Wednesday, November 16, 2016

East Coast IPA Brew Day... and Vertical Tasting of Boulevard Rye on Rye.

The team gathering in the
garage with Bailey the
On Saturday morning the team gathered for an epic brew day.   We were determined to brew our version of an East Coast IPA.   10 gallons of hoppy deliciousness.   The recipe was set out in the previous post.  Basically a whole lot of Mosaic, Citra, and Cascade, with a touch of Warrior, and Simcoe, to add some bitterness on the front and in the middle.

Beth and Mashy Hoppinton
visited during brew day.  What
a cool mom, notice the beer.
This was a fairly medium gravity brew, only 22.5 lbs of grain.   The base grain was Vienna 20 lbs, and the only other additions are  2.5 lbs of wheat malt, and 1 cup of white flour (to make it murky).  The flour is the wild card,  we have never done that before.  We have never tried to make a beer cloudy before.   It was a real weird feeling, adding something to the mash for the express purpose of making a beer appear cloudy.  All of our grains came from Cargill.   The Vienna from Cargill is amazing stuff.  Malty and bready... gives an awesome back bone for a hoppy beer.  Meussdoerffer Vienna... We have made ECIPAs in the past with pale ale, or two row malt, and they were delicious, but the Vienna adds something that can stand up to all those hops.    

22 lbs of crushed grains about
to go into a 100 quart no sparge
mash tun. 
We crushed the grains fine  (35 mils) the day before at a friends who has a seriously big mill.   Like the kind you see at a home brew shop... But like an idiot, I left the grains in the car overnight, so they were at 51 F as we started the brew day.   We know from experience that when we brew no sparge in our cooler we loose about 7 F.   Even if we pre heat the mash tun.  So our software suggested we should be at 160 F Strike, so we added our grains first and then added 165 F water.    John had treated the water with Camden,  Lactic (2ml) and Calcium Chloride 2 g.   Our pH settled in nicely at 5.2, at temperature, so it was probably closer to 5.4 or 5.5... which is fine with us.

Brew in a bag in a mash tun
our favorite way to brew.
We know that 5 F to 6 F over
strike temperature will hit
our strike temp every time. This
cooler has a door in the lid, so
we can stir during the mash.
The mash went well.  We stirred every 15 minutes.   Our mash tun has a door on the top of the lid that we can open with out losing too much heat.  Our mash temps remained perfect at 149 to 152 F for the entire 60 minutes of the mash.   And we ended up overshooting by .004... which means we got 77% efficiency on a no sparge, brew in a bag, in a cooler... pretty darn cool.  This is by far the easiest and fastest way to brew.  Even with our complex boil schedule.  We were done brewing in 3.5 hours.   Although the brew day was much longer, due to bottling 20 gallons of beer, and the vertical tasting.

East coast IPAs are fun to brew, and relatively easy.  The boil went as planned due in no small part to organization of the ingredients, and preparation.   Jake got the group more disposable plastic cups for measuring hop additions.  The cups were labeled  and set out in order.  There was well over a pound of hops going into this 10 gallon hop monster.

Jaded hydra is the king of
all worth chillers.. pay heed
and homage!
The fun thing about the ECIPA style is so many of the hops go in at the end of the boil, and there are hop additions during the wort chill.  We made our flame out additions and then we used our trusty Jaded Hydra to chill the batch to 180 F.  At 180 F we added more hops and let them whirl pool for 30 minutes.  Then we chilled the batch to pitching temperatures.  The jaded hydra makes chilling the entire batch lightning fast.  It chilled from 212 F to  179 F in under a minute.  Of course cool ground water temperatures helped a lot.

10.5 gallons in the
chamber turning in to awesome
Early in the day, John re hydrated three packs of US05.  They were ready to rock and roll when we pitched.   As of today (Tuesday) Both batches are fermenting well in the fermentation chamber at 65 F.  Tonight Jake and John will add 1 ounce of Mosaic, Citra, and Cascade to the fermenters.   In a couple of days the batch fermentation temperature will be raised to 68 F to encourage complete fermentation, then in a week another charge of dry hops.   The second dose of dry hops will only be exposed to the beer for 3 or 4 days.   Then it will be time for packaging.   We package beer when it is ready.  Well how do you know it is ready.   It is really simple,  take a gravity sample.   Take a sample and when it is at terminal gravity let it sit a couple of days to clean up.  That is all it takes.

We should be drinking this beer in about 2.5 to 3 weeks.   Can't wait.  This one should be great.

At the end of the brew day, after all clean up, we gathered in the house for a vertical tasting of Boulevard Rye on Rye.   2012 through 2016.    If you are not familiar with Boulevard's smoke stack series... Smoke Stack brews from boulevard are made on their smaller original brewing system.  And they are world class.   This is where Boulevard makes their limited release beers.  This is where Boulevard brewers are encouraged to experiment.   This is where Tank 7, and Lovechild, and Tell Tale Tart were born.  And Boulevard Rye on Rye is an outstanding beer.  It is a Rye Beer, aged in Rye Barrels.

We all had different impressions.   My favorite was the 2015.  It still had some of the Spicy Rye character.   I think everyone else preferred the 2014 version.   Love this beer, and I am thankful that my brewing partners can store and save beer.  I don't seem to have that discipline.   If you have never tried it, stop what you are doing and go get some.

Friday, November 11, 2016

How to make a ridiculous IPA - East Coast IPA...

So over the past year we have done a lot of research into what makes an IPA taste the way an IPA taste.   We have talked with experts at BSG and Yakima Valley Hop Union about hops, and hop oils, isomerization, and flavor.  We have shared with you all the technology of Scott Janish's  Hop Oil Calculator.  And we have brewed a whole bunch of IPAs.

