Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Batch 002: St. Nick's Nog v2

It's that time of year again, time to brew a Christmas beer.  Last year I was a little behind and ended up bottling on Dec 21.  Not really in time to enjoy for Christmas (that and a recipe mistake made it undrinkable until about April/May).  So this year I am doing it on time and will be enjoying a bottle on Christmas day.  This is a complete rewrite of the St. Nick's Nog I brewed last year.  I wanted a med-light brown with some spice.  Everything was going great and with 10 minutes left in the boil I add 1# of honey, 2 cinnamon sticks, and 3 cloves.  I thought those spices would be about right for a 5 gallon batch.  I was wrong.  When I tasted it on bottling day there was barely any cinnamon flavor and way too much clove.  I smashed up another cinnamon stick and added to my priming sugar as I heated it on the stove.  I bottled and set them aside hoping that all would work out.  Three weeks later I opened the first bottle.  There was a great cinnamon smell and it was pretty murky, but I assumed I had gotten some sediment while pouring.  The flavor floored me.  All I could taste was clove and it penetrated every taste bud.  After only a few sips my mouth was beginning to numb and I was pouring it into the sink.  I decided to just hold on to it and see where it went.  Months later the cloves faded out and now (10 months later) it is a pretty nice beer.  So I scraped that recipe entirely and went with the following.

The beer.  Again, you can find the recipe at the bottom of this post.  I simplified my grist and decided to let the beer do its own thing instead of forcing flavors into it.  There is a handful of chocolate malt giving me my color and hopefully some nice chocolate flavors.  I am adding some dark molasses near the end of the boil.  Looking for a really deep caramel flavor and some sweetness too. I went dark to try to leave some unfermentables in the wort.  One cinnamon stick will also be added to the end of the boil.  After a 2 week primary, I will rack to a secondary fermenter and add another cinnamon stick to age for 1 week.

The process.  This week went much smoother than the last.  I mashed in fairly high at 155F to leave it sweeter.  Some of the molasses will ferment and dry this out so I compensated with a high mash temperature.  Held a steady mash temp unlike last week and proceeded to the sparge.  Last week I hit my preboil gravity, but was short on my OG.  I assumed I had just not boiled off as much as I had told my software that I would so I dropped that down this week.  I sparged to 1.25gal and started the boil.  A small bittering addition at 60 will help balance the sweetness. With ten minutes left in the boil I added my 2oz of Full Flavor molasses and one stick of cinnamon.  After cooling I took a gravity reading and overshot my estimates by about 17 points.  I then realized I was also a quart short.  I added some water to get me back to the 1 gallon mark and measured my gravity again.   After topping it up my gravity was dead on.  I have to figure out my boil off rate and get that nailed in.

So overall, I fixed my mash problems and found a boil off rate issue.  Next week that will be fixed and we will see what pops up then.

Until next week, cheers.



Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Batch 001: Papa's Pale Ale v3

Today was my first brew day on my 1 gallon stove top system.  I brewed up a beer that was made as a dedication to my friend and brewing partner's grandfather after a rough hospitalization that unfortunately took his life.  This beer was created not as something that would be used to mourn his death, but to remember the little things that make life what it is.  While I never met Papa, I have to say that I thought of him while brewing this.  I had heard many stories of him teaching my friend how to cook on Saturday mornings.  When I decided to start brewing in my kitchen again, I thought of this and knew that Papa's Pale Ale had to be the first beer brewed.

On to the beer.  The recipe can be found at the bottom of this post.  It is an American Pale Ale with outstanding hop flavor.  I start with a base of 2-row pale malt and supplement it with a bit of crystal 40.  This gives it a bit of sweetness and color without it being a sticky pale ale that happens when people randomly toss crystal malts into their brews because that is what you did when you were steeping grains.  This is on the third iteration of the hop schedule however.  The first batch we did was a single hopped cascade pale.  The next batch I was experimenting with hops isomerizing after knockout during the whirlpool and attempted to brew it with no hops added in the boil.  Only a 45 min whirlpool addition and a dry hop addition were added, each a blend of cascade, centennial and columbus for that punch you in the face American profile.  This batch tasted great, but with no bittering addition tasted very unbalanced and the flavors dropped quick with no bitterness to hold them up.  The latest version took that whirlpool/dry hop theory and just added a small bittering addition to help pump it up.  Depending on how things go it will either get a 7 or 14 day primary with a 7 day dry hop in secondary.

The process.  This was my first 1 gallon batch, my first BIAB(brew in a bag), my first using this kettle and stove, and my first trying to keep my mash temps without a cooler to insulate things.  I heated up my strike water(a measly 3qt) and added my grain to my vinyl bag and doughed in.  It took a minute to make sure that there were no clumps, but when I checked my temps I had hit my mash temp of 152F dead on.  Absolutely stoked that I hit my mash temp on the first try I put the lid on my kettle and placed it in my oven which was set to warm.  I checked the temp again 30 min later and flipped when I saw 167F come up on my thermometer.  I pulled the kettle out stirred it around for a minute and it was back down to 152F.  I think I may have just temped a hot part of the mash or even touched the kettle while temping, but I reluctantly replaced the kettle in the oven, turned off the oven and waited another half hour for my mash to complete.  Mash ended at 149F and I placed the grain bag in a strainer and began to sparge.  Sparged up to 1.5gallons and checked my gravity.  My estimated preboil gravity was 1.037 and my actually gravity was 1.039 so I am fairly optimistic that I didn't completely screw up my mash.  The boil went on without a hitch.  My only complaint is that I have to buy another scale because the one I have is only accurate to within 0.1 ounces or 2 grams.  When doing 1 gallon batches some of my hop additions are at 0.05 ounces.  So time to buy a jeweler's scale and try to not look like a drug dealer in the process.  After the whirlpool I chilled in my sink with cold water and a bit of ice, pitched 1/3 of a packet of US-05 and placed it in a dark closet to be ignored for a week.

Today was a learning experience, but if I didn't learn anything what's the point?  I have some spent grain bread in the oven as I type this and will be enjoying that all week until I get to brew again.  Next brew up? St. Nick's Nog v2 Christmas Spiced Brown Ale.



Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Introduction

I am going to use this blog as a place to document my one gallon brewing adventure.  I plan on brewing once a week(usually on a Wednesday).  Here I will talk about any problems I may encounter and try to prove the viability of brewing on a small scale in a homebrewing setting.  It has been a little disappointing to hear what people have said to me over the last week while collecting my thoughts on this and talking out my plans with people.  One gallon brewing tends to polarize the homebrewing community.  Half the people reacted as I thought they would when I said I would be brewing one gallon a week, they thought it was awesome.  They instantly recognized that it is a great way to brew a lot of different beers and not have to commit to a full 5 gallon batch.  The other have looked at me like I was insane.  They couldn't understand why I would put so much work into only one gallon.  Their main argument was always the same - "What if you make an unbelievably amazing batch? Then you only have a gallon.  If you brewed full batches you would have 5 gallons of it".  Well, then I can just brew it again in a couple weeks.  Anyway, I am fairly bad at not rambling on forever on things like this.  I will try to set up about me pages and all that fun stuff, including links to all of the recipes I will be brewing in one gallon sizes.  If you brew 5 gallon batches, just multiply, recipes scale evenly.

Thanks if you are reading this, comment and let me know you are there and I will keep this updated as I go.

Happy brewing everyone, hope that many good beers come out of making this blog, and I hope I can help some people make their own awesome beers.

-Mike (JollyIsTheRoger)