Sunday, August 17, 2014

Beer Tasting: Summer Blonde Ale

The summer blonde ale is at its peak, turning out to be a pretty delightful brew. The full specs are below.

Summer Blonde Ale

  • I brewed this up on June 28, 2014, and bottled it on July 13. Thus, it has had about a month to condition. The sample I am evaluating here is from a bottle.
  • Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.046; final gravity = 1.008; abv = 5.0%.
  • Appearance
    • Clear, straw-colored
    • Head is white, fine, and low, with fair retention over the course of the sampling
  • Aroma
    • Clean and slightly malty
  • Taste
    • Clean and slightly malty; pleasant
    • A subtle hops finish
    • Good balance between hops and malt
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Absolutely! This is perhaps one of the best all-grain beers I've done to date, and it is perfect for sipping on warm summer evenings. As near as I can tell, the recipe (and this batch) nails the style quite squarely, and is very much to my taste. I don't know that there is much, if anything, that I would change; maybe up the malt and hops ever-so-slightly, but that's about it. Probably a bad idea to mess with a good thing.
  • Overall rating: 8/10

Beer Update: Gondwana Pale Ale 1.1

Today I transferred the Gondwana Pale Ale over to the secondary fermenter, following 9 days of primary fermentation. Some highlights:

  • Gravity is 1.012 at 60 degrees, down from 1.048. This works out to 4.7% abv and apparent attenuation of 74%.
  • I racked the beer onto 2 oz. of Citra hops pellets (14.5% alpha, 3.9% beta), and plan a solid 2 weeks of dry hopping before bottling/kegging.
  • In total, 5 gallons of beer was transferred; there was about 0.25 gallons of trub, and another 0.25 gallons of stuff that was just too murky to bother with.
  • The sample is tasted has a slight whiff of Citra hops, presumably from the late addition during the boil. This is quite nice! As with the first version of this recipe, there is a very slight vegetal/off-malty after-taste. Because I haven't really had this with my other all-grain recipes, I wonder if it is something inherent to the malts I used (maybe the Vienna malt?). In any case, the aroma was very transient in the last batch, and is much fainter by comparison in this batch, so I am not too worried.
  • I set the fermenting chamber (i.e., temperature controlled freezer) to 64 degrees, up 2 degrees from the primary fermentation. I may raise it again slightly later this week.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Beer Tasting: El Dorado Amber Ale

I've been reasonably good at documenting my brewing process (hence this blog), but haven't done as much for recording the resulting product. This post is a first attempt at formalizing personal evaluations of my homebrew.

  • I brewed this up on March 31, and bottled it on April 27. Thus, it has had a little over three months to condition. The sample I'm evaluating here was from a mini-keg. The character of the beer has changed somewhat from first sampling; definitely a little more mellow in the aroma (a good thing).
  • Appearance
    • Medium amber color. Clear, with only a minor chill haze.
    • Nice head with good head retention
  • Aroma
    • Modestly malty, with a very minor hops aroma
    • When I sampled this beer a month or two ago, the hops aroma was fairly strong and spicy/herbal. Not at all what I expected, especially for how El Dorado hops was described.
  • Taste
    • A moderately malty flavor, but not overly so. There is a modest bitterness, but not too much so.
    • The finish is smooth with a slight caramel flavor, and nicely hoppy
    • Carbonation is moderate; about right for this style of beer
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Overall, this has turned into a decent beer, but not my very best. Particularly in its earlier days, I didn't really care for how the dry-hopped El Dorado aroma came through; far more vegetal than I was expecting, and very little if any of the promised citrus/fruity notes. It wasn't unpleasant, necessarily, just not to my personal taste. I was a little unimpressed by how the El Dorado hops worked for this beer; I might try them for bittering again, but not for dry hopping.
    • All in all, I'm going to test a few other amber ale recipes.
  • Overall rating: 5/10

Friday, August 8, 2014

Gondwana Pale Ale 1.1

Back in March, at the start of my all-grain brewing, I brewed up Gondwana IPA. The resulting beer turned out unexpectedly tasty, and hooked me on Citra hops (especially for dry-hopping). Because I was still figuring out my techniques at the time, my mash efficiency was a little low (~57%), and the result was closer to a pale ale than a traditional IPA in some respects. Thus, I retooled the original recipe as a pale ale, cutting back some of the malt and utilizing Citra as the only hops for the brew. As before, I want a prominent hops aroma, so this beer will get a nice dry-hopping.

