The LBK fits in your fridge easily.
    • There are many, many lager strains where the primary fermentation is at ale temperatures.
      • Secondary is at 38... sounds like a fridge to me.
  • Durable construction and design.
    • The equipment is good stuff.
  • The provided bottles fit the amount of wort exactly.
  • The carbonation tablets are easy to use.  
There are of course some limitations... without a blow off tube, I would be concerned about doing really high gravity beers, anything over 1.080 I'd be cautious of brewing in a Mr. Beer.   

But now that you are an experienced enough brewer to find your way to my little corner of the world wide web,  you probably aren't using your Mr. Beer stuff anymore.  And that is a shame.  I am here to change that.  This weekend I'm brewing a beer inspired by Bell's Two Hearted Ale.  I am also brewing a lawnmower lager (partial mash) with some of the Mr Beer ingredients... I'll post the recipes and the process.   I hope it will inspire many of you to start using your LBKs again. 

Recipe for 2 Gallon All Grain Bells 2 Hearted Clone for Mr. Beer LBK
We're brewing on the stove top.  You will need the following stuff... most of which you probably already have...
  1. a large stock pot (4 gallons or more)
  2. a brew bag, you can use a 5 gallon paint strainer bag (i do all the time) or you can go get a brew bag at your LHBS
  3. a smaller bag for the hop additions, there are a lot of centennial hops in this recipe and we don't want to lose volume to hop trub...
  4. a thermometer
  5. a large spoon
  6. cleaner, sanitizer, etc... 
The recipe
The mash (based on 65% efficiency) 

5 # of 2 row brewers malt, pale malt, or irish stout malt (it's not dark)
.4 # of Cara/Crystal 60 Lovibond (6.4 oz)

Place the grains into the bag and lower them into the 156.9F H2O... 
Strike grains with 3.25 gal of water at 156.9 °F.
Mash at 152 °F for 60 min.
You should have 2.6 gallons of wort after draining.  

The Boil
Boil wort for 60 minutes total
.3 oz of Centennial Hops before it even comes to the boil
.4 oz of Centennial Hops with 20 minutes remaining
1/2 tsp of Irish Moss with 10 Minutes remaining
if you have a wort chiller add it with 10 minutes to go
1/2 tsp of Yeast Nutrients with 8 Minutes remaining
.8 oz of Centennial Hops with 5 minutes remaining


Chill the wort down to pitching temperatures (i use my small stainless immersion chiller) you can put the pot in a sink of ICE water. Bring it down to 70F or just under.   Remember to sanitize a thermometer if you want to take the readings.

Aerate the wort.   I pour it into the LBK, leaving the trub behind.   Then I rinse the pot.   I then set the LBK on the counter and open the valve allowing the wort to drain into the pot, which I have put on the floor.   I then pour it again into the LBK... at this point it is pretty well aerated.  But if you don't think it is, and you have the ability hit it with O2, or stick your aquarium pump stone in there and give it more.   I'll probably hit it with more air from my aquarium pump (dedicated to brewing only and carefully sanitized)

Pitch the Yeast.  1 package of US05,  you don't need to rehydrate your dry yeast.   But it doesn't hurt.   So if you know how to rehydrate yeast you should do that while you are chilling and aerating.   

Ferment this beer for 3 weeks between 65 F and 70 F.   With 4 days to go sanitize a muslin hop bag and add .4 oz of Centennial.   After 3 weeks put the LBK in the fridge overnight.  The beer will clear to a crystal golden color.  If not, use gelatin and clear the beer again.   I bottle this beer in the Mr. Beer Bottles.   (Pale ales and IPAs need to be drunk while fresh, so there is no risk of putting them into PET bottles).   Wait a week to 10 days before you try your beer.   It should carb up completely by 14 days.  I will probably use carbonation tablets for the bottles, 1 gallon of this will go into two 2 liter bottles for immediate consumption.  

Bells 2 Hearted Ale is almost a SMASH.  Single Malt and Single Hop
Some other Hops that work really well are...
  • Amarillo
  • Mosaic
  • Citra 
  • Columbus
  • Saaz for a pilsner lager SMASH
If you have a great SMASH or almost SMASH... let me know the hop and we can all give it a try.  

