Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Batch 007: Ryezenbock

Another brew day come and gone.  Thanks to those of you who tuned in for the short time that I was streaming.  I had some issues with the sound and caught myself rambling to the camera about random things and figured that was enough.  Hopefully next time I will be a little better organized when it comes to that and will actually stream the whole thing.

Today I decided to brew something a little different.  I took the idea of  weizenbock and subbed the wheat for rye.  I figured if I would have any chance at doing this, it would be with a brew in a bag system so I went with it.  I was mainly just experimenting with how far rye can go.  I made an old ale last year that was 30% rye and it came out super thick and super sticky, but delicious.  I went over 60% this time.  Now I am not a huge fan of the banana and clove flavors that get put off by the hefeweizen yeast that is normally used to ferment these so I went with the more neutral American Hefe yeast from White Labs.

The beer.  I have already mentioned most of it, but I went with 2 pounds of rye malt and 1 pound of light Munich malt as my base with 4 ounces of Special B to give it some color and melanoidin flavors.  A quarter once of Palisade at 60 minutes will give it just enough hops to combat the sweetness from a 17 Plato beer.  The American Hefe yeast will ferment this out and hopefully leave me with a spicy yet fairly clean beer.

The process.  Over the last few weeks since I started brewing small batches I have found issues and then fixed them and was always ready to take on the next issue.  I knew that if I kept fixing any issues that were coming up I would be learning from my mistakes and making better beer in the long run.  I have learned how to keep my mash temps perfect on this system.  I doughed in with 7.5 quarts of water and hit my mash temp of 151F right on.  After an hour I was still at 151F.  I have solved my temp control issues.  Then I took a gravity reading to check my preboil gravity.  I came up with 13 Plato and spent the next few minutes testing and retesting my wort, sure that there must have been a mistake to come up so short.  I placed my mash back into the oven for another half hour thinking that there might not have been enough enzymes in the unusual grist to fully convert in only an hour.  After half an hour I check my gravity again and it was still at 13 Plato.  About this time I realized my mistake.  I had written my predicted original gravity in my predicted pre boil gravity field on my brew sheet.  I went to the computer and pulled up BeerSmith and everything matched up just fine.  Boiling, hopping, cooling, and pitching all went off without a hitch.  Kind of frustrating that I would let that mistake slip, but at least nothing was ruined and everything else went alright.

Today was also the 2 week mark for Batch 001 in bottles and I opened one this evening.  This beer is amazing.  It is everything I was looking for and I am very pleased with it.  I can't wait to take one or two to some other people and get their thoughts on it.

Next week, I am thinking a super session Scottish 60/-.  The week after that is my non-beer week.  I have to decide what I am going to make, but I have a few idea that will be fun.

Thanks for reading.  If you have any comments, questions, or just want to say hi comment below.



Brewcast for Batch 007

This morning I am brewing up Batch 007 and you can watch.  Just follow the link and send me some comments.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Batch 006: Keep Calm and Barley On

This brew was a few days late due to some shifting work schedules and the holiday, but its done.  Have been wanting to brew a barleywine for a while now, but wanted to have the quirks in my system figured out first so I finally got to brew it last night.  I went for an English barleywine this time. A heavy base of Golden Promise and a bit of dark Munich for color and a bit of flavor to round it out will make this a fairly simple barleywine, but I'm keeping things simple to show my flaws so that I can fix them.  Once I know for sure, that I can control my beer I will start playing with recipes more.

The beer.  When doing an English beer you really want to use English malts.  So I have a base of Golden Promise(comparable to Maris Otter).  The dark Munich will give me just a bit of color and flavor, but not much.  As for the hops I went English again with Kent Goldings and threw them at the beer like crazy.  1 oz of hops at 60 mins, doesn't sound like much, but this is 1 gallon.  I threw half an once in with 5 minutes left for a bit of flavor.  I mashed at 147 for 90 minutes.  Since the temperature was so low I wanted to make sure there was enough time for the enzymes to work.  Then I boiled for 90 minutes to concentrate the wort down.

The process.  I decided to stick with the full volume mash with this beer as it would be similar to only taking the first runnings in a normal mash vessel.  I had a strike volume of 9 qts and 4.75# of grain.  This led to a very full kettle for me.

I hit my mash temp dead on and placed in it my oven for safe keeping for the next 90 minutes.  The mash held the temp the whole time so I am quite happy with my mashing.  Now I had calculated a 60% efficiency due to the high gravity of this beer and and bought a pound of DME to make up for missed numbers.  I had an estimated pre boil gravity of 15 Plato.  When I lautered and took my reading I was at 16.8 Plato.  I was really, really happy to see that so I put the DME away and began my boil.

I boiled for 90 minutes with the appropriate hop additions.   This went off without a hitch.  I think I could have had the heat up higher because I don't think I boiled off as much as I was calculating.  I checked the gravity at the end of the boil and had 26.2 Plato.  After cooling this number dropped a little bit and I'm not sure why exactly since it is such a small volume measured it cools to room temp very quickly.  My only thought was that it was still evaporating and condensing slightly between pulling the sample and reading, but I'm not worried about it.  After all was said and done I had a little more than 1.1 gallons in my fermenter and a gravity reading of 25 Plato.

