Brew Day: Blonde Ale and American Rye (Beers #37 & 38)

September 3, 2012

Today I knocked out my first double brew day. I started by kegging the American Amber I brewed two weeks ago and harvesting the yeast to use in today’s batches.

This was my first attempt at reusing yeast, as well. I added a quart and a half of boiled & cooled distilled water to the carboy after racking off all the beer and swirled it up to get all the yeast & trub into suspension. I divided the slurry into two sanitized quart-sized mason jars and let it stratify while I got on with the brewing. Later in the day I decanted the yeast layer from each jar into three pint-sized mason jars, leaving the trub layer behind. I ended up pitching one and a half pints of yeast slurry into each batch I brewed. Perhaps I over-pitched, but I doubt it.

As for the beers I brewed today…

I started out with the Blonde Ale recipe from Brewing Classic Styles. I didn’t have enough US 2-row, so I made it with Maris Otter. I imagine this will have a significant impact on such a simple recipe (It’s just base malt & half a pound of Crystal 20), but I think it should be delicious nonetheless.

While I was sparging the Blonde Ale I began heating strike water for the Rye Beer. I timed it so that I could clean out the mash tun and dough in the next batch as soon as all the first batch’s wort was collected.

The rye recipe is based on the one from Brewing Classic Syles, but altered significantly from the last time I brewed it. Previous recipe:

– 6 lb US 2-row
– 3 lb, 12 oz Weyermann Rye Malt
– 3 lb White Wheat Malt
– 23 IBUs Willamette at 60 min
– 9g Willamette at 0 min
– 9g Centennial at 0 min
– Wyeast 1010 American Wheat Yeast

This time around:

– 6 lb US 2-row
– 6 lb Briess Rye Malt
– 1 lb Red Wheat Malt
– 24 IBUs Willamette at 60 min
– 15g Centennial at 0 min
– 10g Willamette at 0 min
– Wyeast 1056 American Ale Yeast

The last time I made the Rye Beer I felt that it did not have enough rye flavor. I said next time I’d either switch from Weyermann to Briess rye malt or use more of it and less wheat. I decided to do both. I also upped the late hopping a bit to give the beer a bit more interest. As for the yeast change, I just didn’t feel like buying special yeast for such a simple beer. Maybe a Kolsch yeast would bring out the rye character more, but that experiment can be done some other time. I did notice a massive improvement in rye aroma over the last batch. The wort smelled like rye bread (without caraway seeds).

These are simple beers and should be ready to drink in three weeks or less. I’m looking forward to both of them.

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Brew Day: Rauchbier (Beer #36)

September 2, 2012

Last Sunday a friend brought his equipment over and we brewed the same recipe side-by-side with a single difference in ingredients. We both brewed the Classic Rauchbier recipe from Brewing Classic Styles. I used Weyermann Smoked Pilsner Malt and he used US 2-row home-smoked with a mostly-alderwood blend.

Smoked malt accounted for 38% of the grist for both of us. Unfortunately we did not use continental pilsner malt for the rest of the base malt. Through a clerical error the pilsner malt did not make it to my house for brew day, so we used Briess US 2-row instead. This beer has enough other flavor from the smoked malt, specialty malts, and hops that I think the subtle difference between US 2-row and German Pilsner malts might be lost. At least that’s what I’m hoping.

The main thing I noticed during brew day was that the Weyermann smoked malt was not very smokey at all. I expected the 5lb. sack to be bursting with smoke aroma. It wasn’t. I buried my face in the bag and breathed in deeply. I was able to detect a trace of smoke. Next I chewed up a few kernels of the malt and found it to be faintly smokey tasting. The home-smoked malt, on the other hand, smelled like a campfire. And it was smoked nearly a year ago. This discrepancy followed suit in our mashes and boil kettles. His smelled like BBQ, mine smelled like Oktoberfest with a hint of smoke. I was hoping for Aecht Schlenkerla, but I ain’t gonna get it.

My batch was fermenting strongly at 50°F after 18 hours. By Thursday night the SG had dropped from 1.053 to 1.028, so on Friday morning I moved the beer to a 69&dg;F ambient space for a diacetyl rest and to finish fermenting. It’s done now. I am going to leave it there for another week, then I’ll crash-cool it, keg it, then start it lagering at 36°F for a month before tapping it in early October.

Even if it’s not as smokey as I wanted, I think it will still be a good beer. I’m looking forward to trying both batches side-by-side.

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Brew Day: American Amber Ale (Beer #35)

September 2, 2012

As I mentioned in my last post, I was getting back to brewing after six months off with a simple American Amber Ale. This was my first time brewing on my new system – first time brewing outdoors on a propane burner.