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A little overwhelmed... thank you all...

So I set out to write this blog for my self, as much as for all those of you who love home brewing.  I for one am sick of the "tommy know it alls", and the "mikey moneybags" guys who I think are hurting our hobby.   My point was and is, that you don't have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on your home brew equipment.   My other point was you can brew good beer, even great beer in your kitchen with pots and pans you already own.   My third point was there is a lot of bad information floating around the interwebs.  I read a post this morning where someone described how not boiling for at least 90 minutes creates DMS.   You already know my stance on that...

I never thought that my first rant would generate such an amazing response as of the writing of this nearly 20K of you have come to the blog.   Your responses have been overwhelmingly positive.   So thank you.

I pledge to keep telling the truth, to try to educate, try to share a laugh, and to keep on brewing.  And I here by officially pledge to keep brewing kick ass beer, and posting about it on this blog.

Up coming blogs...include in no specific order...

  • a Cheap all grain system... for 5 gallon batches. getting into all grain for under $200
  • How yeast actually does its' voodoo.
  • Partial Mash in electric turkey fryer... a pictorial and video of how I actually brew 5 gallon batches.
  • 2 gallon all grain, on the stove top.  part of my YOU CAN BREW ALL GRAIN series.  (using your old Mr. Beer Fermenter) Ill brew a Bells two hearted ale clone, and a standard lager.  
  • A Rant about "tommy know it alls"  I have been collecting quotes from guys who know everything.  
  • clarifying beer with out cold crashing.  I almost never cold crash... (gelatin doesn't care)

What else do you all want to hear about, or what do you want me to brew...?   send me a comment.

PS if you're in KC and you want to come brew with me and be on the blog... let me know.  I live in south JoCo suburbia...

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A quick rant.

  • Mash doesn't know if it's in a recirculating system. 
  • Enzymes don't care if they're running through a pump. 
  • Recirculating is to keep temperatures perfect and free the sugars into solution, it does not put more grain in contact with enzymes.   The
    enzymes are in the grains already.  
  • A mash paddle,  can easily keep your temperatures consistent and your sugar in solution.  
  • Better gear only makes sense if it means your brewing gets easier and better.  
    • Knowing your gear is way more important than new gear.  
  • Fermentation control and proper yeast pitch are way way way more important than recirculation of mash.  
    • when you wash yeast , you actually want the stuff from the bottom.  Head over to woodland brew and read up.  In fact get Steve's book and read up.  
    • Yeast slurry is way more viable than a starter.  
    • You don't need a Kabillion yeast cells,  viability is more important. 
  • You can not clean enough.  repeat.  
  • If you can't brew a near perfect 1.045 cream ale,  your process needs work.  
  • If you buy a home brew system that costs thousands of dollars, and you don't have a college fund for your kids,  you missed the point... of life. 
  • If you buy or build a home brew system,  before you can control fermentation temperatures,  you missed the point. 
  • Meat does not go in beer. 
  • 6 is your friend,  6 malts maximum, 6 hops maximum,  1.06 target.  
  • Not all beer should be royal or imperial.   Enough already with the 1.09 beers.  Again I say if you can't brew a nearly perfect 1.045 cream ale, you need work on your procedures.  
  • You don't just  "go pro" running a brewery is not the same as making home brew.   Unless you're a great business person,  and a truly
    great brewer, focus on getting better and having fun.  
  • Any one,  yes any one,  can make a dipa that tastes pretty darn good,  anyone, yes anyone, can make a ris that comes out bold and malty.   Learn to make beers where you can't hide flaws behind huge hops and malt.    Then will you truly be a brewing jedi!
  • If you can't lager,  don't spend money on a new brew system.  
  • Several of the  AHA NHC award winners, won the award with a turkey fryer,  a voile bag, and a big pot.   They all had fermentation temperature control.  
  • Electric brewing means more cleaning than stove top or simple 3 v gravity brewing.   You have to clean the elements and the valves, hot boiling water is not enough.  
    • Rims brewing is even more cleaning.  Especially 3v rims.
    • The only easy to clean recirculating systems are recirculating biab systems. from brausupply, colorado brewing systems,  high gravity, brewboss, and brewha.  In other words the RIMS eBIAB systems. 
    • A clean brewing system is paramount to sudcess in brewing.
  • Well modified grains don't generally contain very much dms precursors.   You can't create dms precursors,  they already existi in your grains (S-Methylmethionine) you can only break then down completely and avoid DMS or fail to break them down completely and create some DMS.  S-Methyl-Methionine is a complex methyl, in the boil you can break it down to DMS or past DMS.
    • A 60 or 90 minute boil is not necessary,  but it often improves clarity. 
    • A Rigorous boil of 15 minutes is required to avoid DMS.
  • This was inspired by a guy at a LHBS who shared with us that his daughter was taking a semester off college due to family finances being tight, but he had just purchased a $5000 brewing system...  his beer... kinda sucks... his priorities definitely do.
  • Tomorrow Ill be my normal happy go lucky brew enthusiast self. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Miller the Muggle... No Chill... and I'm done with large batch all grain for a while...

