Archive for the ‘Homebrew’ Category

Brewing Furious or Furious Brewing

May 6, 2011

You gotta love May. The apple and plum trees in our yard are in bloom. Spinach is coming up. Orioles, Grosbeaks, and Hummingbirds are all at the feeders. And the temperature’s warm enough to move the brewery outside. So, I’m sitting here with my laptop in the sun as today’s beer boils away.

Northern Brewer in Saint Paul (where I generally get my ingredients) has a “Pro Series” beer that is supposedly THE Surly Furious recipe, straight from Surly. So rather than concoct my own beer, I figured I had to give this a try. The recipe seemed fairly straightforward, a medium body IPA with plenty of hops, bordering on what CBD referred to with one of his recent beers, an “irresponsible” amount of hops. But it wasn’t until I really got into the brewing that I realized what pushed this over the edge into true Surly territory (you’ll see). Here’s the recipe:

4.1 gallons of water at 164 degrees in preheated cooler/mash tun.
8.5 lbs Canada malting pale ale malt (this is bumped a little bit higher than the recipe since I’m using a batch sparge)
3.25 lbs Simpsons Golden Promise
.88 lbs Simpsons medium crystal
.63 lbs Belgian aromatic malt
.125 Simpsons roasted barley

Target rest was 153 degrees. I was at about 156 so I added some cool water which lowered it to about 151, not perfect but certainly OK. Note to self: be a little more patient with the mash before adjusting the temperature. I think if I had waited just a little more that 156 would probably have settled out to a perfect 153 or 154 degrees.  At 30 minutes, I heated up about 2 quarts of the mash and added it back which raised the temp to about 155.

4.25 gallons 170 degree water in 2 batches.
Batch 1, added and let sit as a mash out for about 10 minutes.
Proceeded to sparge at full speed until I collected 6 gallons of wort.
I Tbsp of gypsum added to each batch of sparge water.

.5 oz Amarillo 8.2%, 60 minutes
1.75 oz Warrior 17.2% 60 minutes
1 oz Amarillo, 8.2% 10 minutes
1 0z Amarillow, end of boil
1 c. malto-dextrin, 10 minutes
1 Tbsp irish moss, 10 minutes

I added 1 Tbsp of calcium carbonate for yeast and pitched a quart starter of Wyeast 1335, British Ale Yeast (this surprised me for an American style IPA, but I’ll do what they say).

O.G. 1.060 (a little light for the recipe, but respectable)

Dry Hop:
Here’s where it gets a little insane. When I read the recipe it simply said dry hop with “furious hop blend” for 7-14 days and I figured this was the part they kept secret. OK, I’ll add an ounce or two of whatever mystery hop they give me. But the package of hops actually lists the ingredients and amounts. This is crazy:

5 oz Simcoe!!
2.5 oz Ahtanum
.5 oz Warrior
.5 oz Amarillo

Are you kidding me?! 8.5 oz of strong hops as a dry hop addition? If it wasn’t listed as Surly’s own recipe, I’d think Northern Brewer had gone crazy. Really. This is a scary amount of dry hops, but then again, Surly is not your everyday beer so it will be fun to see how this goes. I’ll add it to my secondary in about a week.

I’ve previously mentioned the wonders of batch sparging. I did this brew as a batch sparge and it went really well. The gravity is slightly under the recipe, but not bad. Just a slight loss of efficiency. But the gain in time and flexibility is amazing. The traditional sparging used to mean I’d spend almost 6 hours for an all-grain brew. This one took me less than 4 hours. More importantly, I spent far less time with the beer. Traditional sparging demands a lot of attention; with this beer I spent most of my time writing as the beer did its thing. A few flurries of activity and then it would sit some more. Brewing beer and writing, isn’t that what sabbatical should be about?

The Batch Sparge

April 5, 2011

In my last post I mentioned that I was trying out “batch” sparging for my all-grain brewing. Today I put that beer into a secondary fermenter, so I had a chance to taste it and assess the process. For homebrewing purposes, I can’t see not going with a batch sparge method. It took half the time (at most), it was easier with far less to monitor (for instance, the ph of the sparge is much more easily maintained), it takes less equipment, temperature is much more easily controlled, you don’t have to worry about stuck run-offs, and judging from the beer so far it works great. I have plenty of malt character to the IPA I brewed; unless there’s something I’m missing, I won’t bother with the more traditional sparging methods unless I go pro. The only real downside I see is that you need to compensate about 5% for the slightly reduced efficiency of your run-off. If I ever go pro (some dreams never die) then that 5% is profits, but for a 5- or 10-gallon batch of beer we’re talking an extra dollar. I’ll gladly pay.

