Beer #21: APA with Home-Grown Centennial & Willamette Hops

August 27, 2011

This morning I brewed an American Pale Ale using the Centennial and Willamette hops I harvested from our back yard in early July. The recipe came from Brewing Classic Styles, though I altered the hop schedule a bit to work with my home-grown cones.

On the left is the 60-minute bittering addition: Horizon hop pellets. In the middle is Cascade pellets, home-grown Centennial cones, and some yeast nutrient and Irish moss, all to be added with 10 minutes remaining in the boil. On the right is more Cascade pellets, more Centennial cones, and the Willamette cones, to be added at flame-out.

After adding the 10-minute addition:

And here we are after adding the flame-out hops:

I have never used anything other than pellets before, so I thought it was neat to see the whole cones swimming around in the wort.

After chilling the wort (immersion chillers suck in the summer when the ground water is near 80°F) and racking to the carboy, I pitched some re-hyrdated US-05 (warning, PDF). The wort is in the chamber now, working its way towards the start of fermentation.

That’s one of the new 6-gallon carboys that I got for $25 on Amazon.

Once again the numbers came in on target. Target pre-boil gravity was 1.048. Measured: 1.048. Target post-boil gravity was 1.056. Measured: 1.057. Unfortunately, I can’t compute my efficiency because I haven’t come up with a way to measture my pre-and-post-boil volumes. Without knowing that, you can’t know your efficiency. However, I’ve found that when I tell BeerSmith to expect a 64% total efficiency, my measured numbers match what it predicts.


Beer #19: Witbier (and Raspberry Wit)

April 3, 2011

Brewed on April 2nd, 2011, this is the second witbier I’ve brewed. The first was two years ago, before I’d begun all-grain brewing and before I decided to become more serious about this hobby. Even still, that beer stands as one of the best I’ve brewed. The recipe this time around came from Brewing Classic Styles. Here’s what went into the beer:

  • 5lb, 8oz Belgian 2-Row Pilsner Malt
  • 5lb Flaked Wheat
  • 1lb, 2.1oz Flaked Oats
  • 4oz German Munich Malt
  • 32g Hallertau Hops
  • 5.2g Chamomile Flowers (from Celestial Seasonings tea bags)
  • 15g Coriander Seeds, crushed
  • Grated Zest of 1 Pink Grapefruit, 2 Cara-Cara oranges, 1 Navel Orange, and one Minneola

Witbier is a tricky beer to brew because it’s hard to get the light color if you’re using extract, and all-grain wit requires an extra mash step – a protein rest between 113°F and 132°F. This was my first time doing any kind of mash other than a single-step infusions mash.

From what I’ve read, multi-step mashes are better performed in a mash-tun that can be heated. I don’t have such a thing (I use a picnic cooler MLT), so my only option was to dough in at 122F with a very low water-to-grist ration, then add very hot water after the protein rest to bring it up to saccharification temperature (low 150’s). You can see in the picture above how thick the mash was during the protein rest.

The multi-step mash went well. I was close enough to be happy on my gravity numbers. I planned for 70% efficiency, which according to beer smith would give me a pre-boil SG of 1.047 and an OG of 1.054. I had 1.039 and 1.053, respectively.

The color… I’ve never made a beer this pale:

On to the boil…

It’s nice to have fun kitchen trinkets to use when brewing. I could have whizzed the coriander up in a coffee grinder, but the mortar & pestle is much more gratifying:

Here’s 15 grams of crushed coriander, the chamomile flowers from four tea bags, and the zest of all those citrus fruits, grated with a micro-plane. (Again with the kitchen gadgets.)

After the boil, the wort smelled amazing. The coriander, chamomile, and citrus formed a harmony that gives me high hope for this beer, especially once married to the great Belgian flavor I expect from the WLP400 Wit Ale Yeast. About that yeast – it smells absolutely horrible. I made a 1.5 liter starter in a one-gallon growler with foil over the mouth, shaking the growler every few hours. The smell coming out from under the foil was not unlike any of the descriptions you might have heard for Sex Panther cologne – from a dirty diaper full of Indian food to a certain Yeti’s gentleman’s sausage. According to the wisdom of the internet, this is normal for this yeast. I vaguely remember the wit yeast smelling like shit the last time I brewed witbier, but I can’t say for sure.

And here is the beer this morning, happily fermenting away at 68°F:

I piched the yeast at about 3:00 PM yesterday. When I checked in on it at about 10:30 PM, it was actively fermenting with 1/4″ of krausen. This morning it was in full-on sugar eating, wort churning mode.

I have interesting plans for this beer. It’s a 5.5 gallon batch, but I plan to rack some of it into a 3 gallon carboy atop a couple pounds of raspberries (from your grocer’s freezer), and bottle the rest plain. Both versions should be a fantastic summertime beer come May or June.