Saturday I moved my middle daughter to college... gulp, sniffle, tear... It took way longer than we thought, but we got it done.

So brew day was Sunday, after church.  But first we went to a local place for after church lunch.   If you are in Kansas City, I encourage you to go to 54th street Grill and Bar.  They have lots of locations.  The food is good, the steaks especially.  There is nothing quaint about this place, it is basically a local version of Applebee's... kinda a high gravity version.  But they have Tank 7 on Draft 16 ounce, for $5.75, that alone makes it worth going to for a beer.

Simple Grain Bill 2-2-2
So Sunday I brewed "Miller the Muggle".  Miller the Muggle is a beer I brew for my Non Craft Beer Friends and Family.  It is a Miller High Life clone.  The original recipe is by Charlie Papazian.  It is actually an ale, but you and your friends will swear it is a lager.  You can dry it all the way out with Amylase Enzyme in secondary.  This beer is cheap, easy, and fun to brew.  I had actually forgotten all about this recipe until I saw a Miller Lite clone on Homebrew Talk.  It was like seeing an old friend again. Here's the recipe.

  • 2# of 2 row,  which one?  no big deal...brewers malt or pale ale
  • 2# of 6 row,  which one?  no big deal... 6 row brewers, or pilsner
  • 2# of Flaked Maise
  • .5 of Hallertauer at 60                    Really you can use any hop
  • .5 of Hallertauer at 0                      But the German nobles work!
  • .5 of Hallertauer 4 day dry hop
  • 11 g US-05 Yeast
  • 1 TSP of Amylase Enzyme in 2ndary.
  1. Protein Rest at 125 for 15 minutes.  So dough in a little above that.
  2. Mash low 148-150 for 60 minutes
  3. Mash out at 168 for 10 minutes
  4. Sparge to get to volume.
  5. Boil hard for 60 (you are using some 6 row after all)
  6. Chill (in my case I never chill 5 gallon batches that are low IBU)
  7. Aerate the wort
  8. Pitch the US05  Your gravity should be about 1.044
  9. Let it ferment for 14 days.  Then ADD the 1 tsp of Amylase Enzyme right to the fermenter.   
  10. An active secondary fermentation will start up with in 24 hours.   And drop your gravity to 1.00-1.005.   That is what makes it like an american lager.
  11. When secondary slows,   Dry Hop it with another .5 oz to 1 oz of Hallertauer.   
  12. Wait 4 days, then bottle.  
I actually love this beer.   It tastes like an american lager, but somehow, better... Can't explain it, you'll have to try it.   

You can also use Amylase Enzyme with Wyeast 2112 to make a real lager if you'd rather.  Just follow the same procedure.  There really isn't any taste difference, but it sure is fun to try other yeasts.   The only drawback to 2112 is that it doesn't attenuate out all the way.  Routinely the beers I make with it stall at 1.01-1.02.   So a little Amylase and boom... lager.   (Warning.  don't use Amylase in your oktoberfests you want the residual sugars in those...)

On another note,  I am taking a break from big batches for a while.   I'm going to really focus on 1 and 2 gallon all grain batches, with occasional partial mash 5 gallon batches.   Tune in tomorrow to see why...

Friday, August 21, 2015

Home made root beer the easy counterbrew way.

I love Root beer.  It has always been my soda (or pop depending on your geological location) of choice.   Making Root beer at home is incredibly easy.  If you can make an extract batch of beer you can make Root beer.