Here was my method:

I heated 40 oz water for each lb of grain (in this case, I had 12 lbs grain total, so I had 480 oz of water or 15 qts/3,75 gallons) to about 180 degrees. I put this into an insulated cooler/mash tun to preheat it. When the water cooled to 163 I added my grains (the grains will drop the temperature about 9 degrees, and I was shooting for a 154 degree rest). I stirred thoroughly, added some gypsum to get the ph right, and let sit. The rest temperature ended a bit low, so I took about two quarts and heated it up, added it back in and the target temperature was spot on and stayed that way for the hour it took for full starch conversion.

While the grains were mashing, I heated up the sparge water. There are, of course, careful calculations designed to get you to the 6 gallon wort that you’re shooting for (how much is lost to grain absorption etc) but my friend suggested going with an 8 gallon total and taking note of final product, adjusting accordingly for next batches. I went with this method, heating up 4.25 gallons of water to 170 degrees in two batches. When all the starches had been converted, I added the first batch of 170 degree water, stirred thoroughly and let sit as a minor “mash-out” temperature rise. I then put the other pot of water on to heat up to 170 and went ahead and opened up the spigot full force. As the first few quarts came out, I recirculated them back into the mash until the run-off was nice and clear. At that point, I simply let the whole batch run out into the pot. By the time the first sparge was done, the second round of water was ready to go, so I put that into the mash bed. I then put the first half of the wort onto the stove to start warming it up to a boil, as I went through the exact same process (recirculating the cloudy first run-offs) with the second half of the wort. When that was done, I added it to the pot already beginning to boil. The final wort was almost exactly 6 gallons which with evaporation gave me a final batch of beer just above 5 gallons at almost exactly the gravity I was shooting for. Notice that you don’t have to maintain sparge water temperatures as it slowly drains through the grains (which really is the most difficult aspect of homebrewing all-grain in my book). You do need two large kettles since you heat sparge and collect wort in two different batches, but most of you all-grain brewers already have that I imagine. If not, it’s a minor expense for the ease of this process.

I used to be an all-grain brewer back in the late 90s, but life got in the way (damned PhD and then real job) and I really wondered if I’d ever have the time to brew all-grain again. Frankly, this is not much harder and doesn’t take that much more time than using malt extract. And then the beer is all yours: a recipe you can design and truly call your own. It’s the difference between bread makers (which certainly make fine tasting bread) and baking your own. I like the feel of kneading bread; it’s therapeutic. So, too, is that magical, steamy, aromatic process of turning grains into sugar into beer.

All Grain Brewing

March 29, 2011

My last beers have been, if I do say so myself, extraordinary. My double IPA is one of my best. My farmhouse is light, fresh and tasty, and my hybrid honey biere de garde is a unique beer. My Belgian Strong Golden is aging nicely and just about ready to bottle. So, my brewing confidence is full force right now; I’ve said for a few brews that the next one would venture back into all grain, but clearly that hasn’t been the case. Until now. My Mount Vernon brewery is well stocked and I’ve got the layout figured out, confidence is high, so today I brewed a medium gravity, moderately hopped all-grain IPA. This is an all-chinook hops ale, an experiment I’m starting to really get to know my different hop varieties (the Mikkeller series of single-hop beers has also helped me with this, but it’s also made me want to brew a similar series).

Grain Bill:
10 lb 2-row
1 lb Belgian pale malt
.75 Belgian caramel pils
.25 Briess caramel 120 degree

In my previous all-grain incarnation, I stuck very firmly to the traditional model of sparging. I have been persuaded in my reading, though, to work with a “batch sparge” method in which the sparge is done at full speed (rather than the slow model in which the brewer maintains the level of water in the mash tun as it drains). The two big pluses to this method are speed and no stuck mashes; the con, of course, is a potential loss of efficiency leading to a lower gravity than a recipe might call for. Most of what I’ve read suggested that the loss of efficiency is not that great and can easily be countered by adding about 5% to the grain bill which is what I’ve done.

3.75 gallons mash water
Strike temp of 152 degrees
60 minute rest

4.25 gallons 170 degree water, in two batches.