Gondwana Pale Ale (version 1.1)
  • 9 lbs. 2 row malt
  • 1 lb. Vienna malt
  • 0.5 lb. cara-pils malt
  • 0.5 lb. 40° crystal malt
  • 1 oz. Citra hops (bittering, first addition; pellet form; 14.5% alpha, 3.9% beta)
  • 1 oz. Citra hops (bittering, second addition)
  • 1 tsp. Irish moss
  • 1 pkg. Safale American dry yeast (US-05, 11 g)
  • 2 oz. Citra hops (dry hopping)
  • First, I preheated the mash tun with 9 gallons of water that was as hot as possible from the tap.
  • In my brew pot, I heated 14 quarts of water to 170°. I added the milled grains to the mash tun with 1 tbs. of pH 5.2 stabilizer, and mashed in. The temperature stabilized at 154°. After 30 minutes, the temperature was 153°.
  • After 60 minutes, added 1 gallon of water at 185°, and let it sit for 10 minutes or so. I drained the tun, extracting ~2.9 gallons of wort.
  • Next, I added 3.2 gallons of water at 195°. This raised the mash temperature to ~175°, a little warmer than I wanted. So, I added 1 quart (.25 gallons) of ice cubes. This dropped the temperature down to 168°. I let the mix sit for 10 minutes before draining.
  • I collected a total of 6.7 gallons of wort, with a preboil gravity of 1.043. This works out to a mash efficiency of ~73%.
  • I heated the wort to boiling, aiming for a total of 60 minutes at boil. After 30 minutes, I added the first addition of hops.
  • After 50 minutes, I added the Irish moss.
  • After 58 minutes, I added the second addition of hops.
  • After 60 minutes of boiling, I turned off the heat, removed the hops (they were all bagged), and chilled the wort to ~80°.
  • Once the wort was chilled, I transferred it to the primary fermentation vessel. Along the way, it was oxygenated using my Venturi pump.
  • The yeast was rehydrated in 2 cups of preboiled water at ~90°, and pitched into the wort.
  • Starting gravity was 1.048 at 60 degrees, with ~5.3 gallons of wort. I can probably expect around 5% abv in the end.
  • The beer is fermenting at 64°; after 1 week I will transfer it to the secondary fermenter and dry-hop for 2 weeks, prior to bottling.
  • Total ingredient cost for this was $27.65. Assuming around a 5 gallon yield in the end, the cost per 12-oz. bottle will be around $0.55.
  • In order to maximize extract efficiency, I have been using a double crush on the mill at my local homebrew shop. Based on a visual inspection of the milled grain, and on conversations with the owner, I decided to try just a single pass through the mill this time. Based on my efficiency, that was an okay decision.
  • In the past, I had been a little frustrated by trying to raise the temperature of the grain bed during the second collection of wort. Thus, I tried adding much hotter water (~195°) than recommended by BeerSmith (168°), and got much better results both in terms of temperature as well as mash efficiency. There was a little fiddling to keep the temperature below 170°, so I might aim for around 185° to 190° next time.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Summer Blonde Ale Bottled

Success! My experiment with summer brewing (using a temperature-controlled freezer) has gone well, so last night I bottled my summer blonde ale. Here are the stats:
  • I fermented it from June 28 to July 7 at 62°. I didn't see quite as much krausen as I'm used to, but I suspect that is because of the lower temperatures and thus a less vigorous fermentation.
  • On July 7, I raised the temperature to 64°, so that the yeast could clean up any stray diacetyl.
  • I bottled on July 12. Final gravity was 1.008, down from a starting gravity of 1.046. This works out to 5.0% abv, and an apparent attenuation of 82% (right in line with the expectations for the yeast, Safale-05).
  •  I kegged 5 L in a mini-keg, with 1.5 tbs. of corn sugar.
  • The remainder (3.75 gallons) was bottled. I wanted a target carbonation of 2.5 volumes, which worked out to 3.1 oz. of corn sugar boiled in 2 cups of water.
  • Bottling yield was 22 12-oz, 6 18-oz Grolsch, and 4 22-oz. bottles.
The flavor was somewhat malty with a touch of hops bitterness (but not overly bitter). No off flavors were detected, thankfully. The beer is hazy in appearance, but not overly so. I expect this will settle out during conditioning and refrigeration.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Summer Blonde Ale

One of the primary limitations of brewing in southern California is the weather...there is a short window indeed where ambient air temperature--even in a basement--is within the happy zone for ale yeast. You can brew when it's warmer, of course, but there is more danger of off-flavors developing (well, unless it's a are the default there). So, I've been mostly limited to brewing between November and March, with maybe a little wiggle room on either end. It also meant I had to get as much brewing as possible during that window, to have a good supply for the long summer months.