But now it is time to really apply what we have learned to an everyday, medium gravity IPA.   Sure, we designed and brewed Hoptonite.  And we are so flattered that so many of you have downloaded this monster and brewed this beast.    And it is an amazing beer.   But you don't always want a high alcohol, extremely high IBU beer.   And that brings us to this weekend's recipe.   "Persuasion IPA"

With Persuasion we are bringing the knowledge we learned in the ridiculous double IPA series and applying it to what we have learned to an East Coast IPA.   Yes, we are the first to acknowledge that ECIPAs are sweeping the brewing world faster than beanie babies swept through the early 1990s.  Yes, we acknowledge that this is the latest brewing fad.  But... who really cares.  The ECIPA is more than a fad it is a delicious beer.   Here is our take on it.  Backed by the research we have done.  Loads of late hops, loads of whirlpool hops.  and two additions of dry hops.   First addition before fermentation (so the yeast can work on the hop oils), second addition after active fermentation (for pure traditional dry hop goodness).

And here is what it will taste like according to Scott Janish.  If you are not using the hop oils calculator on you are missing out.  It is the best way to predict the flavor and aroma of your late hop additions.  

Friday, November 4, 2016

Coming soon to Counterbrew

So this is an exciting week at Counterbrew.   John and Beth had a beautiful healthy baby girl who they named... "Hoppy Mash Paddle"... just kidding this is a public blog, did you really think I would give out the child's name. Despite my best efforts, they did not name her "David, Jake, Mark Anthony".  So the writing and the editing is down a little bit this week, hope you all can cut us some slack.

In the brewery.

The KBS clone has been transferred to secondary on oak chips that were soaked in quality bourbon. This beer should be amazing.  Really looking forward to enjoying it by a fire place with snow falling out side.

The golden boy sour - remember the disaster batch from over a year ago?  Well it got hit with brettanomyces dregs from Boulevard Love Child series - it is ready for bottling.  The problem is we need to make a new wort to put on top of it, and life is crazy right now.   I may see if MA can brew on Sunday afternoon. Then we'll just bottle and pitch sometime next week.   We may make a simple partial mash.  (OK we are brewing a celebration batch next weekend.  While we do that I will brew a wort to go on top of the sour. Just a simple heavy adjunct wort with lots of corn and oats to give the brett something to work on over the next 6 months)

The Saison Brett is not quite ready yet - but it is getting close.   We are monitoring it and tasting.  At this point we are just waiting for that perfect flavor to develop.

Mark Anthony was a trooper last night.  He took the time to clean the brewery, and divide up the spoils of brewing.   Here is what we all got from recent brewing activities.

4 bombers each of Bourbon Barrel Quad
6 12 ounce Festbiers
3 bombers, 5 bottles of standard BDSA
10 pumpkin ales
6 bombers two hearted ale clones
4 bombers of  Karma Citra
7 grapefruit Sculpin clone

That is a lot of beer.  Just in time for the holidays.

Coming soon

Here is what is coming up for the blog.   First I am very excited to be doing an advanced series on Malt and mashing.  We will be joined by industry experts from Cargill to take a much deeper look at what makes malt taste the way malt tastes.  So many of you know so much about yeast and hops, but really next to nothing about the chemical composition of malt.  Does it matter?  You bet your mash tun it does.

We will also be doing two more episodes in the actual truth about yeast series with Kevin Lane of Fermentis.  The first one will be on maximizing attenuation, and the second on blending yeasts. Really exciting stuff.  So stay tuned.

We will also be getting back to brewing more beer.  There are some exciting developments on that as well, as we launch our new 10 Gallon BIAB Recirculating system.
So stay tuned, keep on brewing, and remember brewing is 45% Cleaning 45% learning, and 10% brewing.

Friday, October 28, 2016

A beer geek guide to step mashing - Even more advanced information.

"Enzymes are the real control panel of mashing." -  The great and powerful Brewer X

The most common questions we field on this blog are related to step mashing and I know it can be confusing. We clearly have touched on something with this topic. To be honest I am surprised that more of you don't know more about step mashing.  After all, in the old days we had to step mash. We have written about this process a lot, but it is important to go back and clarify some things and to review what we have learned already.

In this modern home brew world you have been taught that mash temperature is a dial that you can turn up or turn down in order to create the wort that you want to create. Turn it up to create more mouth feel; turn it down to create more fermentability.  You have been told that modern well modified malts do not need a multi step mash, and that it is kinda a waste of your time to do a 2 hour multi-step mash... and I am here to tell you... all of those statements are kinda true.  Kinda, but not entirely true.

"What? OK, once again I got on your blog and you are giving me almost truths, and cloistered mysterious statements, just tell me what to do..."

Ok, I will tell you what to do. The first thing I want you to do is, quit looking for absolute procedures and rules. Intstead.... Learn.  Brewing is 45% cleaning,  45% learning, and 10% brewing.  So the most important thing to do right now, as you are reading this blog, is learn.  Learn about the major enzymes that we as brewers use to control our mash and get the desired results.  Learn that there are so many more enzymes at work in your mash than just alpha and beta amylase.  Learn that enzymes work in temperature ranges not at absolute specific temperatures.   If you are determined to do only single step mashes... well then go read another blog today.  It wont hurt my feelings.   I've said it before I know an award winning brewer who mashes everything he brews at 150 F. (65.5 C).   Doesn't matter what style.... 150 F.  He makes grain or sugar additions to make up for what he is not getting from the mash.   Who am I to say he is wrong.   So learn what works best for you.  For me,  I enjoy step mashing and the benefits that it yields.