Beer #17: IPA

March 2, 2011

Brewed on January 29th, 2011, my first attempt at an IPA came kind of late in my brewing career.

Many beginner homebrewers jump right into IPAs, mainly because it’s a preferred style among craft beer drinkers. I love IPAs, but I wouldn’t call myself a hop-head. I tend to enjoy all styles of beer. When It comes to IPAs, I prefer ones that present the hop flavor and aroma atop a high-but-not-overwhelming level of bitterness. I love Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, for example. For that reason, I planned this beer to be very similar in style to two-hearted, though I wasn’t exactly going for a clone. I threw in a couple of new-to-me techniques that I discuss later in this post. First, here’s the recipe:

  • 10 lb US 2-row pale malt
  • 2 lb Vienna malt
  • 1 lb 8 oz Crystal 40°L
  • 8 oz white wheat malt
  • 0.75 oz centennial (first wort hopping*)
  • 0.66 oz centennial @ 60 min.
  • 0.5 oz centennial @ 20 min.
  • 0.75 oz centennial @ 10 min.
  • 0.75 oz cascade @ 10 min.
  • 1 pint hop tea+ @ 5 min.
  • 0.75 oz cascade @ 0 min.

* This was my first go at first wort hopping. I’d read about the benefits of it, so I figured why not give it a go. Obviously I can’t objectively say what it brings to this beer without brewing the same beer again, changing only one thing – move the FWH addition to the start of boil. Only if I do that and compare the two beers side-by-side will I be able to tell what it actually brings. Still, I thought it would be fun to do it.

+This was also the first time I messed around with a hop tea. I wanted to get as much hop flavor and aroma as I could into this beer. I knew that nearly all flavor and aroma would be lost from the 60-minute hops, so I figured I could lock the flavor and aroma from those hops up in a tea that I could hold onto until late in the boil. Making a hop tea extracts the flavor & aroma without extracting the bitterness. Bitterness requires boiling, but boiling destroys flavor & aroma. To this end, my plan was to collect one pint of the 168°F wort, post-sparge, into a sanitized french press that contained the 60-minute hop addition. I would allow the hops to steep in this wort during the time it took the wort to come to a boil (about 30-40 minutes on my stove top). Once a boil was reached, I’d press the tea off the hops, pour the tea into a jar, then add the pressed hop goop to the kettle and start the one-hour timer. After 55 minutes, I’d add the tea.

Surprisingly (to me, at least) was that the hop tea didn’t have much hop aroma. It was there, but it was faint. What it did pack, though, was wallops of hop flavor. Again without a control to compare against, I can’t say what this brings to the beer, but I can subjectively say that it’s going to bring *something*.

The beer was bottled on February 19th, 2011. It’s pretty much carbonated by now and it will be ready for its first tasting this weekend.


Beer #16: Breakfast Stout

March 2, 2011

This beer was brewed on January 22nd, 2011. The recipe was based on a Founder’s Breakfast Stout clone recipe I found online. I tweaked the base stout recipe a bit, then went my own way with the coffee and chocolate additions.

The base recipe was a pretty straight-forward high-gravity oatmeal stout:

  • 14 lb US 2-row pale malt
  • 1 lb, 6 oz flaked oats
  • 1 lb chocolate malt
  • 12 oz roasted barley
  • 9 oz black patent malt
  • 7 oz crystal 120°L
  • 1 oz Nugget @ 60 min.
  • 0.5 oz Mt. Hood @ 30 min.
  • 0.5 oz Mt. Hood @ 0 min.

OG: 1.080
FG: 1.020
ABV after fermentation: 7.6%

It is in the secondary fermentation that this beer becomes really interesting. I knew I would be adding coffee and chocolate, but there’s a lot of options on how to add those. For coffee, you can drip-brew it, French press it, cold-brew it, use instant, or “dry-hop” with ground coffee beans. I chose to cold brew some good quality Sumatra coffee from my local roaster. We buy all of our coffee from there and it hasn’t let us down. I went with Sumatra, but any earthy, low-acidity coffee would work well in my opinion, such as Celebes Kalossi, Mexican Marogogype, Indian Monsoon Malabar, Guatemalan Antigua, or any others like that. I’d avoid fruity, spicy, acidic coffee such as Kona, Jamaican Blue Mountain, or Kenya AA. I boiled a quart of water for ten minutes, cooled it to room temperature, then stirred in about 10 tablespoons of ground coffee. I allowed this to sit for about six hours before adding it to the secondary then racking the beer on to it.