For our first batch of root beer in years we bought the rainbow Old Fashioned Homebrew extract.   You've doubtlessly seen this in the home brew stores.   I used to make this when the kids were young.  And we all loved it.   I started with the basic kit, and then upgraded to add other ingredients like ginger, and mint.  I gotta tell you this was the easiest thing I have ever brewed.

Started by hydrating some yeast.  Which yeast?  Is yeast selection critical?  Can I use some ale yeast?   Let me answer... Doesn't matter ale, bread, or champagne.  We used US-05 1/8th of a teaspoon rehydrated in 6 oz of water.
We mixed the measured extract with 3/4 of a gallon of water and 2.5 cups of cane sugar and 1 cup of brown sugar.   And stirred, and stirred until dissolved.   Remember the water isn't hot like homebrew.  It will take a while to get the sugar mixed into the water.

After stirring we transferred the mixture into 2 liter bottles.   2 liter bottles are far safer for brewing root beer at home than glass bottles.  The rootbeer will build up a lot of  pressure.  Glass bottles can break.   Then we added the yeast and topped them off to about 1" from the top.   Put the lid on and let them carb up.   They will take about 5-7 days to carbonate.   And when they are done, you have delicious home made root beer.   It's just that easy to make your own soda at home.   Give it a try.  Next time were going for a real home made batch,  But this is so easy to do, Im sure well keep doing the extracts too.

We are adding Splenda to the batch next time to bring the sweetness up. Same sugar and a cup of Splenda.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

1 gallon Saison Ommegang Hennepin Clone YOU CAN GO ALL GRAIN!

So SWMBO was an angel who cleaned the kitchen for me the night before brew day. So Saturday morning I woke up to a clean kitchen that was ready to brew.

It was an early morning brew day.   My first brew of the day was therefore, a pot of coffee.   After starting the coffee I started cleaning all of my equipment, and organizing my ingredients.

Today's brew day is a 1 gallon all grain brew.  I am here to tell you, you can do an all grain batch of beer.  It isn't that hard, if you can make oatmeal, you can make all grain beer.  A good strategy would be to do 1 or 2 gallon all grain on your stove top, and 5 gallon batches however you normally do them.  Today's beer is a saison.   Saisons are gaining popularity in the brewing world, but a word of understating before we get into the explicit photos. .  Saison, means season in French... and also in Flemish (kinda... it is the slang they use for the word season "seizoen").  So when you say I am making a Saison... I ask you which seasonal are you making?   In modern brewing Saisons are best represented by 2 commercial brands. Boulevard Tank 7, and Ommegang Hennepin.   They are both excellent examples of the Saison style.   Although, originally Saisons were not high in alcohol, they were the seasonal beers that were given to the farm workers.   Beer was safer than water... you don't really want your workers drunk in the field, so you gave them beer.   And one more thing... Saisons are not super hoppy, and not supposed to be high in alcohol.   Some american home brewers are making super hoppy Saisons.  I'll admit the saison yeasts do well with hops and the end result is delicious, but that is not a Saison.  It's something new... American Farmhouse Ale maybe.

I organized my ingredients like I always do.  With a small batch you may be tempted to think... hey no big deal I do much larger batches, I can slack off a bit today.    But really you cant,  a small batch can get a way from you much quicker than a large batch.  Why? you say... same heat, less water.

By the way, if you've never done all grain before, this is the way to start.  If you're broke and you just have to brew, this is the way to do it. If you're wanting to try a recipe before you brew a big batch... this is the way.  If you just love to brew, and you write a kinda popular brewing blog and other brewer's are counting on you to brew every weekend... One Gallon batches.

Basically  I love 1 and 2 gallon batches.   Really the only beers I brew in large volumes now are the tried and true gotta have them on hand beers.  Cream ale, Miller the Muggle, August Hyppo (AIPA), Wimpole Street Brown, Everyday Pale Ale and Wheat Beer.   Everything else, is 1 or 2 gallons.  In truth almost everything would be 1 or 2 gallons if I had more 2.25 gallon fermenters.

Use a fermenting  bucket to put your grains into your brew bag.  Your SWMBO will thank you for this, and it makes it so much easier.