1 oz Chinook hops, 11.2%, 60 minutes
1 oz Chinook hops, 11.2%, 15 minutes
1 cup malto-dextrine, 15 minutes
1 tbsp irish moss, 15 minutes
1 oz Chinook hops, 11.2% 1 minute

Add 1 tsp calcium carbonate and Wyeast 1056, American Ale yeast and aerate.

O.G. = 1.055

Everything went well and the pre-fermented beer tastes pretty good. I’m surprised by the hop character–it’s not that overwhelming a hop profile, or so I thought, but the first taste of it has a pretty spicey burn at the finish. This isn’t a bad thing, but it is surprising to me how strong it seems. We’ll see. My plan is to dry-hop an ounce of Chinook in the secondary, but I’ll sample before then and see what I think.

Belgian Strong Ale

February 21, 2011

I’m trying to clean off my desk before my upcoming travels, get myself as organized as possible instead of this mass of papers, books, and other junk that I call my life. In the midst of one pile I found the scribbled notes of a recipe for a Belgian golden ale that I had not posted here. Since I use this blog as a kind of recipe book for me as much or more than any of my readers, I thought I should jot it down before I leave (and I guess it’s either an appropriate style since we’ll be flying into Brussels on our way to Africa, or perhaps oddly inappropriate since we’ll be flying into Rwanda).  Anyway, here goes:

– .25 lbs Dingeman’s Caramel Pils
– .25 lbs Dingeman’s BiscuitGambrinus
steeped  20 minutes in 1 gallon 170 degree water. Sparged with a gallon room temp water.

– 7 lbs Pilsen malt syrup
– 2 lbs clear belgian candi sugar
– 1 oz Czech Saaz hops, 3.9% (60 min)
– 1 oz Tettnang hops, 4.9% (60 min)
– 1/2 oz Czech Saaz, 3.9% (30 min)
– 1/2 oz Hersbrucker, 2.4% (30 min)
– 1/2 oz Hersbrucker, 2.4% (10 min)
– 1 oz Czech Saaz, 3.9% (1 min)
– 1 Tbsp Irish moss (15 min)
– 1 cup malto dextrin (15 min)

– Wyeast 1388 Belgian Strong Ale.
– 1 oz calcium carbonate for yeast, aerated well.

OG: 1.079

This is another one that can use some aging so it will sit until well after I’m back, hopefully ready for a summer party. See ya then!

Blizzard Brewing

January 31, 2011

I knew if I started brewing toward spring (see my last post) then maybe we’d get some good winter weather. Sure enough, a blizzard is rolling into the state. We may be just on the north edge of real snow accumulations, but this could be a pretty good one. Right now they’re saying about 10-12″ here. That’s not a bad way to start February, a little excitement to help carry us through the winter.  The snow has just started this afternoon and should kick in tomorrow and go through wednesday morning.  But I’m still on a spring brewing kick. I’m off to Africa here in a few weeks, so I’m stocking up on some beers that can benefit from a few weeks of secondary aging so I can bottle when I get back and have beer ready for spring. This one’s a light session beer, a low alcohol farmhouse style that should be great for those warm spring days when I’m getting the garden in shape–I can already smell that wonderful compost and dirt.

For now, here’s today’s recipe:

— 0.5 lbs Gambrinus Honey Malt, steeped  20 minutes in 1 gallon 170 degree water. Sparged with a gallon room temp water.

— 6.3  lbs Pilsen malt syrup
— 1 lb Pilsen dry malt extract
— 1 oz German Tradition hops, 6.9% (60 min)
— 1 oz French Strisselspalt, 2.9% (15 min)
— 1 Tbsp Irish moss (15 min)
— 1 cup malto dextrin (15 min)
— 1 oz French Strisselspalt, 2.9% (5 min)

— Wyeat 3725 Bier de Garde (special release).
— 1 oz calcium carbonate for yeast, aerated well.

OG: 1.043

I’m pretty excited to try this Wyeast (I tasted my starter and frankly it was yummy just by itself–can’t wait to see what it does with malt and hops in its mix). Might have to save some and do a few brews out of it if it works well.

Enjoy the blizzard everyone!!

Brewing Toward Spring

January 26, 2011

I should say that I generally love winter.  I love snow; I love real cold, snow-crunching days; I love fires and stews and dark beers; I even like shoveling (now that I’ve moved away from my huge, sloped driveway that was a beast to take care of even with a snowblower). But it does tend to get long. So I look forward to exciting weather along the way, the next deep freeze (usually accompanied by one of those brilliantly clear skies that makes everything crystalline) or the next snowstorm. But this year we’re in the deep doldrums. We missed the big snowstorms that hit Missouri recently, and now my friends and family on the East Coast are having yet another huge storm today. Here it’s been gray now with no hint of sunshine or snow (although the gray skies certainly look like impending snow) for weeks, a long stretch of rather depressing gray, raw wet days. Blah. So, with no weather to help make the winter go more quickly, there’s only one thing to do: start thinking about spring. And of course what better way to do that than start to plan what we’ll be drinking in, say, April.