Getting to and maintaining a boil is so much easier than on the stove top:

The only ingredient I purchased for this batch was some yeast. I had plenty of hops in the freezer and enough base malt left in my Vittles Vaults from earlier in the year. I didn’t have the right specialty grains to make the same Amber Ale recipe from BCS that won me a Gold in 2011 and a Bronze in 2012, so I adapted the grain bill to create something amber in color:

9 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) US
1 lbs Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L
9.2 oz Munich Malt
4.8 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt – 80L
4.0 oz Pale Chocolate Malt (200.0 SRM
2.5 oz Victory Malt (28.0 SRM)
2.0 oz Aromatic Malt (19.0 SRM)

In my estimation, this beer will have less crystal malt character and be a bit more chocolatey than the past recipes. The samples I took for reading SG confirmed this. I added 10g each of Cascade & Centennial hops as fermentation was finishing up. They were in there for about a week before I began crash-cooling on Friday night. Tomorrow morning I am going to keg the beer and rinse the yeast for use in two beers I’ll be brewing tomorrow.

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Brew Day: American IPA (Beer #34)

February 13, 2012

Vital Stats:
Target OG: 1.065 Actual OG: 1.059
Target FG: 1.012 Actual FG: 1.010
ABV: 6.4%
Color: 7.6 SRM (Calculated)
Bitterness: 66.4 IBU (Calculated)
Yeast: Wyeast 1056 American Ale

On Friday, February 2nd, 2012 I brewed the “Hoppiness is an IPA” recipe from Brewing Classic Styles. I brewed one IPA before and it was pretty good, but this recipe is rather different from that one.

This was my first time using Simcoe and Amarillo hops. I was worried the beer might come out catty, but the gravity sample I tasted wasn’t too bad. There was a bit of cat pee, but the Simcoe hops seemed to give more of the desirable mango aroma and flavor. The mango/slight cattiness balanced very well with the grapefruit notes provided by the Amarillo hops.

Unfortunately neither of those hops were available in pellet form, so I got to try out commercial whole-leaf hops for the first time. They’re fun to brew with because they look so cool, but they’re kind of a pain in the ass because they soak up so much wort and leave you with a big wad of debris to throw away after you’re done.

Like the few batches before this one, I entered the recipe into BeerSmith as the book prescribes it, the used the “scale recipe” function to scale the grist bill to my system. This worked nearly perfectly when I used it before, but this time around I came up short of my target OG. I was targeting 1.065 but ended up with 1.059. The adjusted grist bill I used was:

– 9 lb 15.2 oz US 2-row
– 1 lb Crystal 20°L (Recipe calls for C15, but I couldn’t get it)
– 12.9 oz Munich (9°L)
– 5.6 oz Crystal 40°L

Because the beer is somewhat similar to the APA recipe I used in the past and because I’ve been having some issues with diacetyl in my beers lately, I chose to ramp this beer’s temperature towards the end of fermentation for a D-rest. When activity began to slow (after three days), I increased it from 67°F to 71°F and left it there for six days before dropping the temp to 34°F for a crash cool. It will be kegged two days from now.

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Brew Day: American Pale Ale (Beer #33)

February 13, 2012

Vital Stats:
Target OG: 1.056 Actual OG: 1.058
Target FG: 1.012 Actual FG: 1.011
ABV: 6.3%
Color: 6.5 SRM (Calculated)
Bitterness: 42 IBU (Calculated)
Yeast: Wyeast 1056 American Ale

On January 27th, 2012 I brewed up a batch of American Pale Ale. This was the second time I brewed this Brewing Classic Styles recipe, but a lot is different this time around. The first time I brewed it I used my home-grown Centennial hops (and a dash of home-grown Willamette) for flavor & aroma (along with the Cascade pellets called for in the book). This time around I used all Hop Union pellets and also dry-hopped the beer. I didn’t dry-hop it last time.

The first attempt was good, but far from great. It had a lot of diacetyl that manifested as a strong butterscotch note. The aroma carried a strong washed-rind cheese smell. It wasn’t foul; it actually worked well in the beer. But it was kind of unexpected. This time I’m hoping for it to be much cleaner and more predictable.

To try to take care of the diacetyl issue, I ramped the fermentation temperature from 67°F to 69.5&def;F when fermentation began to slow (after three days) and increased it again to 72°F 24 hours later. I held it there for three days before racking to a secondary fermenter for dry-hopping. I dry-hopped with 14g (1/2 oz.) each of Cascade & Centennial for five days before crash-cooling and kegging. I kegged it yesterday. It should be ready to start tasting next weekend. I didn’t detect any diacetyl in the sample I took before kegging.