Here is the truth, as I understand it.  When you brew with modern well modified malt, you do not have to do a step mash.  The mash will convert just fine at the temperatures you are accustomed to using.  Higher temperatures will produce a wort with slightly more mouth feel.  Lower temperatures will produce a wort with slightly more fermentability.  But only SLIGHTLY.  As Marshall Schott, the Brulosopher showed us on Brulosophy, the difference between a wort that finishes at 1.005, and 1.014 is not reliably perceived by the human taste mechanism.

Here is why.  When you are only using alpha and beta amylase to create mouth feel, or adding grains with more proteins, you are asking sugars to do the job of medium chain amino acids, and sugar isn't very good at doing this job.  That is the problem with this approach... you can't make a highly attenuative beer with a luxurious mouth feel.  Don't argue this point, it cannot be done, once again if you don't believe me read the Brulosophy article linked above.  The human taste mechanism can not perceive the difference.  As an example, I will present our Desir Tripel.  Desir is a 1.084 OG beer,  It drops to 1.014.  That is 83% attenuation.  But when you drink it, it is luxurious and rich.  The last batch was almost too rich- almost cloying.  Comments from random tasters and BJCP judges universally called the batch sweet.  And obviously, at 83.33% attenuation, it wasn't sweet at all.  But the perception of sweetness associated with rich mouth feel pervades our community like a cancer.  (Rant warning!  We used to know better.  But we have all been brewing single mash rest so long, that we have forgotten what a rich beer tastes like.  The association of mouth feel and sweetness is a problem in our hobby.  And that is because of single step mashing.  But I'm not bitter.).  Next time we'll shorten the protein rest and increase the hops slightly.

So the temperature of a single step mash is one way you can create the beer you want.  But an even better way?  Multi-step Mashing.  But to multi-step mash you have to know what the enzymes do, and how they can help you make the beer you want.  And to do that, you have to know what enzymes are, and a little bit about how they work.

What is an enzyme?

Representation of an Enzyme
An enzyme is a protein.  A protein that works on other components of your mash.  And like most proteins that act as catalysts,  the proteins in your mash are trying to stick to another component, and change it in some way.  For our purposes, the proteins are trying to break things up.  The enzymes can work on starches, proteins, and sugars in your mash.  For the most part the enzymes that we care about in your mash are Amino Acids (most proteins are but some are RNA).  The enzymes do not actually eat away at the sugars... I know you all think of them like pac man... but they are not alive and they are not eating.  They are just proteins.  They actually bond to different sugars (based on their shapes) and break them apart.  The enzymes are hydrophilic, and they themselves change when a water molecule "bumps" into them. They then break apart the sugars, or the proteins, or the starches, to which they are attached.  (By the way, the fact that enzymes are hydrophilic is a good thing.  It is the reason we can do decoction mashes, more on this in another post)

More than one enzyme can be active at any given time.  And this is a really good thing.  That means more than one process can be going on at a time. 

A catalyst is just a name for a component of a biological or chemical reaction that creates a change of some kind.  For our purposes, the proteins are almost always breaking things apart.  By understanding what the various enzymes are and what they do, you can truly fine tune and control a mash.  Remember, brewing is not about following some exact protocol that you read on some crazy man's blog.  Brewing is about learning- learning your system, and learning how things behave on your system.  It may shock you that when I brew a hefe on my system I know that my protein rest needs to be 32 minutes.  Not 31, not 34.  32 minutes.  Why?  Because that created the exact taste I wanted, several times in a row, at my old house, with my old water profile.  Now... that I have moved, all bets are off.  I'll have to re-learn what is perfect at my new place.  For our BDSA at John's house, I think we all agree that 30 minutes was a little too much, but 20 was not enough.  So next time we will be extending the protein rest to 25 minutes and seeing how that tastes.  See? it is all about learning... and cleaning...

So the important question, what enzymes are we concerned with in brewing?

The ACID rest:  Temperature Range 95 F to 113 F,  (35 to 45 C0  Active Enzyme Phytase, Glucanase

Ok, during an acid rest there are two potential enzymes working: Phytase and Glucanase.  (And honestly you can pretty much ignore one of them).  Phytase works actively on a molecule found in grains called phytin.  It creates phytic acid which can and will lower your mash pH.  But it takes a long time (60 minutes) and really only does well in soft water.  If you ever want to do a true, rustic brew with minimal additions, this is the way to lower pH without chemicals.  It is also a pain in the ass and takes forever.  It is much easier to add some Acid, or Acidulated Malt to the grist.  

The real reason to do a rest at this temperature is to break down beta glucans (gummy gelatin gunk). Beta Glucan is a gummy carbohydrate that surrounds the starch molecule of a grain.  They get in the way of the amylase and other enzymes, and glucans are the chief contributor to chill haze in your beer.  A brief rest at these temperature ranges will allow glucanase to break down the Beta Glucans.  End result- clearer beer and slightly better conversion.  Especially important for wheat and rye.  When you do a Beta Glucan Rest your wort will be very milky, that is normal and good.    

The PROTEIN rest:  Temperature Range 113 -138 F (45 to 59 C),  Active Enzymes Proteinase, Peptidase

Why perform an protein rest?  Well, you perform a protein rest if you want to accomplish one of two things: you want more clarity or you actually want a phenolic expression in your beer.  You should view the two protein related enzymes differently.  They work at different temperatures.  Both of these enzymes are referred to as protease enzymes.  You may hear that term thrown around as well. 

