Sunday, December 14, 2014

Eagle Face Oatmeal Stout

This past week, some colleagues and I named a new dinosaur - Aquilops americanus. The name Aquilops means "eagle face", in honor of the animal's eagle-like beak. So, it only seemed appropriate to name this weekend's brew session Eagle Face Oatmeal Stout.

It has been a loooooong time since I have brewed an oatmeal stout. The last effort, back in 2010 during my extract days, was not a flawless fermentation but the end result was really darned good beer (just not a lot of it). My first attempt at an all-grain oatmeal stout is thus experimental territory!

Eagle Face Oatmeal Stout

  • 8.5 lbs. 2-row pale malt
  • 1 lb. 80° L crystal malt
  • 1 lb. Victory malt
  • 1 lb. flaked oats
  • 0.75 lb. chocolate malt
  • 0.5 lb. roasted barley
  • 0.5 lb. rice hulls
  • 1.25 oz. Northern Brewer hops pellets (8.5% alpha, 4.0% beta; adjusted for aging)
  • 1 tbs. 5.2 pH stabilizer
  • 1 tsp. Irish moss
  • English Ale yeast - WLP002
Procedure
  • On Thursday, December 11, I set up the yeast starter. As with my last starter, I used 172 grams of extra light dry malt extract in 1.5 L of water. This was boiled for 10 minutes, cooled, and then the yeast was pitched. True to the reputation of WLP002, it is indeed a highly floculant, fast-acting strain.
  • On brew day, Saturday, December 13, I milled all of the grains except the flaked oats and rice hulls. After milling, the oats and rice were added to the grains, which were in turn added to the mash tun.
  • I mashed in with 4.25 gallons of water at 176°. The overall mash stabilized at 156°.
  • After 60 minutes, I added 0.5 gallons of water at 180°. I let the mash settle for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected 3.25 gallons of wort.
  • I then added 3.14 gallons of 185° water; the temperature of the resulting mash was a little too hot for my tastes (~174°), so I added 0.375 gallons of tap cold water. This brought the mash down to 166° or so. As before, I waited 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and drained the tun.
  • In total, I collected 6.85 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.048. This works out to ~74% efficiency.
  • I brought the wort to a boil, and added the hops. After 45 minutes, I added 1 tsp. of Irish moss. After 60 minutes, I turned off the heat and chilled the wort down to ~70°.
  • I transferred 5.75 gallons of wort into the fermenter, pitched the yeast, and put it in my fermentation chamber. The temperature was set to 68°. [because it is fairly cool this time of year, I have a small heating pad to help keep temperature up; what a reverse from the summer months!]
  • The starting gravity was 1.057 at 60°. The wort is sweet and quite dark--true to style!
  • When I checked on the beer nine hours after pitching the yeast, fermentation was cruising along quite nicely.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Beer Tasting: Bonedigger Brown Ale

My Bonedigger Brown Ale has turned into an absolutely delicious beer. Brown ales have a reputation as being fairly easy to brew, and I would agree overall. I am quite pleased that this has matured into one of my best all-grain beers yet (in my opinion).

  • I brewed this on 27 September 2014, bottled/kegged it on 11 October 2014, and sampled it on 3 December 2014. The sample described here was from a keg.
  • Basics
    • Starting gravity: 1.057; final gravity: 1.014; 5.7% abv
  • Aroma
    • Lightly malty; no hops detectable
  • Appearance
    • Head has good retention, fine to moderate tannish color. The beer itself is dark brown, with good clarity
  • Flavor
    • Flavor is pleasantly malty, with a slight chocolate/cocoa hint and finish; smooth and drinkable; hops are well-balanced with malt, not overly bitter.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Mouthfeel is smooth and almost creamy; body is nice--not overly thin but not overly thick, best described as medium; pretty balanced body overall; moderately carbonated as appropriate for style.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • As brown ales go, I would drink this again and brew it again in an instant! A really nice brew. I'll take this to my homebrew club meeting for their feedback, but at the moment I can't foresee changing much.
  • Overall rating
    • 9.5/10



Monday, October 13, 2014

Andy's Pumpkin Ale 1.0

In the continued quest to expand my brewing repertoire, while also focusing on styles that I like to drink (sorry, lambics and barleywines), today I took aim at a pumpkin ale. This was inspired by the efforts of my paleontological brewing colleague Penny Higgins, as well as by a recent issue of Brew Your Own (BYO) magazine.

