Sunday, January 20, 2013

Batch 013: The Killer Bee

Fair warning, this is going to be a really long post.  I decided it was time to go through and document the whole process from start to finish so there are a lot of pictures and there will be a lot of explanation behind them.

A week ago I was harvesting honey from the combs in preparation to make the next batches of mead at work and was talking to my boss about honey and beer.  He mentioned that it would be nice to have a honey IPA out there that showcased the honey.  I brought up Bell's Hopslam, but he was thinking even more honey forward than that.  So I accepted the challenge and a week later I was brewing up The Killer Bee Honey IIPA.

The recipe: Being honey forward that is where I started.  I really enjoy the taste of orange blossom honey so that is what I went with.  I wanted half of my fermentables to come from the honey so I grabbed a pound and a half of honey.  This will give me 47 points or 1.047 if I only put the honey in.  Two pounds of pale ale malt will give me the rest of my fermentables with 4oz of crystal 40L and 4oz of cara-pils to boost the body.  I am mashing high to get me a lot of body, which is usually avoided in IIPA's, but due to the amount of honey that is in this and how dry honey ferments I am trying to keep some body to the beer.  At this point I am throwing an obscene amount of hops at this beer with a calculated IBU of about 140 which I still thought was slightly conservative.  White Labs WLP001 will hopefully work its way through this beast.

The process:
 First things first, gather all of your ingredients and, if available, some inspiration beer.
 I started heating up 8qts of strike water to 162.5F, almost there in this picture, just a little farther.
 When you reach your strike temp, add your bag to the pot and toss in your grains.  Make sure to stir very well to wet all of the grains, which isn't as hard when doing a full volume mash.  Check your mash temps to make sure you hit your numbers.  Aiming for 156F, so I am happy with this.
 Place the lid on your pot and tuck the extra bag on top for safe storage during the mash.
 The pot then goes into the oven, set to warm.  If you put the pot directly on the bottom of the oven it will heat up too much, but if suspended on a rack it will hold its temperature for the whole mash.
 During the mash I go ahead and measure out my hop additions.  I use butter tub lids as weigh trays.
 60 minute bittering addition: half an ounce of Centennial and half an ounce of Simcoe.
 Left to right: 60 min(1/2oz Centennnial, 1/2oz Simcoe), 10 min(1/4oz Simcoe, 1/4oz Citra), Knockout(1/2oz Simcoe, 1/2oz Citra), and dry hop(1/4oz Simcoe, 1/4oz Citra).
 I weigh out my dry hops while weighing the rest so that I don't have to dig them out of the freezer when it comes time to dry hop.  So I bag them up then too.
 I take that bag and put them into a clean White Labs vial and place them on my freezer door for easy access, but still storing them cold and sealed to keep them fresh.

After an hour long mash, the pot comes back out of the oven and gets stirred up one last time.
  Pull the grain bag out and place it on a strainer to drain for a few minutes.  After it has drained you can discard the grains and begin heating to a boil.  Stir very well at this point.
The reason to stir very well is the make sure that your wort is uniform and will allow for a more accurate gravity reading.  I had a pre-boil gravity of 9.5P when I was expecting 8.7P.  A little high, but that's alright for this beer.
 As we reach a boil the first hop addition gets thrown in.
 Yummy hop break.
 Don't forget to start your timer.
 Pull the yeast out of the fridge to warm up to room temperature.  Since it is only one gallon, there is no need for a starter, but we will need the whole vial of yeast to fight the Killer Bee.
 During the boil is a good time to clean and sanitize your fermentor.  In this case a 2 gallon bucket that will allow for plenty of kreuson without blowing the lid off.
 If you can drink something similar to what you are brewing, the beer gods will look kindly upon you for this.
 10 minute addition of hops, my house reeks of Simcoe by now and I'm loving it.
 Knockout hops, kettle off and lots more hops going in.
 The kettle goes into a sink full of cold water to chill.  Stir the inside while moving to the pot to keep both the water and the wort moving.  When your sink is full leave it sit for 5 minutes.
 After 5 minutes the sink water should be hot, so drain it and replace it with fresh cold water.  Also this is the time to add a sanitized lid to keep the wort safe while it chills.  I usually change the water 2-3 times to chill a batch down to below 80F.
 Below 80F, good enough for me.
 Time to check the gravity again.  It is now up to 13.5P, with an estimated OG(pre honey) or 12.3P.  So I did overshoot my gravity, but as I said before, that isn't exactly a bad thing for this beer.
 Now I rack to my fermenter and try to leave the massive amount of hops and break material behind in the kettle.
 Nice cake of hops left in the bottom of the kettle.
 Time to get the honey ready.  A pound and a half of orange blossom honey going in.
 Make sure that everything is sanitized, including the container that the honey is in.
 Mix the honey in with a whisk and while you are doing that so ahead and aerate the wort like crazy.
 Last gravity check.  23P or 1.094 SG.
 Pitch your yeast and watch out for the exploding vials.
 Finally tag your fermentor so you don't loose track of what is in each bucket.
Don't forget to take notes.  Here is my note sheet that I use.