Proteinase works at 131 F to 138 F (55 to 59 C) and is thought to reduce haze without reducing body.  It breaks long chain amino acids into medium chain amino acids.  You want medium chain amino acids in your beer.  They improve the mouth feel of your beer.   They can create a luscious beer that isn't overly sweet.  I for one really appreciate this quality in a beer.  If  you are looking for clarity, without a loss in mouth feel, you should consider a mash rest that maximizes Proteinase action (around 136 F). 

Peptidase works at 113 F to 128 F. (45 to 53 C)  Peptidase breaks medium chains into their components.  So if you want to express maximum esters or phenols in a Hefe weis or in a BSDA, you really should consider a protein rest around 115 F.  The key acid you are trying to maximize is called Ferulic acid.  A Peptidase rest will help you maximize it's availability.  Then all you have to do is use a yeast that is POF+ or phenolic off flavor positive.  And do not worry, if you are not trying to create these esters, just choose a yeast that is not POF+.  

Review: what we have learned so far is that a rest at 113 F (45 C), followed by a rest at 136 F (57.5 C), would be a really good idea if you want to make a very clear beer with good mouth feel and still have a highly efficient mash. 

The Saccharification Rest; Temperature range 132 F to 162,  (55.5 C to 72 C) Active Enzymes; Beta Amylase, and Alpha Amylase

Most of you are already familiar with the Sac rest.  You already are using temperatures in this range to craft your delicious home brew.  This is the main activity going on in the mash.  The main thing we are concerned with- conversion of starches to sugars.  And it happens more quickly than you may think.  Most amylase conversion is done with in the first 25 minutes.  But if you want to maximize conversion we strongly suggest you stir your mash every 10 to 15 minutes and rest for at least 45 minutes.  We have used this approach to get over 90% efficiency on Brew in a Bag, with a sparge rinse, multiple times.

Beta Amylase
Beta Amylase only works from the ends of carbohydrate molecules.  Beta amylase is active from about 132 F (55 C) to about 151 F (66 C).  A long rest at optimum beta amylase temperatures can produce a highly fermentable wort that will finish dry.  It works by breaking the first bond of a carbohydrate molecule.  It literally breaks a carbohydrate into two sugars (maltose) at a time.  Beta amylase is present in every seed or grain.  Alpha amylase and the protease enzymes are not present prior to malting.  That is in fact why we malt barley.  The ideal pH for Beta Amylase is 4.0 to 5.0.  The pH of 5.2 is an arbitrary number that strikes a balance between the needs of alpha and beta amylase and seems to create the most efficient wort... bet you didn't know that... Remember beta amylase can not break up the longer chains of starch.  Only alpha amylase can do this.   

Alpha Amylase
Alpha amylase breaks down long-chain starches and carbohydrates.  Alpha amylase is active from about 150 F (65 C) to about 163F (72.7 C).  The optimum temperature is around 156 F (68.8 C).  A rest at alpha amylase will slightly improve the mouth feel of a beer.  It creates Maltose and maltoriose.  An interesting fact about Alpha amylase is that it is completely unable to function in the absence of calcium.  It works by attaching to random locations along a starch chain.  Because it can act anywhere on a carbohydrate molecule alpha amylase tends to be faster acting than beta amylase.   Alpha amylase ideal pH is 6.7–7.0, 

An enzyme after mash out.
The MASH OUT rest: Temperature range 168 F +, Active Enzymes - none.  
The point of the mash out is to turn off the enzymes.  The brewing enzymes are, in fact, proteins.  Like all proteins they are trying to bind to something; trying to work on something; trying to interact.  By raising the temperature above 168 F, you are damaging the working parts of the enzymes and basically turning them off.  This is called denaturing proteins.  They can no longer act on the starches and proteins.   By doing this you create a less viscous ( Less thick) wort and a wort that will flow more completely and with more of its desired sugars and flavors into your boil kettle.  Again this is a fact, there is no reason to argue it.  You can argue whether or not it is worth it, but you can't argue the science behind the reasoning. 

So I took this from the previous post.  Here are some time tested proven step mash programs.  I have used them all.  They all work.  And yes, they take longer.  If you have an automated system then these are a walk in the park for you.  If not, you'll have to do some math.  Fortunately Brewersfriend has a great infusion calculator for you to use.    If you are infusion step mashing you will need this calculator open on brew day. 

If you are not familiar with infusion step mashing, you should get your self familiar with it.  Basically you start with a thick mash, and add boiling water to the mash to raise the temperature.  It is actually faster than most recirculating mash systems. Boiling water additions are faster than a heating element.

A Step Mash for clarity and body.
100 F for 20 minutes
134 F for 20 minutes
145 F for 30 minutes
155 F for 20 minutes
168 F for 10 minutes

A Step Mash for maximum phenolic expression.
100 F for 20 minutes
113 F for 35 minutes
134 F for 10 minutes
150 F for 30 minutes
168 F for 10 minutes

A simple step mash for maximum extraction of sugar
100 F for 20 minutes
150 F for 45 minutes
168 F for 10 minutes

Step mash for dry beer - dry stout & dry lager like ales
145 F for 30 minutes
152 F for 50 minutes
158 F for 30 minutes
168 F for 10 minutes

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Clone Wars; Designing Home Brew Recipes

Hello all.  John here.  Today, I am going to tell you all about my approach to cloning beers.  I am not afraid to admit it.  When I began my home brewing saga, my buddy and I had no idea what  we were doing.  We knew we liked super hoppy IPAs but also wanted to make beer that would appeal the general public.  Our first attempt was an Irish Red, which we had really high hopes to become the "next big thing" in the home brewing community.  I am not sure what we were thinking...we knew next to nothing about brewing beer.  The end result of our effort was a terrible overly sweet batch of first time home brew.  Fast forward 18 months, we have advanced quite a bit, by using one method to help us connect to our beer on a higher level.  We design all of our recipes from top to bottom, start to finish.  We plan the malt, the yeast, the hops, and the water every single time.

