Saturday, September 26, 2015

Clonal Common Kegged

Tonight I kegged my Clonal Common (a California steam beer intended as an Anchor Steam clone), which had been fermenting for two weeks. It spent a week at 60°, three days at 64°, and three days at 66°. For the last day, I sent it back down to 62° in preparation for kegging.

I transferred a full 5 gallons of beer into the keg. Final gravity was 1.012, down from 1.049, which works out to 4.8% abv. All of the other vitals seem to be on track; color is right where anticipated, and the aroma/flavor/bitterness are all spot on. This should be a really tasty beer, and a nice transition from the light summer ales into fall beers.

Once kegged, I added a bit of CO2 and set the temperature for the whole apparatus to 34°. My plan is to lager this for at least a week, until I have to switch the fermentation chamber back into ale fermentation mode again.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Beer Update: Packrat Porter and Clonal Common

Today I kegged my Packrat Porter, which had been in the primary for just over two weeks. Final gravity was 1.017, down from 1.056, which works out to 5.1% abv. This is about spot on the nose for what I had anticipated. The flavor is pretty nice, but I can't say much other than that it tastes like porter. I plan to speed carbonate this one, so that it's ready for serving by the end of the week.

The Clonal Common appeared to ferment nicely over the past week. To help it finish out, I edged the temperature controller up to 64° from 60°. I'll let it sit there for 3-4 days, edge it up to 68° for a day or two to help things finish out, and then cold crash it prior to kegging.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Clonal Common

One of my current goals is to brew some styles new to me. Near the top of the list is a California Common, or "steam beer." I rather like Anchor Steam, and it seems like a brew that has broad cross-appeal. For a first attempt, I thought I'd go straight for a clone of this commercial brew, based in part on a recipe I found on the AHA website, and in part on a recipe from BYO magazine (this or a similar recipe has run several times in the publication). The AHA version used pilsner malt with crystal 40 and special roast malt, whereas the BYO version used standard 2-row with just crystal 40. I figured that I would dodge the "requisite" 90 minute boil for pilsner malt and add a bit of complexity onto straight crystal 40, so the final malt bill is a combo of 2-row, crystal 40, and special roast malt. Hops and yeast are pretty much the same.

As for that yeast...the vial I had for WLP810 (San Francisco Lager) was dated as "best by" mid-June, so I figured it would take a mongo starter to get things into the shape I wanted. So, I did a two-step process. First was a 1L starter, which I ran for 24 hours, cold crashed for 24 hours, ditched the supernate, and pitched the yeast into a 2L starter. This ran for 24 hours on the stir plate, and then I cold crashed it again. It was kinda fun to try out a new technique, and I suspect I'll do it again in the future.

Clonal Common
  • 9 lbs. 2-row malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
  • 1 lb. 40° crystal malt
  • 0.5 lb. special roast malt
  • 0.5 oz. Northern Brewer hops pellets (9.9% alpha acid), boil 60 minutes
  • 0.5 oz. Northern Brewer hops pellets (9.9% alpha acid), boil 15 minutes
  • 1 oz. Northern Brewer hops pellets (9.9% alpha acid), steep ~10 minutes (during chill)
  • 1 tbs. 5.2 pH stabilizer (added to mash)
  • 1 tablet Whirlfloc (boil 10 minutes)
  • 1 vial San Francisco Lager yeast (WLP810), in 2L starter
  • I mashed in with 4 gallons of water at 161°, which stabilized at 151° and was down to 148° after 60 minutes. Then, I added 1 gallon of water at 190°, which raised the mash bed to 152°. I let it rest for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected 3.66 gallons of wort. Then, I added 3.75 gallons of water to raise the mash bed to 160°. I let it sit for another 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the remainder of the wort.
  • All told, I collected 7.25 gallons of wort total with a gravity of 1.041. This works out to 78% efficiency.
  • I brought the wort to a boil and added the first round of hops.
  • After 45 minutes of boiling, I added the next round of hops.
  • After 50 minutes of boiling, I added the Whirlfloc tablet.
  • After 60 minutes of boiling, I turned off the heat and added the final ounce of hops. At this time, I also began chilling the beer.
  • I was only able to get the beer down to 85° or so, so I transferred it into the fermenter at this point and let it chill in the fermentation chamber overnight to get down to 60°.
  • The next morning (~8 hours after transferring to the carboy, on September 12, 2015), I pitched the yeast. I'll be fermenting at 60° for the first week of fermentation, and then will raise it to 66° to finish out.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Beer Tasting: Citra Blonde Ale