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Brew Day: American Amber Ale (Beer #32)

February 13, 2012

Vital Stats:
Target OG: 1.052 Actual OG: 1.049
Target FG: 1.013 Actual FG: 1.011
ABV: 5.0%
Color: 13.4 SRM (Calculated)
Bitterness: 37.5 IBU (Calculated)
Yeast: Wyeast 1056 American Ale

On January 20th, 2012 I brewed the American Amber recipe from Brewing Classic Styles for the second time. The first time I brewed it was almost exactly one year prior. It was my first all-grain batch and with it I scored my first medal in a competition. I’m still looking for my second.

This time around I altered several things. Changes to my process include precise fermentation temperature control, the use of a stir plate, pure O2 oxygenation, and milling my own grain. That last difference requires me to change the recipe to adjust for the increase in efficiency it brought me. The adjusted grist bill looks like this:

– 6 lb. 12.8 oz. Maris Otter
– 13.1 oz. Crystal 40°L
– 11.7 oz. Munich (9°L)
– 8.7 oz. Crystal 120°L
– 8.7 oz. Victory (28°L)

I kept the bittering, flavor, and aroma hop charges the same as the book calls for – except that I bittered with Yakima Magnum instead of Horizon, and I adjusted the amount of bittering pellets used to keep the same HBUs.

The recipe does not mention dry-hopping, but I chose to do so for this batch. Last year’s judges’ notes suggested it would benefit from a touch more hop aroma. I agree. To that end I dry-hopped this batch in the primary fermenter after five days with 7g (1/4 oz.) each of Cascade & Centennial pellets. I just chucked them into the carboy. It’s a small dry-hop charge. I’m not trying to make a west-coast amber; I’m just trying to brighten up a classic American amber. I think it worked well, as I’ll post about in the tasting notes that will be coming soon. I allowed the dry hops to do their thing for six days before crash-cooling for three days then kegging it up. It’s on tap now, and I’m enjoying it.

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Brew Day: Premium English Bitter (Beer #31)

February 12, 2012

Vital Stats:
Target OG: 1.047 Actual OG: 1.047
Target FG: 1.013 Actual FG: 1.011
ABV: 4.8%
Color: 11.2 SRM (Calculated)
Bitterness: 30.8 IBU (Calculated)
Yeast: Wyeast 1968 ESB

I brewed the Northern English Brown ale on a Friday night after work. The following morning (Saturday, January 14, 2012) I got up and brewed a batch of English Premium Bitter. The recipe, as usual, came from Brewing Classic Styles. Much like the batch the night before, I used the “scale recipe” function in BeerSmith to adjust the recipe to account for my system’s efficiency. It came up with this grist bill:

– 7 lb. 4.8 oz. Munton’s Maris Otter
– 8.2 oz. Aromatic (26°L)
– 8.2 oz. Crystal 120°L
– 4.1 oz. Special Roast (50°L)

Much like the previous recipe, after scaling the recipe I hit the target pre-boil and OG values. So far so good for assuming 78% efficiency and scaling to meet it.

The beer fermented out in three days at 68°F. I let it sit for two more days, then crash-cooled the carboy in the fridge for three days, then kegged it up. After getting it carbonated I realized I had a problem: major diacetyl bomb. It was bad. I named the beer “Bitterscotch” when I took a liter of it to the T.R.A.S.H. meeting to have people taste.

The beer was overwhelmed by butterscotch flavor. I felt it ruined the beer. But there was hope. Some friends from T.R.A.S.H. suggested it could be saved by pitching in an active starter of fresh yeast. This process – called krausening – was worth a try. I moved the keg to a warm (70°F) spot in my house and waited until Batch #33 (APA) was ready to be racked to secondary for dry-hopping. I harvested the APA’s yeast (Wyeast 1056), brewed a 1 liter starter, and added a healthy cup of the washed yeast to the starter. I let it run overnight on the stir plate and build up a good krausen. In the morning I pitched the active starter right into the keg of Bitter and left it at ~70°F for a week. It’s still sitting there, but it has to be as done as it’s going to get after that much time. Soon I will rack it to a new keg (to separate it from all the American Ale yeast I pitched into it) and put it in the keezer to re-equibrilate it’s carbonation. Hopefully the diacetyl is toned down enough to make the beer decent.