Now I am certainly not the first person to post about designing a home brew recipe, but maybe I can shed some light on my process to make it less intimidating for those looking to "up their game".  The easiest way I can explain it is, I work backwards.  I start thinking about what I want the finished product to be like.  It is not too different from that coach you had in middle school that told you envision that buzzer-beating shot going in, or your boss telling you to dream about  your next sale.  If you know where you want to get to, it is pretty easy to complete the process to get to the promise land.

Plan your beer, take comprehensive records.
First thing first, write down what you want your beer to taste, smell, and look like.  Once we have accomplished this, we turn to several trusty internet tools to help us put the structure together.  Our group uses or for recipe construction and we begin to pull in the ingredients desired to meet the agreed upon results.  Brewtoad is easier to use.  Brewersfriend is more comprehensive.  Our brew sensei often uses Beersmith, it is the penultimate brewing program.  This includes our malt bill (all-grain brewers here), hop additions, yeast selection, and any other additives or adjuncts we would like to add to the batch.  After pulling in the ingredients, the recipe tool you choose should begin auto-populating the parameters of the beer; including Original Gravity, Final Gravity, SRM (Color), and ABV%.

I would say that this guys clone looks pretty dang close!
Todays Recipe:  Pilsner Urquell - Now if you are not familiar with Pilsner Urquell, it is the world's first, and arguably best light colored lager.  Pilsner Urquell was developed in Plzen Czechloslovakia, in the state of Bohemia.  That is where the term Pilsner, and the term Bohemian Lager originate from.  It is perhaps the most influential beer in history, and is the inspiration for 2/3rds of the beer produced in the world today.  It literally changed everything about how beer is brewed.   Before Pilsner Urquell there were no light colored lagers.  Now historians argue as to whether or not there were even lagers before Pilsner Urquell, but there we definitely no golden pilsners.   Apparently prior to 1840 the beer in Plzen was so bad that in 1840 the city burghers ordered 36 casks of the beer to be poured out, and a new brewery to be built.  The people of the town invested in the new brewery, and helped build it.  They then hired Joseph Groll (a Bavarian) to come to Plzen and develop a new beer for their new brewery.  On November 11th 1842, Pilsner Urquell was first served at the feast of St. Martin.   And very little has changed about it over the years.   It is still fermented in open oak casks.  It is lagered in underground tunnels carved from the earth for the purpose of lagering.  The lagering tanks are oak, and are coated with pine tar pitch.  The boilers and mash tuns are coal fired, and are made of copper.   When you drink this beer you are drinking history.

We are fortunate to live in a large metropolitan area with some great beer bars.  One of the best is called Bier Station.   And on Friday the 14th of October, Bier Station hosted a great event.  Pilsner Urquell, unfiltered and un-pasteurized.  Wow!  This beer is good the way we get it here in the states. But holy cow was it good unfiltered and unpasteurized, fresh and balanced, malty and hoppy. The good news... We can make this beer when ever we want we just need to find and perfect a reliable recipe.

Pils Urquell unfiltered
and un pasturized was
an amazing experience.
So, where to find a reliable clone recipe? Well, here are some good sources for clone recipes. - Brew Your Own Magazine.  The American Homebrewer's Association (AHA) , major bloggers (like this one, Brulosophy, The madfermentationist, Bear Flavored, and Scott Janish.)  On these blogs you will find a whole treasure trove of carefully vetted and award winning brewers and brewing recipes.  You will also find helpful articles and tips.  The recipe we chose to start with was Michael Tonsmiere's Pils Urquel clone.  Well known blog (themadfermentationist).  Michael Tonsmiere is a great authority on sour beers.  His book is a valuable resource for those of you who want to dabble in sour beer making.  So it may surprise you that we chose a lager recipe from him.  But we know the caliber of brewer that he is, and we knew that we could use this recipe as a starting point for developing our own version.

Now a lot of you begin your cloning career by just choosing a recipe and brewing it, with no modifications.   Here is the problem with that,  you need to be modifying that clone to fit your brewing style and your brewing system.  We get 73.24% from no sparge, we get 77.8% from a decoction no sparge. We lose 1 gallon of trub in a 10 gallon batch.  We boil off 1 gallon per hour, so 1.5 in a 90 minute boil.  If we want 11 gallons into the fermenters we have to boil 13.5 gallons. Michael gets about the same efficiency as we do, but not exactly the same efficiency.  So we will have to adjust the grain bill for our slightly higher efficiency.

Now pilsner Urquell is entirely Saaz Hops. So no problem there, easy to source.  But we need to modify the hop bill as well.  This is the biggest mistake that brewers make when trying to clone a beer.   The don't modify for the current alpha acids of this years crop of hops. And if you don't modify for current acids, your beer can be way off.   Here is an example. The alpha acid units are calculated by taking the ounces x the alpha acid percentage.  So 1 ounce of a 10% alpha acid hop is 10 AAUs.  2 ounces would be 20 units.  But alpha acids change from year to year.  And sometimes radically.   Saaz was 9.9% in 2015, it is usually about 3.75% obviously in 2015 we needed less hops. So here is how you calculate for correct replacement.   1 ounce of 3.75 AA% hops = 3.75 AAUs.   So to get 3.75 AAUs of 9.9% Alpha Acid Saaz you only need.  .378 ounces.   .378 ounces x 9.9 = 3.75 AAUs (alpha acid units).   Always calculate your alpha acid units.

