Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Notes to Self...

I haven't posted in a super long time, and I'm sure my loyal readers are pining away for a new entry.... wait, who am I kidding? Anyways, in keeping with part of the original purpose of this blog for tracking my progress as a brewer, here's some updates and notes on what's been going on in my beer world.

The biggest news is that I attended the NHC in Minneapolis and had an awesome time. RAZE shared a shift in the Hospitality Suite with the Cincinnati Malt Infusers right before Pro Brewer's Night on Thursday, and then we had a booth set up for Club Night on Friday. I brought a keg of Bourbon Barrel Porter and a Belgian Pale Ale, and both were kicked. I met tons of fellow beer geeks, learned a lot at the sessions I attended, and sampled many, many excellent beers. It was well worth the trip.

I haven't been brewing as much as I'd like to, but I'm generally keeping the house in beer. I have a Barley Crusher now so I can buy sacks of base malt. Back in April I bought my first sack, a 55 lb bag of Belgian Pils, and used all but 4 pounds of it on a single day. I brewed a 10 gallon batch of Saison (using an overnight mash) that I split between 3711 and Brett C, a 10 gallon batch of Patersbier that I split between the Rochefort and Chimay strains, and a 10 gallon batch of Belgian Pale Ale, a DeKoninck clone that is now gone. All of these turned out great. I also brewed a 10 gallon batch of IPA with Summit and Amarillo that is on tap now and tasting really good, despite the fact that I accidentally left out 5 lbs of base malt. The first keg of this went into my new mobile kegorator that I took camping last weekend. I don't think I'll ever camp without beer on tap again!

I'm still slowly working my way towards upgrading my brewery. I just finally ordered a weldless fitting kit for my keggle so I can install a ball valve. I still need to get another burner and another pot for strike and sparge water, but those will have to wait for now. I'm hoping that once I get these things I'll be able to cut down my brew days since I'll be able to have multiple things going at once.

Finally, I'm starting to plan out my next several brews. I'm going to work on reusing yeast from smaller beers on some bigger ones coming up. On deck for next week will be Mike McDole's Pliny Light. I'm going to reuse the yeast cake from that beer on a Barleywine and possibly a Pliny the Elder clone. The plan for the Barleywine is to make a 10 gallon batch. I'll tap the first half around Christmas and then the other half will get some oak for longterm aging and will get tapped around Christmas 2011. I'm also brewing a 10 gallon batch of a Surly Furious clone to bring to the cabin in August. On the Belgian front, I'll be brewing a 10 gallon batch of Patersbier with WY3787. I'll use the cake from that on a 10 gallon batch of Dubbel or Belgian Dark Strong, the second half of which might see some cherries and oak.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Now that I am mostly through the first keg of the last 15 gallon batch I brewed, here's a quick update. This beer is calculated around 105 IBUs, definitely Double IPA range, but at an original gravity of around 1.050, it is an American Pale. I've brewed this overly hoppy but low gravity style a few times now, and I'm jumping on the Imperial bandwagon by calling it an Imperial Pale (ImPale). Despite the high IBUs, it isn't overly bitter. A bunch of the IBUs come from the 3 ounces of first wort hops, so although they add a lot of bitterness, it is much smoother than a 60 minute addition and adds a massive amount of hop flavor. On top of that there's tons of late additions for even more flavor and aroma. Here's the hop bill:
  • FWH: 1 oz Summit (18.5% AA), 1 oz Centennial (8.7%), 1 oz Amarillo (7.5%)
  • 60 minutes: 1 oz Warrior (15.4%), .25 oz Magnum (13.5%)
  • 10 minutes: 1.5 oz Summit, 1.5 oz Centennial, 1.5 oz Amarillo
  • 5 minutes: 2 oz Simcoe (11.9%), 2 oz Columbus (14%)
  • Flameout: 2 oz Simcoe (11.9%), 2 oz Columbus (14%)
On top of this, the first keg was hopped with an ounce of Simcoe, the second keg was hopped with an ounce of Summit, and the third will be kegged with an ounce of Columbus. This is a pretty good beer, but there is a small off flavor that comes out in the aftertaste that I can't quite place. It is a bit more prevalent in the first keg (which only took 12 days from grain to glass) so it might be an age issue. I definitely get the same sensation from Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA. It's not bad, it's just there. I'm looking forward to having the club try this to see if I can get a better idea of what it is. Overall, though, I'm liking the concept of this beer as a session beer for hopheads.

Friday, February 12, 2010

First 15 gallon batch

After my last brew session's insane cold temps (15 below at mash in), I haven't wanted to brew much, but I am getting sick of the Belgian Golden Strong and Smoked Brown I have on tap, plus my APA is going to blow any day now, so I need to brew. I'm hoping to squeeze in a session on Monday. Since I'm not sure when I'll get to brew next and we blow through hoppy beers pretty fast here, I am brewing up a 15 gallon batch. I've got 33 pounds of grain that will barely fit in my mashtun, but my keggle can only accommodate about 12 gallons safely, so I'm going to basically brew an IPA and then dilute it in the 3 instead of 2 fermenters that I normally use. Right now the grain bill is the only thing I've figured out:
  • 17 lbs Briess 2row
  • 15 lbs Munton's Maris Otter
  • 1.6 lbs Dingeman's Cara45 (formerly known as CaraMunich)
For hops, I'm looking at Summit and Amarillo as first wort hops, a bittering addition of Warrior, then more Summit and Amarillo late in the boil. I've got some Simcoe and Centennial that might find their way into late additions or keg hops as well.