Can't wait to try this, but it will be a while before I can.  I am looking into getting a case of 187ml bottles and waxing them so that I am less likely to burn through all of it quickly.  20 bottles will last me a while longer than 10 will.

Now just to decide next weeks brew.  Leave any suggestions in the comments below.



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Yet another pre brew day post

Due to the holidays my work schedule changed and I had to work today. I have everything ready to brew just have to do it. Most likely going to be tomorrow evening.
So until I brew, cheers.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Update to Batches 004 and 005

It has only been 3 days since I put together my first mead and first real cider and there are a few changes that I thought I would publish.  Mainly that the yeast never took off in my mead.  I was right and there was just too much sugar in there for the yeast to tolerate.  So, I bought another fermenter today along with some more powerful yeast (Lavlin EC-1118 Champagne yeast) and diluted it down.  I took the gravity from about 1.185 down to 1.140 added a little more nutrient, aerated again, and placed in two fermenters to start chugging away.  Since I didn't get a picture of the "finished" product on Wednesday I took a picture of the racking cane/tube as I was transferring it before it was diluted.

I also neglected to take a picture of the cider, which is fermenting away just fine.  Thought I would show off the beautiful color.  Can't wait to try these.


Already have next weeks brew planned out, along with the hops and yeast already purchased.  It's going to be big and its fun.  After that I will try something a little smaller, but for now, I need big beers to warm me up as it gets colder out.

Until next post,

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Batches 004 & 005: Black Napalm and Unnamed Blackberry Cider

This week I took a break from brewing beer to try out a few new things.  This is my first attempt at a homebrewed mead and my first true cider.  I have done some work with apple juice in the past, but always in the form of graff (a beer/cider hybrid).  Recently, BrewingTV(a production of Northern Brewer) used one of my graffs in an episode of theirs.  Check them out at if you haven't seen it.  They put out a lot of great information.

The mead.  I enjoy mead, but have never thought to make my own.  Then I found a mead I had never heard of that was completely different than the others that I had seen, bochet.  A bochet is a burnt mead, meaning you boil and caramelize the honey prior to diluting to your starting gravity.  I read online that it would taste like toasted marshmallows before fermentation, but couldn't find many descriptions of the finished product other than that it was all gone and they wished they had more.  That convinced me.  Due to the fact that you will be boiling the honey the variety won't matter as much as it would in a traditional mead.  I did a 1 1/2 gallon batch and used 6 lbs of clover honey.  Beersmith told me I would hit 1.138 OG and because of the cooking process it should end around 1.020-30, giving me a nice 14-16%ABV.  I am not going to trust Beersmith with honey any more and I will get to that later.

 The process. With pictures this time! This is a fairly straight forward process, boil until black, dilute, reheat, cool, pitch, wait.  I added my 6 lbs of honey to my 3 gallon brew pot. 

 As you can see it doesn't take up much room, for now.  Begin heating your honey, but keep an eye on it.  About 20 minutes later I was at a boil and had to quickly turn the heat down.

At this point I spent half an hour stirring to avoid a boil over and adjusting the heat to look for the sweet spot that kept it rolling, but kept the foam under control.  Soon after I was able to walk away from the pot for about 5 minutes at a time to do other things as long as I remembered to come back and give it a quick stir to knock it back down.  While it was boiling I managed to transfer St. Nick's Nog (Batch 002) to secondary and bottle up Papa's Pale Ale (Batch 001).  I also put together the cider which I will explain more below.

An hour into the boil the honey had darkened considerably, but not yet to the black that I had seen online.

Now, unfortunately after this the process kept me busy and I was unable to take more pictures.  I boiled for another hour and turned the flame off as the timer rolled past the 2 hour mark.  I gave the honey about 5 minutes to cool slightly before adding 1 gallon of water very carefully.  The water will instantly boil when it hits the hot honey so go slowly.  I mixed the honey into solution and started to heat it up again to ensure that the water was sanitized.  At about 190F I killed the heat and started the cooling process.  I took a small sample and put it in my refractometer to check the gravity.  I couldn't read it at all so I cleaned it off and did a base reading on some tap water.  0 Brix, right where it should be, so I tested the must again and still could not make out a reading.  That's when I took 1 once of tap water and mixed it in a cup with 1 once of must and tested that knowing that the gravity would be double the reading I would get.  My reading came out to 20.5 Brix, double that is 41 Brix or about 1.182 OG.  I checked this reading three more times and tried to figure out what went wrong.  I checked Beersmith one more time, 1.5 gallon batch, 6 lbs of honey =1.138.  Unfortunately I don't have anything larger than a 2 gallon fermenter so I sighed, added my yeast nutrient and started to rehydrate my yeast.  My 14-16% mead now (if the yeast allows) will be around 20%.  This has now become an experiment in making rocket fuel taste good.  Here's hoping I can make this work out.  I named this Black Napalm for a reason.  As the honey boils it will bubble up.  As those bubbles break occasionally they will spit honey out.  If your hand is in the wrong place at the wrong time, that molten honey will hit you and solidify on contact.  I only got hit once, but that was enough.  Not being able to take what is burning you off your skin is not a good situation.  With the higher gravity, I may end up naming this Black Death instead, but only time will tell.