Crazy brew night for sure.  Nothing went wrong and finally got a step by step walk through of my brewing process for anyone interested.  Bottling two batches this week, adding clearing agents to my berry cyser and impatiently waiting on this and Alterna to finish.

Got the stuff to brew a few more batches up, but I am currently stocked up in the fermentor department so once I bottle I can brew again.  Time to check on the bottle supply.

If anyone has any questions about how I brew, or just want to leave a message, hit the comment button below.

Until next time,

Cheers everyone!


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Brewing postponed for a few days

Work schedules are being shifted around a bit and I won't be brewing until Saturday or Sunday night, but it will be a fun one.  I bought three brews worth of ingredients today and am excited to get them going.  Until I brew, cheers!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Batch 012: Alterna Gluten Free Brown

This week I am taking a step away from the grain, away from all grain actually.  I am brewing up a gluten free beer for a friend of a friend.   I was asked if it was possible to do and I took it as a challenge to not only do it, but make a great tasting beer in the process.  I spent a good portion of the working life in kitchens and dealing with gluten allergies is becoming more and more common.  It is tough to be sure that you are actually getting gluten free food and drinks and taking a chance on whether or not it is can be risky.  I did a fair amount of research before even looking at recipes for other gluten free beers.  I learned a lot just reading up on how to do and I am sure I will learn more as this brew ferments.

The recipe:  Well this was an interesting one.  Luckily Briess makes a sorghum extract that is used for brewing gluten free beers.  I grabbed myself a can of that and started searching for what else would go in.  Through reading online I found a fair amount of posts describing how to caramelize everything from quinoa to millet to add color and a bit of flavor.  I knew a pale beer would be hard to do without it tasting like it was gluten free.  I wanted to make a gluten free beer that tasted like beer, not sorghum.  Looking through my cabinets I found the molasses I had used from St. Nick's Nog and noticed the gluten free tag on the label.  That's when I decided I would go for a brown/porter depending on the color I got out of it.  Honey is also gluten free and a tasty ingredient so 12 oz were put in.  Near the end of the boil I am adding 3oz of maltodextrin to increase the mouthfeel and thicken it up a little bit.  I looked up maltodextrin about 4 times to make absolutely sure it was gluten free and it turns out that it is so processed that it can come from wheat or barley but by the time that it makes it to the finished product it is gluten free. (reference: )  I took a similar approach to the hoping as I did with the Brew Year Brown.  I put a small charge of Centennial in just for bittering and finished off the Willamette I had for flavor.

The process: This is where things got a little interesting.  I applied a few past lessons from my burnt mead and threw the honey and molasses in the bottom of my pot with a splash of water and turned up the heat.  I cooked the honey and molasses together for about 45 minutes caramelizing the honey and molasses to give me more flavor and residual sweetness.