Today’s brewing session is a kind of hybrid beer. I read recently a recipe that was a cross between a biere de garde and a steam beer (the recipe really seemed like a lighter, less hopped steam, but if they want to call it a biere de garde I guess who am I to stop them?). I’ve taken the idea and added a bit of German hop, pilsner profile to it and come up with a recipe I think will be a nice early spring drink–but not really fitting any profile I know. The beer is also designed to age well in my “Beer Room” during my trip to Africa. The temperature should be just about right in there for lagering in March, so I’ll let the beer age a bit, bring out the malt profile, bottle it when I get back and then have it ready for spring drinking.

Here goes:
— 0.5 lbs Dingemans Aromatic
— 0.5 lbs Gambrinus Honey Malt
1 1/2 gallon 170 degree water, 20 minutes; sparge with 1 gallon room temp water.

— 7 lbs Pilsen dry malt extract (60 min)
— 1 lb honey (15 minutes)

Hops & Additions:
— 1 oz Hersbrucker, 2/4% (60 min)
— 1 oz Czech Saaz, 3.9% (60 min)
— 1 oz Czech Saaz, 3.9% (30 min)
— 1 oz French Strisselspalt, 2.9% (10 min)
— 1 oz French Strisselspalt, 2.9% (1 min)
1 Tbsp Irish Moss, 15 minutes

— Wyeast 2112 California Lager
— Add 1 Tbsp Calcium Carbonate and aerate vigorously

We’ll see how it goes. I’ll let you know how it tastes when it’s done. On another note, I bottled my Double IPA yesterday and it tasted damn drinkable before it even got to the bottle. Looking forward to sampling it in about 10 days.

Cheers to spring and beer on the patio!

Imperial IPA

December 30, 2010

Nothing like starting out the new year with a big, bold, hoppy beer fermenting in the basement, right? So for the occasion I brewed an Imperial IPA today.

Today’s recipe:
Steeped 12 oz. caramel pils, 4 oz Briess Caramel 120, 1 1/2 gallons 170 degree water for 20 minutes.
Sparged with 1 gallon cold water.
Brought to boil.
12 lbs Pilsen malt syrup boiled for 60 minutes.
1 oz Summit hops, 18.5%, 60 minutes
1 oz Centennial hops, 9.2% 30 minutes
1 oz Cascade hops, 6.1% 10 minutes
1 oz Glacier hops, 5.6%, 2 minutes
1 oz Glacier hops, 5.6%, after boil
Cooled to room temp and brought volume to 5 gallons.
Pitched a 1 quart starter of Wyeast 1056, American ale yeast.
Added 1 tbsp calcium carbonate.
Aerate vigorously to get yeast started.

The finished wort tasted very rich with tons of malt and hop flavor. I think this could be really good. I’ll taste before I put into secondary fermenter and decide whether to add some dry hops or not (most likely will). Here’s to 2011!

Also, I’ve been drinking the IPA I brewed awhile back. I have to say it’s one of my best beers to date–a really well-balanced but intense beer with a fresh hop flavor to it. I’m loving it. Just bottled my dubbel the other day and it is also tasting very promising. It’s a little lighter in body than I’d planned and it’s a little more phenolic than I’d hoped, but it’s still aging. I think a few weeks will soften it and carbonation will help flesh it out–I’m looking forward to it.

Sunday’s Dubbel

November 28, 2010

Second brew of the new Mount Vernon Brewery. Enjoyed the garage with doors open as Iowa warmed up to the mid-40s and sunny–a great Sunday afternoon of brewing.