After a .25 tsp water treatment with 5.2 stabilizer... I Doughed in low, as I like to do.   I started brewing in the era when grains were not fully modified.  We had to step mash to avoid DMS and get great conversion from the grains.

Doughed in at 135 and rose to 152.  Held the mash at 152 for 45 minutes.  Turned the heat up to reach 168 F for 10 minutes.   Mash outs are not necessary, especially in no sparge BIAB brewing.   But sugars are hydroscopic, and as such, they are more viscous at low temperatures and less viscous at high temperatures. So whether or not you are a fan of Mash Out, science is science.  They improve efficiency.  They just do.

So after a quick mash out, I brought the batch to a boil.   I added in .33 oz of Styrian Golding Hops.   At 10 minutes I added Irish Moss,  My small wort chiller, and yeast nutrients.   At 5 minutes I added the Spalt hops.   These are the traditional Hopps.  I also added 1 round sliver of fresh ginger, and .25 oz of bitter orange peel.    That's what the recipe said.    This is not a fruit or spice beer.  But as you progress in your brewing hobby, you will find that many, many Belgian recipes have herbs and spices.  They really aren't predominant, But they are interesting background flavors.    Saison's, almost always have ginger and bitter orange, Wit beers almost always have corriander,  Quads often have currants.  Belgian Brewers scoff at Reinheitsgebot, and I love them for that attitude.  We have a Belgian guy who brews here in town.  He's not in the clubs, he doesn't compete.  He brews because he's belgian, that's what he does.  He also makes cheese, wine, soap, and sausage.   He doesn't consider himself a homebrewer.  It's just what you do... You make what you can with what you have, the best way you know how.   If fruit makes it taste better use it.  If sugar makes it better use it.   4 ingredients?... well that is just silly.

The smell coming from the brew kettle was amazing.    I will say, not every one like the smell of wort boiling.  My SWMBO is one who can't stand it.  So we have an agreement... I brew anyway.  If she doesn't like it she can go elsewhere.  Yeah, Im' that guy.  On this day, she went elsewhere.   My youngest on the other hand thinks wort smells like malt-o-meal.

I chilled this batch with my small stainless steel wort chiller.  It can take the batch from boiling to pitch temps in about 13 minutes.   I am ordering the Wasp from Jaded Brewing.   I think we owe it to the planet to use as little water as possible when we brew.    But for small batches the stainless coil works great.  After chilling, I aerated and pitched Lallemand Belle Saison Yeast.   As of now, it is bubbling away.  66 F for the first couple of days. Then I will raise the temps to 80 F.

If you've been wanting to try all grain brewing. I encourage you to try small batch brewing.    You can do it.  And you can make fantastic brews right on your stovetop and counter.   The key is breaking down the steps and staying focused and calm.  You'll get to a point where you can do other things while you brew.   Eventually you'll be out mowing the lawn while you're mashing.  You'll be cleaning the garage during the boil.  But at first just stay focused.   Relax Don't worry have a home brew.  RDWHAHB.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Force carbonate in 2 liter bottles.

Today is bottling day.  It was also a 1 gallon petite saison brew day but I'll post about that later. 
I used carbonation capsules for the first time in years.   That's an easy way to carb  your beer.   Bottled 1 gallon American sour, 3.5 gallon big and wide,  and my Belgian amber. 
I also put .5 gallons of the amber and big and wide into a 2 liter and force carbonated it.  Here's how. 

Before we start.  I have been doing this for years.  It is a fun way to carbonate your beer, so that you can sample it right away.  But it will not create the vigorous fermentation of naturally carbonating beer, or keeping it under pressure for days in a keg system.   That is not the point, the point of this is that you can try your carbonated beer with in hours of bottling or kegging.    It has about the carbonation of a cask ale.

You fill the bottle to the top of the lable.  That is all.  No Higher.
With the cap loose, you squeeze out all of the air that you can,

You then attach your CO2 to the carbonation cap.  If you have a tank just make the hook up like a keg.  If you dont have a tank you can use a carbonation gun with a 16 g CO2 cartridge.