Grinding the Cinnamon
The recipe itself was based on BYO's recipe for a Smuttynose Brewing Co. Pumpkin Ale clone. I tweaked the hops a bit based on my supply (and the desire not to open an extra bag if I didn't have to). Additionally, I decided to increase the amount of pumpkin over the original recipe; 4 oz. of puree just didn't seem like much, and I wanted a distinct pumpkin flavor. We had some homemade pumpkin puree in the deep freeze, so I thawed that out for this recipe.

So the spices...the recipe called for 0.14 oz. each of ground cinnamon and nutmeg, with a pinch of ground cloves. I grated up the appropriate amount of nutmeg from a fresh nut, and decided to grate up a stick of cinnamon bark too. However, after "grating" ended up more as "shredding", I elected to use the trusty mortar-and-pestle for the cinnamon as well as the cloves. The result was a whole pile of absolutely delicious smelling (and fresh!) spices.

Andy's Pumpkin Ale 1.0 (modified from Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale Clone)
  • 10.75 lbs. 2-row malt
  • 0.9 lbs. Carastan malt
  • 0.25 lbs. 60°L crystal malt
  • 12.5 oz. (0.78 lbs.) homemade pumpkin puree
  • 0.5 lbs. rice hulls
  • 1.25 oz. Cascade hops (whole; 75 minute boil)
  • 0.25 oz. Liberty hops (4.5% alpha, 3.5% beta; pellets; 15 minute boil)
  • 0.75 oz. Cascade hops (whole; 10 minute boil)
  • 0.75 oz. Liberty hops (4.5% alpha, 3.5% beta; pellets; added at flame-out)
  • 1 tsp. Irish moss (10 minute boil)
  • 0.14 oz. ground cinnamon bark
  • 0.14 oz. ground nutmeg
  • 2 cloves, ground
  • 1 vial California Ale yeast (White Labs #WLP001), in 1.5 L starter
  • 1 tbs. of 5.2 pH stabilizer
Procedure
  • The day before brewing, I made up a yeast starter. See this post for details.
  • I added the rice husks to the mash tun, and then added the milled grains. I mashed in with 3.75 gallons of water at 172°. After this, the temperature was a little high (~160°), so I added an extra 0.25 gallons of cold tap water to bring the mash temperature down a bit, to 158°. After 10 minutes, the mash had stabilized to 154°, and to 150° after 60 minutes. Note to self--next let the mash sit a bit longer before worrying about lowering the temperature with cold water. I probably would have been okay without futzing with it.
  • I added 0.5 gallons of water at 195° and let it sit for 15 minutes. From this, I collected ~3.1 gallons of wort over 15 minutes. It had a delicious, sweet flavor--definitely pumpkin!
  • Then, I added 3.25 gallons of water at 186°, and let it sit for 15 minutes. The temperature was around 165°. Then, I collected the second runnings.
  • I collected a total of 6.5 gallons of wort, with a gravity of 1.051 at 60°. This works out to a mash efficiency of ~77%. I can live with that!
  • Once the wort was at a boil, I added the first round of Cascade hops. Additions proceeded per the schedule above.
  • Upon flame-out, I added the final addition of Liberty hops as well as the spices. I gave it a good stir, and let it sit for around 15 minutes.
  • Next, I cooled the wort using my chiller. I had recently read that siphoning ice water through the copper coil can help drop the wort the last few degrees needed for fermentation. So, I tried this trick, and it worked quite well! I was able to knock another 10° off the wort temperature at the end, quite quickly, down to 74°.
  • I pitched the yeast starter, which brought the volume in the fermenter up to 5 gallons exactly. Then, I placed the fermenter in my fermenting chamber, which is set at 68°.
  • The starting gravity is 1.060 (at 60°). I brewed this batch on 13 October 2014.
  • The wort is a gorgeous orangish color, with a distinct yet not overwhelming spice taste and aroma. I hope that this holds through fermentation!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Getting Started with Yeast Starters

Over the past year, I've been experimenting with several new techniques related to beer brewing. These include full-volume boils, temperature-controlled fermentation, and all-grain brewing. For my upcoming batch, a pumpkin ale, I decided to try my hand at making a yeast starter. This will allow me to use a wider variety of yeasts and also prepare for the eventuality of making lagers (which seem to pretty much require a starter).

The equipment is fairly simple: a 2-liter Erlenmeyer flask (pictured at left) and some aluminum foil.

The procedure itself is fairly simple, too. I boiled 172 g (~6 oz.) of extra light dry malt extract in 1.5 L of water for 10 minutes, to produce an unhopped wort with a gravity of ~1.040. I decanted the hot wort from the saucepan into the flask, which was capped with foil and plunged into an ice bath. After about 10 minutes, the container (and presumably the wort) were cool to the touch.