Today’s session was an Abbey-style Dubbel:

1/2 lb. Dingeman’s Caramunich
1/4 lb. Dingeman’s Special B
Steeped grains in 2 gallons water, 170 degrees, 15 minutes.
Sparged grains with 1 gallon cold water then brought to boil.
6.6 lb. Northern Brewer gold extract, 60 minutes
1 lb Briess pale malt extract, 60 minutes
1 oz. Tradition hops, 6.9%, 60 minutes
1/2 oz. Tettnang, 4.5% 45 minutes
1/2 oz. Tettnang, 4.5%, 30 minutes
1/2 lb. light Belgian candy sugar, 15 minutes
1 lb. dark Belgian candy sugar, 15 minutes
1 oz Hallterau, 2.9%, 10 minutes
1 tsp Irish moss, 10 minutes
1 tsp Gypsum, 10 minutes
Cooled wort to 85 degrees then added distilled water to make 5 gallons.
Aerated and added 2 tsp calcium carbonate
Pitched a 1-quart starter of Wyeast 1214 Belgian Abbey yeast

O.G.: 1.062

I will let this one ferment in our furnace room which stays in the mid-70s since this strain of yeast can tolerate warmer temperatures which will hopefully bring out more of the dark fruit flavors. Brewing went really well and I’m pretty excited about this. The wort tasted great–lots of malt and carmel sugars with a touch of hop spiciness. I’ll let you know how it goes in a month or so. In the meantime, these brewing sessions have helped me figure out how to get the all-grain system up-and-running. There are some technical issues at the new house to be worked through, but I think I’m figuring it all out.

Hope everyone had a great Thanksiving filled with plenty of good beer. Prost!

The New Brewery

November 13, 2010

It took a few months from moving in to get the Freeman home brewery up and running, but just brewed the first batch today. The biggest issue was getting a usable sink in the basement. We just added a double sink to replace the old 1950s shallow sink, but this meant redoing the drain system because the old version was set too high to accommodate a deeper.  sink. More of a job than I hoped when we moved in, but really nice now to have a two bins to work with.

For the moment I’m brewing in the garage, but I have a shed out back that I’ll turn into a brewery.

This was actually my first brewing session since my back surgery, now almost two years ago. I eased back into it with a kit brew, but my goal for this winter–the real goals of my sabbatical which starts in January–is to get a brewery set up so that I can get back into all-grain brewing.

For easing back in, I started with a classic, highly hopped IPA:

Steep 1/2 pound Briess Caramalt 40L and 1/2 pound Simpson’s light Crystal Malt, 15 minutes, 170 degrees.
Strain grains.
Bring to boil with 9 1/2 lb Northern Brewer Gold extract. 60 minute boil.
Boil 1 oz. Yakima Magnum hops, 14.2 alpha, 60 minutes
Boil 1 oz Cascade, 5.7 alpha, 40 minutes
Boil 1/2 oz Warrior, 17.2 alpha, 30 minutes
Boil 1 oz Centennial, 9.6 alpha, 20 minutes
Boil 1/2 oz Warrior,  17.2 alpha 5 minutes
Add 1 oz Warrior, 17.2 alpha at very end of boil
1 tsp Irish Moss and 1 tsp gypsum for final 15 minutes of boil.
Cool to 80 degrees, stir in two tsp calcium carbonate and Wyeast American Ale yeast starter.
Stir vigorously to aerate.
Original Gravity: 1.070

When I tasted this before it began fermenting, the hop profile was pretty intense. My plan had been to add an ounce of Amarillo hops to the secondary fermenter, but I think I’ll see how it’s tasting at that point and decide. I’m always for more hop, but I don’t want it to be unbalanced.

I think next on my brewing list is to go higher gravity and make a double IPA. Stay tuned.

The other nice thing about my brewing set-up in the new house is we have a canning room that is easy to turn into beer and wine storage. At the moment I’ve got lots of other beers and wines stashed there, but it will be great for aging beers. It might even make me interested in using lager yeasts again since the winter temperatures will be pretty cool. I’m not a big lager fan in general, but I’ve always had that dream of creating a recipe that’s close to Paulaner Salvator–one of my all-time favorite beers. We’ll see.

Aging Homebrew

March 23, 2010

Over a year and a half ago, I brewed a seriously dark, rich, high alcohol Imperial Stout. It was very good but frankly didn’t seem to be aging all that well. So I mostly drank it up. About 6 months ago, I thought it had passed its prime getting a kind of acidic sourness (not that lovely sour we like in some Belgian styles) and I drank a few and ignored the rest. I was cleaning out the basement the other day and stumbled upon the last 6 pack and opened one last night. Oh, if I only had patience. It’s a whole new beer, rich and creamy with a deep roasted backbone–and all that acid and sourness are gone. It’s a great beer and now I’m lamenting having drunk any at all months ago. Now what to do? Drink those last precious few or see what happens to them in a few more months? Dilemmas, dilemmas.