The bottle will fill with CO2.  Shake it vigorously.  While you shake it you will feel it shrinking.  This is because the CO2 is dissolving into solution. Hook your CO2 up again and hit it again with CO2.   shake it again.   repeat process until the CO2 doesn't dissolve into solution ( usually 2 times )

Then lay it on its side in your refrigerator.  When it is cold, it is ready to drink.

Due to the amazing responses to this method, I will add this disclaimer.   Your beer will be carbonated with this method.  It will allow you a preview of what your finished beer will be.  But the carbonation will be like a cask ale.   Lightly carbonated, light head.   It is not a substitute, at least for me, for natural conditioning.  Which I prefer for all of my beers, even kegged beers.  

Friday, August 14, 2015

Upcoming Brews... Ommegang Hennepin Clone and a American Lite Ale...

After that I have to try Schlenkerla's Miller Lite Clone.  I love lite crisp balanced beers.   (heck lets be honest I like almost all beers) And I find that I don't really want to share my AIPAs and Cream Ales, West Coast Hop Monsters, and Brown Ales with people who don't really appreciate them.  I have used Wyeast 2112 for years to make a basic Champagne Lager.  My Champagne Lager is a beer that almost all muggles can appreciate.  I'm sure I will continue to make it.   But it isnt fool proof.   It requires loads of oxygenation, like 30 minutes with an aquarium pump.  If you don't get the oxygenation correct.  You end up with sweet beer.  Literally sweet.  This beer looks a little more fool proof.  He adds Amylase Enzyme to 2ndary to break up sugars again, and let the yeast go crazy.  The result...a super lite crisp American "Lager" that is actually an ale.   Read the thread on Homebrewtalk.  Very cool stuff.  I may actually try Amylase Enzyme the next time I make my champagne lager.  

I love farmhouse saison.  Tank 7 by Boulevard and Hennepin by Ommegang are two of my favorites.   So when one of my local home brew stores had an Ommegang Henny clone... all grain 1 gallon, well I just had to get it.   WARNING pre made kits for 1 gallon batches are not a bargain.  You are paying a premium for the kit, it would cost way less to just buy the grains, hops, and yeast.  But you pay extra for the testing and trials that went into the brew.  In this case the brew was designed by a guy who has over 100 AHA contest wins.   A guy who has been brewing for over 40 years (since before it was legal).  A guy who has 3 NHC winners in his past.   So... paying a premium for his recipe and kit seemed like a fair bargain.   The kit cost me $20.00.  A 1 gallon batch usually costs me less than $15.   I'll be brewing it up this weekend.  

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Trappist Ale and Wimpole Street Brown Ale... Partial Mash

Ill skip the normal... clean the work environment and all of the equipment speech I normally give you right here... But, clean your work environment and your equipment before you brew.

On Saturday I helped a friend brew his first batch.  My equipment, his ingredients.   He chose a Trappist ale.   And we did it the way he could do it at his home.  We didn't use any of my fancy gear. Just a 5 gallon pot, and a good attitude.   Haven't been that minimal with brewing in a long time.  We did use my immersion chiller.  But trust me this guy could make one of those in about 10 minutes.   He's a professional machinist and die maker.    We went to the local home brew store (lhbs) and he chose a Trappist Ale.   My nearest local home brew store has amazing kits.   Several have won fairly major awards.   If your an extract brewer, get to know the local stores in your area and find out which one has the best kits.  You'll find that they all have one or two that are great, but generally one of the stores specializes in kits and in working with new, or casual brewers. In my area that shoppe is Home Brew Pro Shoppe

A little over 24 hours later and the white labs Trappist Ale yeast is doing it's job.   The  Krausen is very high.  Thought I might have to put a blow off tube on, but seems to be subsiding.  (YUP, needed the blow off tube).

I only do a couple of extract a year.  I'd forgotten how easy it is. I kept looking around thinking... "What am I missing".  I might have to mix in some more extract batches.  It was fun and easy.  The only drawback is the cost.   $43 - $55 plus yeast upgrade?  Uh...yeah, I'll probably only do extract if I know my time will be crunched, it's just too rich for my blood.

Wimpole Street Browning  (another archaic literary reference)
I love brown ales.   I like NB Caribou Slobber, I like John Palmers Elevensies, I love Big Sky Moose Drool, heck I even like Newcastle Brown Ale.    This is my brown ale.  I like it the most.  Probably because it is drunk fresh, and because I made it.   Although, on a side note,  I have noticed recently (especially since I started writing this blog) my beer tastes better than most of the commercial beers I try.