Well, those days are now at an end. The parents shipped me a Ranco temperature controller for my birthday, which regulates a fridge or freezer into appropriate fermentation temperatures. I bought a cheap 7 cubic foot chest freezer, hooked it all up, and now I'm ready to go! First up...a good, drinkable summer blonde ale. This recipe is ever-so-slightly modified from one that originally appeared in BYO.

Summer Blonde Ale
  • 10 lbs. 2-row pale malt
  • 8 oz. 20° crystal malt
  • 1 oz. Willamette hops pellets
  • 1 tsp. Irish moss
  • 1 pkg. (11 g) Safale American US-05 yeast
  • I preheated the mash tun and added the grains with 1 tbs. of 5.2 pH stabilizer.
  • I mashed in with 3.25 gallons of water at 165°. I adjusted the water slightly by adding 1 gallon distilled water (and another gallon when I did the sparge).
  • The mash temperature stabilized at 152.3°, was down to 151.5° within 30 minutes, and was at 149° after 60 minutes.
  • After 60 minutes, I added 1.08 gallons of water at 170°, stirred, and let it sit for 10 minutes. I then decanted ~3.15 gallons of wort.
  • I added 3.14 gallons of water at 170°, stirred, and let it sit for 10 minutes. This raised the temperature of the mash to 160°.
  • In the end, I collected 6.5 gallons of wort. Pre-boil gravity was 1.040, which works out to around 67.5% mash efficiency.
  • After heating the wort to a boil, I added the hops pellets and boiled the wort for 60 minutes. 10 minutes prior to flame-out, I added the Irish moss.
  • I cooled the wort down to ~78°, and transferred it to the carboy. Total volume is 5 gallons. 
  • After rehydrating the yeast in 1 cup of water, I pitched it and sealed up the fermenter.
  • In order to gain a clean flavor profile, I'll be fermenting at ~62°. The plan is to ferment for around a week before bottling. Starting gravity was 1.046.
  • The beer was brewed and yeast pitched on Saturday, June 28. By the next morning, visible fermentation had started.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Beer Updates: El Dorado Amber Ale, Rodinia IPA

Mopping up some loose ends from the brewing season...

El Dorado Amber Ale
  • After 20 days of dry-hopping, I bottled this on April 27.
  • Final gravity was 1.010 at 60 degrees; down from 1.053 original gravity, this works out to 5.6% abv.
  • Total yield was 2 mini-kegs (5 L), 15 12-oz. bottles, and 2 22-oz. bottles. The former was carbonated with 1.5 tbs. of corn sugar each; the latter with carbonation drops.

Rodinia IPA
  • It took almost 2 days before I saw activity in the primary fermenter. I suspect this was a combination of high gravity and a slow start typical for the BRY-97 yeast strain.
  • After 15 days in the primary fermenter, I transferred this to the secondary fermenter on 27 April 2014. Gravity at this point was 1.022, down from 1.076.
  • I let the beer sit in the primary for around 3 weeks, and added 1 oz. of Nelson Sauvin hops on Sunday, May 18, for dry-hopping.
  • Bottling day was June 5, so I had a total of 18 days dry-hopping. Gravity at this point was 1.013 at 60 degrees, working out to a final abv of 8.3%.
  • I ended up with 3.5 gallons of beer. This was primed with 3 oz. of corn sugar dissolved in 2 cups of water, to reach a target of 2.5 volumes CO2.
  • I sampled a bottle after a week; it is shaping up quite nicely. The aroma is sweet and quite reminiscent of the white wine aroma I expected for Nelson Sauvin hops. Taste so far is pleasantly bitter with just a touch of sweetness (the hops again, I think).