The cider.  I hadn't really planned on doing a cider, but saw some good looking blackberries pop up at the store and thought why not.  I kept this super simple and just bought some preservative-free apple juice and the blackberries.  I smashed the berries with a potato smasher and added some pectic enzyme to help break them down and give me some good color and hopefully more flavor.  I let the enzyme work for an hour and then pour the berries into a muslin bag which was hanging in a one gallon jug.  I have made the mistake of not bagging blackberries in the past and would like not to deal with the seeds clogging every valve and tube they pass.  After that I just poured apple juice in to just above the 1 gallon mark, added yeast nutrient and my yeast and set it aside to work.  I haven't come up with a name for this one yet, but it has a wonderful dark pink/purple color.  Can't wait to try it.

So no recipes this week, just a couple wishful looks at airlocks hoping that everything turns out for the best.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Another Pre Brew Day Post

Taking a week off from beer this week, but that doesn't mean I won't be making something fun.  Check back in on Wednesday to see what's brewing (why do I always say the bad puns and not just keep them to myself?).

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Batch 003: Howl at the Moon

Another brew day come and gone.  This time I had to come up with a recipe using ingredients I had on hand.  I had some US-05 left along with a stash of Columbus, Centennial and Cascade in the freezer.  Those just scream IPA to me, but having just brewed Papa's Pale Ale I wanted to mix it up a little bit.  While unpacking some boxes at the store I noticed a giant box of priming sugar.  Everyone has seen these pre-portioned 5 oz bags of corn sugar to use for bottle conditioning and I laughed thinking to myself "I won't have to use a whole bag of this for a while".  Then an idea, instead of an IPA I can make an imperial IPA and 5 oz of sugar should be just the right addition to dry it out.  Not a Eureka! moment, but I liked the train of thought that brought me to this.  I tossed a handful of midnight wheat in along with the standard pale malt to make it a black IPA because I've had a few black IPA's recently that really hit right with me.  So first round with this recipe, we'll see how it works out.

The beer.  Keeping things simple again I used pale malt for my base with a splash of midnight wheat to give it that awesome black appearance.  The 5oz bag of corn sugar will be thrown in at the end of the boil to boost the gravity, dry out the beer, and make up for lower efficiency in a higher gravity mash.  As for hops, I gave it a healthy shot of Columbus at the beginning of the boil for a nice dank hop bitterness to combat the bit of roast coming off of the wheat.  Once again, I am a huge fan of holding off all late addition to a whirlpool addition and tossed in some more Columbus and a bit of Cascade in for a 30 min whirlpool.  When I rack to secondary it will get another charge of Columbus and Cascade.

The process.  Things seemed to go a bit smoother today than the last couple days with only a slight hiccup that I expected walking in.  I decided to go full BIAB and do a full volume mash with no sparge.  I expect to loose a bit of efficiency, but kept all my calculations the same since I wasn't sure how much I would loose.  To fight against that I also double crushed my grains to get better extraction.  I mashed in a bit hot and tossed in an ice cube to cool it down to my rest temp of 148.  I wanted this to dry this beer out as much as possible so I mashed low to create a more fermentable wort.  Temp held just fine for an hour and I pulled the bag out and let it drain for a few minutes.  I did give it a few presses to squeeze out some more sugars.  (I know, I know, don't squeeze the bag you will extract tannins!  But I wasn't pushing nearly as hard as the bottom of a 15 gallon mash tun is being pushed on by the weight of the grain above it so I think I'm safe.)  I started my boil and the rest went off without a hitch.  I ended up with just over a gallon of wort at the end so I am happy with my boil rate now.  I was about 3 plato short on my gravity, but without the sparge I could see that happening.  Trying to decide if I will stick to the full volume mash or if I will return to sparging next week.  Any ideas from anyone reading would be nice.  While mashing I transferred Papa's Pale Ale (Batch 001 ) to secondary and dry hopped.  I lost a good amount of beer to hop and trub loss.  That was expected though based on the last attempt to brew it.

Everything is bubbling away nicely and now I have to decide what to brew next week.  Decisions, decisions.

Until next week, Cheers.



Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pre Brew Day Post

I thought brewing every week would help me shorten my "to-brew" list.   It just keeps getting longer.  More things I want to try now that its not going to end up as an $80-100 batch, and contests are popping up that I want to enter.  Oh well, tomorrow Black IIPA, next week hopefully a Russian Imperial Stout for a contest and then who knows, maybe a 60/-, maybe a bochet, maybe a bock.