Doughed in low, as i prefer to do.   There is a weird fascination with "hitting strike temperature perfect". I believe that is because most brewers either don't have direct heat mash capacity, or don't know how to make the adjustments with water infusions.

You can adjust the temperature of your strike and dough in with either hot water or ice cubes.   It isn't hard to do.   I have direct heat, so I prefer to dough in at 135F and rise to 150.  I find the cajun injector will hold 6 lbs of grain, and 3.5 gallons of water perfectly at 150-151 F when set to 175.   I have to stir the mash throughout the process.   But that increases extraction anyway.   Even if ever so slightly.

Mashed for about 75 minutes total.  The protein rest, the slow rise, and the saccrification rest.   No mash out this time.  Think next time Ill go with a shorter saccrification rest and add a mash out.

The boil was vigorous.   I leave the lid on and ajar. This limits my boil off, but also creates a really vigorous boil that breaks down all of the proteins.
This boil definitely knocked the proteins out.  I had to spray this one down several times.

The dang video isn't working.   But you can see the foamy frothy boil on the top of the wort.

There is no risk of DMS when you are using well modified grains and when you are ventilating your wort as it boils.   DMS fear is a relic of a time when grains weren't fully modified.   With modern mashing techniques and technologies there is minimal risk of DMS.  Still if you cover your mash completely you will create some DMS precursors. So if you, like me, use a lid to increase the boil, just make sure you vent off your boil.

I've gone back to hop bags.   It just saves wort.  So I clip a full sized bag to the handle of the kettle and let it really move around.  I have not
noticed a difference in the amount of hop oils, aroma, or flavor.  But I will keep you posted.   Think I'll do the same with dry hops too, just sanitize a muslin bag, fill it with hops, and throw it in.   I use the big bag so the hops can really move around.

After a 20 minute stand. I chilled this one with ICE. 190 F to 78 in under 10 minutes.   But again I sourced my ice carefully.   I make sure that the ice machine has been cleaned. I sanitize everything.

Overall a great Brew day.  I overshot my numbers slightly.  But, no big deal.   Think I'm just getting really good at using the Electric turkey fryer.  Time for 1 gallon batches again.   The whirloment 2000 is full of good beer.

Coming up is the Ommegang Hennepin Clone 1 gallon batch. After that?  who knows.   What do you all think I should brew next?  I've been thinking a Mocktoberfest 2 gallon might be cool.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Teaching Newbies on Saturday... What should we brew... and How?

So here's the deal.  I'm teaching some newbies how to brew this weekend.  And how to brew better.

So come on yall give me some input.  Should I teach them extract, all grain biab small batch, or partial mash.

Im leaning toward all grain small batch.  Most people own a 2-4 gallon pot already.  And all grain costs less to brew than extract.

But I'd like some input.  If you could go back in time and have someone teach you,  what would you want to learn?

My thoughts are that for the beginning brewer, extract is the easiest, but the hardest to do really well.  All grain small batch BIAB is probably the way to go 2 gallon batch right on the stove top.

Now,  the next question is what recipe?   I'm thinking a crazy hoppy AIPA. My thoughts are that many, many deficiencies that new brewers encounter would be hidden by the hops.

What say you?

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Cream ale no cool brew day

It wasn't supposed to be a no chill brew day.  It was supposed to be a treatise on cooling with ice.  But, as I've warned you,  you have to source your ice carefully.  And well the inspection of the ice machine was last Monday, and it hadn't been cleaned yet Saturday morning,  the last cleaning being Friday morning at 2:34 am.  Alright. .. no chill it is.   NOTE this is not the norm for my local Wal-Mart.  They're normally on the ball.  

Whenever I can I try to think about the environment.   As a home brewer you can waste a lot of water.   7 gallons minimum are needed to brew 5 gallons of beer.   Chilling with a wort chiller means another 10 to 20 gallons.   So I try whenever I can to use less water.  I'm currently designing a closed loop system with a sump pump. So that I can chill fast and use less. 
My strategies:
1. Chilling with ice
2. No chill 
3. Closed loop system with a sump pump in a cooler of ice water.