Modifying the recipe for special ingredients, or special characteristics of the brewery.  In the case of Pilsner Urquell,  they ferment open in oak barrels, and then they lager in pine tar pitch lined barrels.   This lends the beer a unique character.  Well obviously we are not going to do that.  But we may to a semi open fermentation. just covering the fermenter loosely with a towel affixed with a bungee cord.  We may also sanitize some oak chips and put them in during fermentation.  That should create similar fermentation and similar atmospheres of pressure, and still keep the nasties out.  But some of the traditions of the brewery can only be replicated with common sense on a home brew level. Obviously we are not going to line our fermenters with pine tar pitch.  So how do we replicate that on the home brew level?   A touch of smoked malt, should do the trick in this recipe for duplicating the pine tar character..  How much... well that is the fun of the cloning process.   We wont know until we try it.  We do know that you do not taste smoke when you drink a pilsner urquel, but there is a unique character.  So we will only add a tiny amount, an ounce or two.  We have loads of saaz hops, so in all likelihood we will make 10 gallons and ferment 5 gallons with our traditional method, and 5 gallons with our changes (intended to replicate the brewery).  Is it necessary to replicate the brewery?  No, but it is fun.

Choosing the right yeast.   Does it really matter? Yes, and no.  In some beers is is critical.  In some beers the yeast is a big part of the character of the beer.  In most lagers, the yeast is not a predominant feature of the beer.  So Yes, a lager strain is needed.  And No, the strain you use is not really that critical.   We prefer Fermentis 34/70 for almost all of our lagers.  And 34/70 is a dependable reliable yeast.  This amazing lager strain can make authentic lagers (not hybrid or mock lagers, actual lagers) at 60 F.   This has been displayed by many blogs, including this one.  Now, you need to know that Pilsner Urquell has a malty sweet finish, and a touch of sulphur.  So with a Pilsner Urquell you need to consider stopping the fermentation a couple of gravity points higher than the terminal gravity, and if we don't get the yeast character we want, we will use Saflager S189 next time (it has a touch of sulphur).   You can halt fermentation easily with a good cold crash.  But in our case, we will be bottling these beers so we will just let it finish out and then we will count on a certain amount of sweetness from the bottle conditioning.  Remember we are trying to make this as similar to the golden unfiltered, unpasturized lager we got to try at Bier Station.

The recipe.  Our inspiration can be found here.  And here is our final recipe modified for this years hops, and for our efficiency.   Is this the ultimate final version of our recipe?  No, of course not.  But it will be fantastic beer that we will enjoy.  We will also take notes and talk about how to change it to be exactly what we want it to be.  We often start out trying to clone a recipe and then end up deciding not to continue the cloning process. Electing instead to focus on another aspect of the beer, and focus on making the beer exactly what we want it to be, rather than copying the original beer.  As you review this recipe you can see that we made subtle changes to Mike's original recipe.

Dave jumping in here.   Now you may notice that this is a triple decoction recipe.  If you are not familiar with decoction, I really encourage you to go back and read this blog.  And read this blog.  Oh, and watch this video.  Decoction is not hard, once you learn what you are doing.   Basically you are going to do a multi step mash, and to raise the temperature of each step, you are going to remove 2/3rds of the grain in the mash tun and decoct it.  That means you are going to bring it to 150 -155 F for 10 minutes, and then to a boil for 15 - 20 minutes.  You will need to stir constantly.  If you are a new brewer, this might not be the recipe to try to learn decoction on.   So In that case just mash for 60 minutes starting at 156 F and letting your mash fall naturally in temperature over 60 minutes.  At the end of the mash remove 1/2 of the grains and bring them to a boil, stirring constantly for 15 minutes, then add them back into the main mash before draining, and or sparging.  So your total mash time will be close to 75 minutes.  This process is called a false decoction.  It will get you very close in terms of color and mouth feel.

That's all for today. Thanks for reading.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Making a delicious light beer at home... part 2 Merican Pilsner

So, in our last installment we learned about de-branching enzymes and how they can be used to create a crisp low-calorie, low-carbohydrate beer.   In today's episode we will be using a different approach.  In today's episode, we will be making a lager that anyone can make.  If you can control fermentation temperatures for an ale, you can make this lager.

The research brewery at Weihensttephan Institute
Fermentis Saflager 34/70 is an excellent yeast.  It is actually the most popular yeast strain in the world.   And considerable development has gone into this yeast over the last fifty or so years.   It is a lager yeast, Saccharomyces Pastoranus.  It is clean and malty.   However, did you know it will ferment just fine at low ale temperatures? I have used it over and over a 65 F (18 c) with undetectable ill effects. The yeast was developed at the world's premier lager research institute,  The Weihenstephan Institute at The Technical University of Munich (TUMs), a university where learning about beer is taken very seriously.

Now you may have heard it said that this yeast is a "hybrid yeast".  And you may be thinking it is a "hybrid" in the slang sense of the word, like a San Francisco lager yeast.   Or like a "cream ale yeast."  I want to assure you this is a strain of Saccharomyces Pastoranus, one of the two most prevalent strains of lager yeast.  It is a hybrid only in the fact that it is hybridized from Saccharomyces carlsbergenis.  We have to be careful with the word hybrid when we are talking about genetics.   Genetically if something is a hybrid, it doesn't exist in nature. Of course if you want to get truly technical, all lager yeasts are hybrids.... but that is a topic for another blog entry.  It was developed at the Weihenstephan Institue. But it isn't just a combination of S. Carlsbergenis and S. Cerevisiae; it is an actual lager strain, most commonly classified as a S. Pastoranus. 