The APA that I've got on tap right now won a 2nd at the Upper Mississippi Mashout, so I'm pretty stoked, not to mention surprised, about that. There was quite a bit of competition in that category too, unlike the apricot blonde that scored 2nd out of a handful at the State Fair. I also won a 2nd for my Smoked Brown and a 3rd for my very young Bourbon Vanilla Imperial Porter. I entered 2 more beers at the Mashout, but neither of them scored very well. I got some really good feedback though, so that will help if I brew those styles again.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Assorted Updates

The Speed Brew experiment that I last blogged about came and went. I brewed this on 12/19, and pitched US05 at 57, kept it in the low 60s for 4 days, then turned on the aquarium heater and brought the fermenter temps up to 68-70. On Sunday, December 27 I put one of the fermenters in the garage, where the beer temp dropped to 39 overnight. In the morning (9 days after pitching) I added a packet of gelatin to the fermenter. I racked this beer into a keg on top of an ounce of Columbus pellets in a nylon on Wednesday, December 30, set the gas to 10 psi (my serving pressure), and shook the crap out of the keg with the gas on for about 5 minutes. The beer was pretty much carbed and we started drinking it New Years Eve, 12 days from grain to glass.

When I tapped the keg on New Years Eve I was surprised by the clarity of this beer. Normally I would expect a US-05 fermented beer to take a couple of weeks to clear in the keg, but this only took 12 days from pitching. I am now a gelatin convert. Lots of compliments on this beer, BIG hop flavor and aroma, and I think I like the grain bill as well. There's a nice biscuity, bready flavor to it with just a bit of sweet caramel while keeping a dry finish. Definitely a nice session beer for hopheads, but it's not nearly as bitter as the 86 IBUs suggests. The first keg only lasted about 2 weeks!

I'm still working on the first keg of Belgian Golden Strong with the Unibroue strain. It took about 5 weeks in the keg to clear, the longest I've ever experienced, but now it is crystal clear. It is a nice pale golden color with a white head. The aroma is mostly of pears, apples, and a bit of spice, but there is also a bit of alcohol that comes through. The flavor is okay once it warms up a bit. I get a bit of fruit at first, then the spice comes up and the alcohol follows. This beer does not hide the alcohol as well as I hoped, which might have something to do with the fact that it is a bit over 9% ABV. I'm wondering now if I fermented a bit too high too early. At first the mouthfeel was a bit thick, but I've since switched over to the higher pressure regulator and that has helped quite a bit. I did get an amazingly dry finish on this one, but I'm hoping that the other half of the batch that has been waiting patiently will improve with some age on it. Flavor is pretty good, nice amount of fruit and spice, and it hides the alcohol well, but the mouthfeel is a little thick despite the low finishing gravity. Overall, it's not quite Duvel, but it's drinkable. Not bad for my first attempt at the style.

About three weeks ago I finally got around to brewing Denny Conn's infamous Bourbon Vanilla Imperial Porter. It was -15 when I started heating the strike water, and despite brewing on my new stainless steel brew cart, I think I'm going to wait until it warms up to brew again, that was just too damn cold. I was surprised though that after 60 minutes my mash tun didn't lose a single degree of temperature. I'll take some pics next brew session to show off my new ghetto fabulous rig. This was the first batch I brewed after taking apart my burner and dremeling out all the rust and wort that had accumulated after 2 or 3 years, and I'm happy to report that there was not a single bit of soot on the BK when I finished.

I pitched US05 with this one and kept the temps in the low 60s the whole time. I added 2 fat vanilla beans from Penzeys directly to primary 1 on January 12, 9 days after fermentation started. Took a sample after 10 days and then cold crashed in the garage for a day and kegged on January 26. I added 300 mL of Elijah Craig directly to the keg. The samples at all the stages tasted incredibly smooth. I think the brown malt is the key ingredient here, it gives a really smooth chocolate and coffee flavor that ties everything together but doesn't stand out. Now that it's carbed up, this is an amazing beer, probably the best I have ever brewed.

Finally, I've got 3 beers entered in the Upper Mississippi Mash Out, which is being held this Saturday. I entered my Smoked Brown, the Speed Brew APA, and the Belgian Golden Strong. I'm very curious to see what the judges say about these beers. None of them are perfect and they are the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th all grain batches I've brewed, so I can't wait for the feedback. This is a really big comp, so I'm hoping that I get some good feedback. Also on Saturday, RAZE is holding our first competition, Winter Darkness. I'm entering my Smoked Brown and BVIP and also judging, so it should be a fun day. I think we'll have around 20 entries, so it'll be small, but Ryan managed to score tons of sponsors so we have tons of free schwag to give to the winners.