After it had cooked down I added back 8qts of water and started my boil.  I added 1.5 pounds of sorghum extract at the beginning of my boil and away I went.  I decided to make a larger batch (1.5ish gallons) so that I could send more than just a few bottles out and still keep a couple for myself.
 Everything went really well and I put the wort in a new bucket to ferment with Fermentis S-04 English yeast.  Here is the other interesting thing about gluten free ingredients.  Dry yeasts are gluten free, White Labs vials are just over the limit, but if pitching into 5 gallons of wort will dilute down to acceptable levels(if you are willing to chance that depending on the severity of the allergy), but Wyeast is not gluten free.  The liquid used to store the yeast and propagate it is a standard starter wort and thus, not gluten free.  I went with the safest option and have no problems using dry yeast.

Sidework: While brewing I also racked my American Wheat Tattoo'd Graffiti to secondary and added the first dry hop of Citra and Amarillo.  It smelled amazing and is only getting better with the hops added. I will add more next week and bottle the week after that.

This brew was important to me and I am a little upset that I kept pushing it back.  People can't control the cards they are dealt in life and I really respect the people that take it in stride and do the best that they can with what they have.  Something such as being celiac or gluten free doesn't mean you have to hide in a clean room and shut your life down.  If you want something you just have to take the extra step to find a way to make that happen.  By brewing this I hope that I can give people a nice craft beer that someone that is gluten free can enjoy, but also that someone who isn't gluten free would like to.  Below is a list of the ingredients that went in to this along with suppliers so if there is any question to whether or not something is gluten free you can know before getting sick.



Briess White Sorghum Syrup 45HM Link
Brer Rabbit Full Flavor Molasses Link
Great Value Clover Honey Link
LD Carlson Maltodextrin Picture (see above link about being gluten free)
Fermentis S-04 Brewing Yeast Link
Hop Union Hops (Centennial and Willamette)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Batch 011: Brew Year Brown

I realized I said my next brew would be something special that would challenge me, this isn't that beer.  This was a fairly unexpected brew day and didn't have the money on hand to pick up the necessary stuff to do it. Anyway, on to what I actually DID brew.

Brown ales are a bit of a sore subject for me.  90% of the commercial brown ales that I have tried just taste kind of muddy with no clear purpose.  There is one brown ale that I have had that defied that though from Crown Brewing in Crown Point, IN. My hopes in making this is to make something as rich as that.

The recipe: I started off with Maris Otter as the base malt to accentuate the maltiness with special roast for some nice toasty flavors and chocolate malt for color and flavor.  I used Willamette hops for a mild hop flavor.

The process: I upped my batch size from 1.1 to 1.25 gallons with this batch.  I doughed in with 8 qts of water at 161F for a mash temp of 154F.  I kind of overshot the temp so I had a bit of stirring to do, but it was down to 154F within 5 minutes so I'm not too worried about it.  60 minutes later I checked my gravity and had a pre-boil gravity for 7.5 Plato when I was expecting 9.3 Plato.  I checked two more times and it was the same every time.  I lautered anyway and brought the wort to a boil before checking my gravity again and making a decision on adding DME to bump up my gravity. I checked again and it was at 9.2 Plato so I continued with the boil.  What happened was the the wort stratified and basically the sugars sank.  The boil stirred everything up and unified the wort allowing me to take an accurate reading. One more reason to not freak out about every detail while brewing.  I also tried upping my boil rate to match what I have in my software other than trying to match the software to my process.  I realize that is kind of backwards, but it was just something to try before trying to figure out what my burner was at and repeat it every time.  Knowing my burner is at 100% is easier to repeat.  At the end of the boil my gravity was 13.5 Plato when I was expecting 13.2 so I am pretty happy with the results.  It wasn't exact, but a lot closer than past brews.  Over all this brew day had a hiccup or two, but turned out to be one of the best ones yet and a great way to start the New Year in brewing.

While brewing I also racked over my berry cyser to secondary and added more fruit to it: raspberries, blueberries and blackberries.  The color was awesome and the taste was good too.  Tart and dry so I added sulphites and sorbate so that I can backsweeten later.  Two more weeks for that one until it gets racked to tertiary and sweetened. Excited for that one.

So, next week I will finally get around to that challenging brew.

Until next time, cheers!