For the chocolate, you could add cacao nibs, melted chocolate, cocoa powder, chocolate extract or flavoring, or chocolate liqueur. I chose to use cacao nibs because I’d heard good things about using them in beer, and also because of the bad experience I had with cocoa powder in batch #11. I figured it was a good idea to sanitize the cacao nibs. I didn’t want to boil or roast them to achieve this, figuring that would drive off some of the chocolate flavor. Instead, I decided that soaking them in some booze would be a good way to go. Vodka would work, but why not use bourbon? The oaky spiciness should lend a nice compliment to this style of beer, right? So I soaked eight ounces of cracked cacao nibs in one cup of Maker’s Mark for about six hours (while the coffee was cold-brewing), then added it all – nibs and bourbon – to the bottom of the secondary fermenter along with the coffee before racking the beer onto it.

The cold-brewed coffee after pressing, and the cacoa nibs soaked in bourbon.

The beer sat in the secondary for two weeks and picked up fantastic coffee and chocolate flavor. The chocolate is not in your face like Young’s Double-Chocolate. It’s a more natural, subdued effect that works wonderfully with this beer.

Oh yeah, I fermented this one in plastic. My 6.5 gallon carboys were tied up.

The beer was bottled on February 19th, 2011. It’s pretty much carbonated by now and it will be ready for its first tasting this weekend. Can’t wait! The tastes I took of the warm, flat beer when racking and when bottling were promising. Interestingly, there was a hint of bacon in the aroma and flavor right from the get-go. I’m looking forward to seeing how that plays out.

After bottle conditioning and the addition of a cup of 90 proof bourbon, the beer comes in at 8.3% abv.


Beer #14: Leftover Stout

March 2, 2011

This oatmeal stout was brewed on March 6th, 2010 from a recipe I threw together to use up the leftover ingredients from the three recent batches.

This beer was my first attempt at any sort of mashing. I attempted a stove-top mini-mash and totally botched it. I aimed for a mash temperature of 153°F and when it came in a little low (in the 140’s), I turned on the flame. Before I knew it, my mini-mash was at 177°F – much too high to get a reasonably fermentable wort. Still, since this was a mini-mash and a large portion of the fermentables came from extract, the beer came out pretty drinkable.

This beer has one other issue – caused not by technique in the case, but by a flaw in the recipe. Since I was just using up leftover ingredients, a hodgepodge of various, disparately flavored hops went in, nearly none of which are correct for the style. When it was all said and done, I had an sweet oatmeal stout with wonderful body, color, mouthfeel, and roastiness from the malts, and a hop profile that’s somewhere out in left field. It’s still quite drinkable and was a fun way to muck about with brewing.

Here’s the recipe, not that you’d ever want to brew it:

4lb 3 oz light LME
8 oz Light DME
1lb 14 oz American 2-row pale malt
1 lb flaked oats
11 oz. chocolate malt
9 oz British Crystal Malt 50-60°L
4 oz Black Patent malt

– mash the 2-row, oats, and specialty malts in 6 quarts of 153°F water for 60 minutes
– drain grains (no sparge), transfer wort to brew kettle, top up to 2.5 gallons, bring to a boil, then add extracts

60 minutes: 1.75 oz Tettnang hops
60 minutes: 0.5 oz East Kent Goldings
15 minutes: 0.75 oz Cascade
15 minutes: 0.75 oz Willamette
15 minutes: 1 tsp Irish Moss
15 minutes: 1/8 tsp Yeast Nutrient

Wyeast Irish Ale (1084)

OG: 1.053
FG: 1.017
ABV: 5.0%


Beer #11: Young’s Double Chocolate Stout Clone

March 2, 2011

Brewed on December 31, 2009 from a recipe I found online.

I was really excited to brew this beer. Unfortunately, it ended up as one of only two beers I ever poured down the drain. (The other was batch #5.) There were lots of problems…

  • I forgot to add the flavor/aroma hops. They were supposed to go in with 15 minutes remaining in the boil, but I ended up adding them to the primary fermenter when I pitched the yeast.
  • I splashed tap water into the wort as I was cooling it. I used to chill the partial-boil brew kettle in an ice bath in the kitchen sink with the sink running very slowly to keep the water cold.
  • After the krausen fell, a nasty film was left atop the fermenter. This may have been some sort of infection, or it may have just been a protein matrix made of yeast, malt, cocoa, and lactose. Either way, here’s a pic:

  • After racking to the secondary fermenter, something found its way to the surface. It looked like yeast, but I’m not positive that’s what it was. The yeast strain I used was supposed to be highly flocculant. It may have been cocoa butter from all the cocoa powder I used.

    I cold crashed it for a couple of weeks in the fridge, but this substance never fell to the botom.