Once the wort was cooled, I pitched a tube of White Labs WLP001 (California Ale) yeast into the flask, shook it up, covered with sanitized foil, and set the flask in a relatively safe and warm corner. For this batch, I'm agitating (i.e., swirling) the mixture whenever I happen to be by the area, so roughly ever 30 to 60 minutes. If I have the time before my next brewing session (which probably won't be until late November or early December), I may build a stir plate.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Bonedigger Brown Ale Bottled

Two weeks after brewing, tonight (11 October 2014) I bottled my Bonedigger Brown Ale. Although my usual practice is to transfer to a secondary, I decided to bottle directly from the primary fermenter. Although perhaps a little extra yeast might have made it into the bottles, I figured this wouldn't make the beer "out of style".

Upon transfer to the kegs and bottling bucket, I noted that the flavor is nice and smooth, with a definite hint of the Maris Otter malt that I used as a supporting character in the grist. This is going to be pretty delicious once carbonated, I think! At bottling time, the beer had a final gravity of 1.014, down from 1.057. This works out to 5.7% abv.

I primed two 5-L kegs with 1.5 tbs. corn sugar each, and filled them with beer. This left 2.2 gallons, which I primed with 1.8 oz. of corn sugar boiled in 1 cup water, to achieve carbonation of 2.4 volumes. The result was 6 22-oz. bottles, 2 18-oz. bottles, and 9 12-oz. bottles.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Bonedigger Brown Ale

Things finally seem to be clicking along with my all-grain setup; I've got my mash tun properties dialed in, my grain mill configured, and everything else coming up aces. The all-grain learning curve is perhaps a bit frustrating, after feeling like I was so proficient at extract brewing, but it feels like the pay-off is finally here. I'm now getting consistent extract efficiency (thanks in large part to owning my own grain mill), and the beers are turning out quite tasty.

For today's brew session, I wanted to play with a style I haven't brewed previously: American brown ale. Looking back at the blog, I brewed a British-style nut brown from a kit a few years back, but that's it! I got some advice from Ray Daniels' Designing Great Beers, and set up a recipe in BeerSmith. I was also inspired by a recent visit to Rök House Brewing Company, which had an incredibly tasty SMaSH ESB; on asking, I learned that the wonderfully malty flavor was courtesy of Maris Otter malt. So, I knew I had to incorporate that into my next recipe!

Bonedigger Brown Ale

  • 9 lbs. 2-row malt
  • 1 lb. Maris Otter pale malt
  • 0.75 lb. 80°L crystal malt
  • 0.5 lb. carapils malt
  • 0.5 lb. chocolate malt
  • 1 oz. Cascade whole hops, bittering (60 minute boil)
  • 1 oz. Cascade whole hops, bittering (20 minute boil)
  • 0.5 oz. Willamette hops pellets, aroma (5.3% alpha; 3.7% beta; 5 minute boil)
  • 1 tsp. Irish moss (10 minute boil)
  • 1 pkg. US-05 Safale American Yeast
Procedure
  • I mashed in with 3.75 gallons of water at 165°. This hit my target mash temperature of 153°. The mash ended at around 151-152°, an hour later.
  • After 60 minutes, I stirred in 0.82 gallons of water just below boiling temperature, and let this sit for 10 minutes. I collected ~3.1 gallons of first runnings.
  • Then, I added 3.14 gallons of water at 185°; the mash temperature stabilized at 168°. I let it sit for 10 minutes.
  • After the second runnings, I had collected 6.5 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.049. This works out to 75.7% efficiency.
  • I brought the wort to a boil, and added the hops as indicated. The wort boiled for a total of 60 minutes.
  • After flame-out, I cooled the wort to ~78° using my wort chiller, whirlpooled, rehydrated the yeast, and pitched the yeast. I will be fermenting this beer for 2 weeks at 65°.
  • Starting gravity is 1.057, with a total of 5.1 gallons of wort. I brewed this up on 27 September 2014.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Edmund Fitzgerald Porter Clone Bottled

After 12 days in the secondary fermenter, I bottled the Edmund Fitzgerald Porter Clone on Friday, September 26. The yeast had settled out the rest of the way quite nicely, with a thin and compacted cake at the bottom of the carboy.

I elected to bottle the entire batch of beer, rather than kegging. Thus, I measured out 3.2 oz. of priming sugar; with ~4.75 gallons of beer, this works out to around 2.1 volumes of CO2 for the batch. The end result was 18 12-oz. bottles, 14 18-oz. bottles, and 6 22-oz. bottles.

At bottling, final gravity was unchanged from the last check, at 1.016. With a starting gravity of 1.060, this translates to 5.8% abv.