No chill was,  like many recent beer innovations,  invented by the Australians.   They have had a huge drought for many years.  Beyond their normal arid climate.   It occurred to some one some day that there was no reason to chill wort quickly if you could protect it from microbes and just let it cool naturally.    Zero water use.  The only hang up. .. hop oils continue to react with the hot wort.  So it's tough to make super hoppy beers.   They compensate with hop teas and dry hopping. 
But when you're making cream ale... one of the least hoppy styles. Well then, "goodonya, It's all apples mate". (typed in my best Aussie accent)

If Ive said it once, Ive said it 2x ORGANIZE!
So here is my brew day.
Before I start brewing, I wash all of my gear, and organize my ingredients.   In this beer there aren't a bunch of crazy hop additions.  When there are crazy hop additions I tend to split them up and set them on sticky notes with the addition times.

If you don't organize, you'll find yourself running around like crazy trying to find something you may need later.  After I took the picture I realized, I didn't have my pH stabilizer, irish moss, or yeast nutrients out.

Check your grain temps.
Use an online mash calculator. its easy!
I always check the temperature of my grains.  There are many calculators on line that can help you hit your strike temperatures.  Long term I am determined to get the BrauSupply UniBrauMini.  It can easily produce 3.5 gallon all grain and 5 gallon partial boil partial mash. Controlling mash temps is the biggest challenge of the electric turkey fryer. But the more I use it the better I get.   On this day, in this kitchen I nailed it.

The key to getting the strike and mash temps correct on the turkey fryer, is to use the insulation between the walls and the kettle.  Get the water to temp.  Dough in.  Then cover it with blankets and walk away.  I open it at 30 and 45 to check temps and stir.  Thats all.  Just walk away.
Nailed the mash temp.  Got a little hot for while but I stirred
like crazy and got it under control.  

When I boil i leave the lid on and ajar.  It really
gets the boil to a vigorous point.  With the lid ajar
there is no risk of DMS, never had a problem.
Mandy the brew dog is sealing the cat's water
in this photo to the left.  Bad Mandy!
The mash went  smoothly, and I added 2 lbs of DME dissolved in 2 gallons of water.   Then I rinsed the grains with enough hot water to bring my pre boil volume to 6.5 gallons.  (by this point SWMBO had informed me we had plans and I would not have time to chill with my immersion chiller and pitch my yeast).  OK, this beer isn't very hoppy, so I guess I'll no chill it.

As you can see if I put the lid on during the boil, I leave it ajar by about 1.5".  This gives me a rigorous rolling boil.   It also allows the dreaded and overly feared DMS precursors to boil off.   In truth modern malted barley is so well modified, there is very little risk of DMS.  But a rolling hard boil breaks down protein and makes for much clearer beer. 

The beer in the middle is the cream ale. Also
Pictured are a belgian blonde (left), honey brown
(one gallon), and the closet cleaner pale ale. 
So this brings us to the end of the boil.   At the end of the boil, I pulled the hop bag,  and let it drain out completely.  I twisted it to extract all of the yummy hop oils.   Then I wrapped the kettle in saran wrap and foil (not pictured) all the way around the seam, and let it sit.   It is a little after noon now. and the kettle seems to be down to pitch temperatures. So very soon, Ill go let it drain into a sanitized fermenter, hydrate my US05 and put it into the whirloment 2000 fermentation chamber / whirlpool tub.  The whirloment is staying around 66F even on 100 F days. So.  I figure my primary active fermentation is getting up to 69F or 70F. Not bad for Safale US05.   It doesn't kick off anything funky until the
high 70s. If you don't have true temperature control.  And I don't right now due to some a hole scrappers stealing my undercounter fridge as it was out side drying out,  US05 is a great choice.  You can make just about any clean ale style with it.   As of this morning the US05 was rocking. With a nice krausen already developing and an occasional bubble.   Should be another quaffable cream ale.   A Quaffale if you will.  Next weekend I'm having a brew party at home.  Some friends who brew, and some newbies are coming over to learn from the old guy.  

Had a sample of this last night, I was adding gelatin to make it crystal clear... it's freaking amazing.  Cant Wait to get this one in bottles and 2 liters and start drinking it.