Genome map of 34/70 and
Saccchoromyces Pastoranus vs. S. Carlsbergenis

Understanding yeast genetics and yeast genomes is not necessary to brew great beer.  But it can be interesting.  If you ever want to really geek out go to the TUMs website. There is so much information there, I think even the geekiest of home brewers would learn something new.  The 34/70 strain does exceptionally well from 48.5 F to 71 F.  Average attenuation is about 83%, in an 18 plato (1.064) wort.  Marshal, over at Brulosophy reports great results up to 70 F with this yeast.  I am not that brave.  But I have used it for years at 62 to 65 F (16 to 18 C) with excellent results.  I know this is just a blog on the internet.  I know I am not a brewing scientist (wish I'd known that was a choice on junior high career day).  I am just a guy sharing practical experience with you.  So please do your own research and remember my 45% 45% 10% rule. Great brewing is 45% cleaning, 45% learning, 10 % brewing.   But I will tell you this,  I have done the research. I have read the articles and even struggled through the research studies.   The knowledge I have gleaned is that this yeast will work fine at ale temperatures.  

Knowledge is power!
So, how do we apply this knowledge?  Well, we brew of course.   We use this knowledge to realize that you can make any lager with this yeast at cool ale temperatures without the need for advanced temperature control.   And we understand that when we make a low original gravity beer the primary fermentation will only last a couple of days.  So the critical time to hold the temperature down is during these first days of fermentation.   Anyone can hold the temperature down early with a swamp cooler set up.   It isn't hard and you probably already have the equipment.   If you have temperature control, you can literally treat this yeast like an ale yeast.   Start at 62 F for a couple of days then ramp up to 66 F,  then cold crash.   No big deal.   This practice is for low and medium OG lagers; when we make higher OG lagers, we tend to follow the Lager method explained here.   

So here is the recipe.  Good ol' Merican Pilsner... 5.5 gallons of good "merican" beer.  72.5% efficiency. So adjust yours for your system.  Remember we tend to not sparge this beer.  I have never decocted this recipe, but I am considering it.   To do that I'll dough in for a 132 initial rest / enzyme wash.  When I dough in it will only be the barley.  Then I'll pull a 2/3rds decoction.   After I add back the decoction, I'll add the corn and rice for the remainder of the mash.  But as you all know I enjoy decoction.  It is not necessary, I just want to see what it would do to this recipe. 

Good ol' Merican Pilsner 145 calories
1.047 OG
1.007 FG
12.00 IBUs
3.00   SRM
4.8%  ABV

Grain Bill  - Mash at 148 for 60 minutes, rinse or sparge to volume.  
7 lbs of Pilsner
1 lbs of flaked corn
1 lbs of flaked rice

.2 oz of Magnum 13% AA - 2.6 AAUs - at 60 minutes
.2 oz of Liberty 4% AA - .8 AAUs at 30 minutes
.5 oz of Liberty 4% AA - 2 AAUs at 0 minutes


17 grams of Fermentis Saflager 34/70 - (that is 1 & 2/3 packs) Ferment at 62 for 5-7 days, then let rise to 70 for 2-3 days, then cold crash.    Or make a starter, if you start with 1 pack of 34/70 then you only have to do a single step to get to 345 B Cells.  Make sure you oxygenate well. 

1 Whirlflock tablet 
1 tsp of Wyeast yeast nutrient. 

What's that?  you say you don't like 12 IBU beers... fine... turn it into a Pivo Pilsner Clone... If you have never had Pivo Pilsner it is a 59 IBU pilsner beer made by Firestone Walker brewing.  It is made to honor the classic Czech Pivo.  But really it is more like an India Pale Lager to me.  Either way it is delicious.  This grain bill stands strong as a great back ground for many of your lager experiments.  
A laundry tub and some frozen bottles of  ice are all you need
to make this fantastic lager.   Anyone can do it. 
You want to make a true tasting Czech Pilsner? Ok, go with all Saaz hops.   You want to make a German Pilsner,  Go with all German Noble Hops... Hallertauer family.  You could even use this beer as the base for a truly American India Pale Lager,  just load it up with west coast hops, Centennial, Cascade, Columbus...etc...   

Pivo Pilsner Clone 145 calories
1.047 OG
1.007 FG
53.00 IBUs
3.00   SRM
4.8%  ABV

Grain Bill  - Mash at 148 for 60 minutes, rinse or sparge to volume.  
7 lbs of Pilsner
1 lbs of flaked corn
1 lbs of flaked rice

1 oz of Magnum 13% AA - 13 AAUs - at First Wort Hop
1 oz of Spalt Select 5% AA - 5 AAUs at 10 minutes
1 oz of Spalt Select 5% AA - 5 AAUs at 5 minutes
2 oz of Saphir  3.4% AA - 6.8 AAUs  5 day dry hop

17 grams of Fermentis Saflager 34/70 (that is 1 & 2/3 packs)- Ferment at 62 for 5-7 days, then let rise to 70 for 2-3 days, then cold crash.    Or make a starter, if you start with 1 pack of 34/70 then you only have to do a single step to get to 345 B Cells.  Make sure you oxygenate well. 

1 Whirlflock tablet 
1 tsp of Wyeast yeast nutrient. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Belgian Single at the LHBS - Great Brew Day

Sunday after church,  I met up with Andrew the manager at BrewLab to help him brew a Pattersbier.  More commonly known as a Belgian Single or a Monk Single, this is a style that is growing in popularity with home brewers. A Pattersbier is a low-gravity, golden abbey style beer.  Is is often, but not always flavored with Cardamon, and Cinnamon, and sometimes coriander. And we make a really good one.   Andrew and I always have great brew sessions when we brew together.  It is really fun to brew with another absolute brew nerd. We tend to make very good decisions together. The brewing system at BrewLab is world class.   A 3 vessel eHERM system capable of 10 or 15 gallons of beer.