  • The cocoa powder never settled. Even after cold-crashing, the beer remained cloudy with cocoa powder, kind of like a glass of Nesquik. Eventually I gave up waiting for it to clarify and bottled it.
  • Because it spend so long conditioning, carbonation took six weeks or so. Eventually it did carbonate without additional yeast, though. Once it was ready to be consumed, we found that it tasted like crap. It was sour. It was off. It was way over-carbonated. All signs point to this beer having been infected, perhaps by lactobacillus.
  • I left the bottles in the beer fridge for months, trying one every now and again to see if they got any better. All the while the beer was kind of drinkable, but it was never enjoyable. Finally, about a year after it was first brewed, I poured the bottles down the drain.
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Beer #10: Maple Porter

March 2, 2011

Brewed on August 30th, 2009 from a recipe that I concocted.

This beer should have been great. Unfortunately, it turned into another learning experience. In this case, it taught me about the importance of fermentation temperature control. I fermented this beer during the peak of summer and did nothing to control fermentation temps. I think they ended up getting up to about 88°F! That’s way too high; it should have been maintained right around 70°F. I ended up with a lot of banana flavor in the beer which, luckly, actually worked well in this malt-forward maple-flavored beer. Everyone, including me, drank it and enjoyed it. But still, I knew it was flawed.

Here’s the recipe I followed:

6.6 lb Munton’s Light LME
2.0 lb Munton’s Light DME
12 oz crystal 50-60°L
8 oz chocolate malt *
8 oz roasted barley
4 oz black patent malt
2 oz fuggle UK hops
1 qt. grade B maple syrup
1 tsp Irish moss
White Labs 007 English Dry Ale yeast

– Make a 1 qt. yeast starter

– Steep grains at 150F for 20 minutes
– 60 minutes: 1.75 oz Fuggle
– 15 minutes: 1 tsp Irish Moss
– 10 minutes: 0.25 oz Fuggle
– 2 minutes: 1 qt grade B maple syrup

* The recipe called for 10 oz, but I only received 8 oz in my shipment instead of the 1 lb I ordered. I just went with it, figuring the 2 ounces would be negligible.

OG: 1.083
FG: 1.020

After two weeks in the bottle, the beer was flat. It eventually carbonated, after six weeks or so. My guess is the yeast were tired from working on a big beer at very high temps with a lot of simple sugar in it.


Beer #9: Witbier

March 2, 2011

Brewed on April 5th, 2009 roughly following this recipe.

This was far and away the best beer I had made up to this point. It came out spot-on in the flavor I was going for. I was attempting to clone Hoegaarden and while I didn’t exactly nail it, the beer definitely hit the mark for the witbier style. This beer went quickly during the early summer months. It was well favored by our mountain bike crew during post-ride BBQ’s. Poured from a 500ml bottle into a tall hefeweizen glass with a wedge of lemon or orange, this beer satisfied.

I only have one picture of this beer, unfortunately:

The witbier is in the larger fermenter in the back. (Towards the front is batch #8.) It looked brown in the fermenter, but it came out a nice cloudy pale golden white once fully fermented, bottled, and poured into a glass.


Beer #5: Spiced Irish Stout

February 15, 2011

To learn, one must make mistakes, right? This beer was one of those mistakes learning experiences…

Brewed on November 14th, 2004, this was supposed to be a Christmas beer. I now know that big, complex Christmas beers should be brewed between, oh, July and October – the bigger and more complex, the earlier. Being brewed too late was a minor problem overall. Yeah, the beer wasn’t drinkable by Christmas, but it also wasn’t drinkable by Easter, either. It never became drinkable and eventually ended up going down the drain.

This was my first non-kit beer. Looking at the recipe, I can say now that I’d reject this one outright due to its use of dark malt extract. I now brew all-grain, but if I were doing an extract brew I would use nothing but light DME and get all my color from steeping grains. When you use dark malt extracts, you lose control over your beer. You’re leaving it up to whomever made the extract to dictate your beer’s malt profile. This is fine (and even desirable) for beginners, but once you have a few batches under your belt, you really should be using nothing but light malt extract. I prefer dry at that, because DME has a longer shelf life.

All that said, the choice of extract wasn’t really the problem with this beer – the problem was the amount of spice – it was way over the top, even four or five months after bottling. It never came into harmony; it was always a plain-Jane stout enshrouded in a fog of spice. Take a look at the ingredients. That’s a lot of ginger. And orange. And cinnamon.

If you want to check out the recipe, it’s available here. As much as I (and my wife and family and friends) disliked this recipe, there are a lot of folks that seem to like it. I just did a quick search to see where the recipe came from and found it was posted online in 1995 by Johnny Yen. It’s got high scores in some recipe databases. The disparity could be explained several ways. First (and quite likely), the beer sucked because I brewed it. I don’t consider myself to be a very good brewer now; imagine how bad I was on my fifth batch six years ago. Second, the recipe was considered to be great in 1995 when quality homebrew ingredients and homebrew quality in general were not nearly as good as they are today. Third, heavily spiced beers might just be a taste that I (or my wife or friends or family) haven’t acquired. Whatever the reason, this beer was my first failure.

That’s a pic of the spices mulling with the honey.