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Brew Day: Northern English Brown (Beer #30)

February 12, 2012

Vital Stats:
Target OG: 1.051 Actual OG: 1.051
Target FG: 1.013 Actual FG: 1.012
ABV: 5.1%
Color: 11.9 SRM (Calculated)
Bitterness: 26.6 IBU (Calculated)
Yeast: Wyeast 1028 London Ale

To start 2012 I brewed seven batches of beer in six weeks. Keeping up with all those brews caused me to fall a little behind on this journal. It’s time to post about what I’ve brewed recently. I want to get the brew day posts out of the way so I can get on to the tasting notes…

I brewed a batch of Northern English Brown Ale on January 13th. The recipe came from Brewing Classic Styles, but for the first time I used the “scale” function in BeerSmith to adjust the recipe to match my system. I had been getting about 78% efficiency since I started crushing my own grain. BCS assumes 60-65% efficiency. BeerSmith adjusted the grist bill to look like this:

– 8 lb. 2 oz. Munton’s Maris Otter
– 10 oz. Special Roast (50°L)
– 6.7 oz. Crystal 40°L
– 6.7 oz. Victory (25°L)
– 3.3 oz. Pale Chocolate (200°L)

I hit the target pre-boil and OG with these adjustments. Fermentation went smoothly and the beer was crash-cooled after five days and kegged after three days in the fridge.

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Brew Day: Brown Porter (Beer #29)

January 22, 2012

Vital Stats:
Target OG: 1.052 Actual OG: 1.059
Target FG: 1.012 Actual FG: 1.014
ABV: 5.9%
Color: 24.2 SRM (Calculated)
Bitterness: 27.49 IBU (Calculated)
Yeast: Wyeast 1028 London Ale

Two weeks ago I brewed another batch of the same Brown Porter recipe that Jess brewed last fall. It will be tough to improve on her results, but we felt that the few process changes I have recently implemented could push this beer to another level. That’s the hope, at last.

Changes to my process since the last time we brewed this recipe include:

  • Adjusting mash chemistry via brewing salts. I use Bru’n Water to figure out what salts to add. I think this is the change that will have the biggest positive impact on this recipe. My water is well-suited for brewing amber-colored, balanced malty-to-bitter beers without having to adjust the water. Dark beers like this porter benefit from some adjustment.
  • Oxygenating the wort with pure O2.
  • Using a stir plate to build of starters.
  • Milling my own grain.

Above is a picture of the mixed and crushed grain for this batch. It’s amazing how a bucket of something so light in color can produce such a dark beer.

In the past when I was having the homebrew shop mill my grain, I could just enter the recipe into BeerSmith exactly as it appeared in Brewing Classic Styles, set the software to expect 65% efficiency, and the numbers would just work out. That is until batch 24 when the grain began to arrive well under-crushed with many whole, uncracked kernels. This problem continued for a few batches. This was the catalyst for me to ask Santa for a grain mill.

This was my second batch where I milled my own grain. On the first batch (Foreign Extra Stout), I got 72% efficiency, so for this batch I entered the recipe, set the efficiency to 72%, then adjusted the base malt down to get the same target OG as the book lists. This worked OK, but I ended up getting 81% efficiency, so I knew that adjusting only the base malt would not continue to work. I figure you can adjust only the base malt if you’re changing it by a pound or less for a five gallon batch, but any more and the whole recipe will need to be scaled. In later batches I decided to let BeerSmith adjust the entire recipe for me. More on that in the write-up on those batches.

This beer was kegged on 01/14/12 and is almost ready for drinking. I’ll be posting some first tasting notes soon.

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Brew Day: Foreign Extra Stout (Beer #28)

January 19, 2012

Vital Stats:
Target OG: 1.076 Actual OG: 1.078
Target FG: 1.017 Actual FG: 1.019
ABV: 7.8%
Color: 39.1 SRM (Calculated)
Bitterness: 44.9 IBU (Calculated)
Yeast: Wyeast 1028 London Ale

About two and a half weeks ago (January 2nd) I brewed the Foreign Extra Stout recipe from Brewing Classic Styles. After the failure that was batch #27, I knew I had to change my oxygen protocol. So starting with this beer, I now oxygenate with pure O2. This was also the first batch I brewed where the starter was built up on my new stir plate.

As if that wasn’t enough change for one batch, this was also the first batch where I milled my own grain. My parents-in-law gave me the Cereal Killer for Christmas and I love it. I had some issues with the rollers sticking at first, but I got the hang of it after a couple minutes. Having no experience to go on, I set the mill rollers to .035″ and assumed I’d get a total efficiency of 70%. I kept the recipe exactly as it is in the book and went with it. In the end I got a little higher efficiency, but was pretty close.

The brew day went smoothly. The beer fermented out in two days. I let it rest for two more, then moved the carboy to the fridge to crash cool for three days, then I kegged it. I’m already drinking it and I’ll be taking the keg to the next TRASH meeting. On to the tasting…

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