Our grain bill, as well as our recipe in general, was pretty simple. But have no fear, we did a very complicated mash schedule for your amusement. For an 11 Gallon batch. 80% efficiency

The Humble Monk
1.042 OG  (which we nailed)
1.006 FG
5.67   SRM
27.5   IBUs
4.67$ ABV

12.1 #  Castle Chateau Pilsen - Belgian Pilsner
1.1 #    American Wheat - (lots of ferulic acid)
0.6 #   Special B
1.0 #   Belgian Candi Sugar at 10 minutes

0.3 oz of Magnum at 60
1.1 oz of Saaz at 30
1.0 oz of Nelson Sauvin at 3 (we know it isn't traditional but, you gotta have some fun weird stuff)
2 sticks of Cinnamon at 10 minutes
1 oz of Coriander at 10 minutes
Fermentis - Abbaye (BE256) 2 packs pitched dry.

The wort was beautiful golden, and milky
early on.  
Yes dry yeast.  No starter, no re hydration.   We want the yeast to have to struggle a bit.  By struggling it will create more of the esters that we want in the beer. Recently, home brewers have errantly promoted the idea of big, huge yeast pitches.   Boy have they missed the point.  The point is to pitch the right amount of yeast, not just huge amounts of yeast.   If you read the yeast series you know that yeast creates esters, and higher alcohols in order to grow the population and survive.   When yeast is under stress it creates more of these esters.

Now to make sure we created the esters we needed in the finished beer, and because we wanted to develop a great mouth feel for this beer, we had to do a multi step mash.  We were already pitching dry, and fermenting at room temperature. But we had to create the right environment for the yeast. Step mashing is a breeze on this system.  Here is our schedule.

15 minutes at 118-120 F
15 minutes at 132-134 F
40 minutes at 146-148 F
10 minutes at 156-158 F

Brew Lab's 3v system.  Makes multi step mashing a breeze.
Now this is a multi step mash designed to extract lots of sugars, create good mouth feel, and to create some ferulic acid in the mash, so that the POV+ (phenolic off flavor variant positive) yeast can create the abbey flavors we are looking for in this beer.  Early on the wort was extremely milky, that is normal in a step mash especially during the acid rest and the protein rest.   You are letting other enzymes do their job.   In the acid rest we are chiefly letting Phytase and Glucanase create acid, and soften the cell membranes of the starch.  The protein rest was designed to allow Peptidase to create the ferulic acid we are looking for in the beer. Peptidase breaks medium chains into their components.   So if you want to express maximum esters or phenols in a Heffeweis or in a BSDA, you really should consider a protein rest around 115 - 128 F.  The key acid you are trying to maximize is called Ferulic acid. A Peptidase rest will help you maximize it's availability.  From then on it was a normal beta sachrification rest, and a brief alpha sachrification rest.  We skipped the mash out and shortened our sparge to 10 minutes.  We were already in danger of overshooting our gravity, and shortening the sparge and skipping the mash out helped us stay where we wanted to be. 

 "Wait, what?  you guys did something to limit your efficiency?   how crazy are you?  efficiency is the sacred holy bovine god of home brewing... how could you do that?  more sugar is always a good thing right?"   Well,  "yes," we took steps to limit the transfer of sugars, and "no," more sugar is not always a better thing.  Higher efficiency is not always a better thing.   Like always, I am promoting the common sense notion, that brewing, is 45% cleaning, and 45% learning and 10% brewing.   When you learn how to manage your mash, you can take steps like we took to get the beer you want.   Maximum efficiency is not the goal of a mash  The goal of a mash is creating the wort you want, and having a lot of fun. 

Now if you don't want to do a multi step mash, and you certainly don't have to, an alternative approach is to adjust your grain bill to include more wheat.   Trust me on this, a quality yeast will still give you the flavor you want.   I love Fermentis Abbaye (BE256), WLP500, and WLP530.  They are my favorite abbey style yeasts. I recently brewed with Imperial Monastery, and I'll let you know how it turns out.  So far it seems pretty great too, but with a softer phenol profile. I haven't tried Wyeast Belgian Abbey, or Belgian Abbey 2 (1214 and 1762) so I cannot comment on them yet, but I'm sure they are wonderful as well.   I should mention I have also brewed abbey style beers with Danstar Abbaye; it is also great stuff.  Wow, we brew a lot of abbey style ales...

Before I go on I want to remind you that when you do a single step mash, you will not develop all of the same characteristics of a multi-step mash.  You are asking sugars to do the job of proteins with regard to mouth feel and foam retention. A single step mash will work to a certain extent.  But it won't be exactly the same.   There is a reason the monks do step mashing and it is not just because of undermodified grains.  ONCE AGAIN THERE IS MORE GOING ON IN THE MASH THAN THE SIMPLE CONVERSION OF STARCH INTO SUGAR.  And I think we can all agree, they are pretty good brewers.

The boil went as expected 13 gallons boiled down to 11. We added our hops and spices at the appropriate times.  We filtered, chilled and transferred.  Then we pitched a pack of yeast in each carboy.   We did not use oxygen to aerate.   Fermentis is packaged with nutrients and oxygen.  So all we did was shake the carboys for 5 minutes.  That's it.  The final result?   We nailed it! 1.042 on the nose, and a clear golden elixir van de liefde.   This should be an amazing beer.  I can't wait to try it.   If you are in Kansas City in about 3 weeks, stop by the BrewLab and try this beer!