Time to taste the Citra Blonde Ale! It has been in the keg for about two and a half weeks, and turns out to be an incredible beer.
  • The Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.049; final gravity = 1.015; abv = 4.5%; estimated IBU = 19
  • Appearance
    • Clear with just a very faint haze. The head is white, medium-fine, of moderate size, and persistent. 
  • Aroma
    • Very lightly malty, with a refreshing hint of citrus.
  • Flavor
    • "Juicy" is the best descriptor; that flavor is robust but not overwhelming. The hops are definitely in the foreground, and I can pick out light citrus. It's really interesting how "juicy" this beer is - I can't say I've ever picked up on this before in my beers, but it's definitely there. It's almost like a bit of watermelon was squeezed into the beer. The hops are noticeable more for the flavoring and aroma than bitterness.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Moderate body and carbonation, as is appropriate for this style. 
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Absolutely! This is an incredibly tasty beer, which really nails a unique set of flavors and aromas. I love pretty much everything about it! The special techniques--including no-sparge--as well as the Citra hops added up to something quite nice. It's interesting how different it is as a blonde ale from my other favored recipe, the Summer Blonde Ale.
  • Overall Rating
    • 10 / 10

Packrat Porter

Yeast sludge settling out
I'm always interested in expanding my skills and homemade brewing equipment, and it seemed like an opportune time to take a big step forward. I've been curious about washing and reusing yeast for some time, but just haven't made the effort to enact the process. So, when I kegged my Seven Seas Session IPA, I saved the sludge from the bottom of the primary fermenter. I added a bit of boiled and cooled water, and then decanted the slurry into two quart mason jars. Each jar was about 2/3 full (a little too full, in retrospect), and I then topped each up with more cooled and boiled water. I let them sit for awhile, and then decanted the liquid as well as the top layer of sludge into another quart jar. This, too, was topped up with water and then placed in the fridge for a week. Last night, in preparation for today's batch, I prepared a 1L yeast starter and added the yeast from the bottom of the jar. This stirred overnight and into the afternoon, at which point I was ready to pitch the yeast. The starter looks and smells quite healthy, so I'm optimistic about this little experiment. Next time, I may instead overbuild a primary yeast culture and save that, instead of reusing yeast from a previous batch.

I also decided to try adding the dark grains and crystal malts during the vorlauf, following a technique suggested by Gordon Strong in his recent homebrew recipes book. This was a little tricky when it came time to calculate the various water volumes required, and I missed the target by a little bit (I had done the calculations without the various crystal malts, and I also presume the oats soaked up a bit of extra water). I improvised by washing the grains at the end with a final pulse of water, and that brought me right to my volume and gravity target. Lesson learned!

The final major addition to today's brew process was the construction of a hop spider. I essentially followed directions from BYO magazine, but instead used a food-grade straining bag instead of a paint-straining bag. It worked quite well during the boil, and will definitely be easier than wrangling multiple bags during more hoppy brews.

Today's brew was an American(ish) porter, named in honor of a resident of our quarry this summer. It was also appropriately named as the dumping ground for a whole bunch of leftover ingredients and free samples, as well as my first attempt at yeast washing. I am under no illusions that some of the smaller grain additions will have a detectable effect, but I can't stand the idea of throwing out those little packets, either! Given my experience with the last porter I brewed, which was a touch thin, I beefed up the recipe with a pound of flaked oats.

Packrat Porter
  • 8.55 pounds 2-row malt (Great Westerning Malting Co.)
  • 1 lb. flaked oats
  • 1.4 oz. Borlander Munich Malt (Briess)
  • 1.4 oz. Victory malt (Briess)
  • 1 lb. chocolate malt, added at vorlauf
  • 0.75 lb. 60° caramel Munich malt (Briess), added at vorlauf
  • 0.37 lb. 40° crystal malt, added at vorlauf
  • 1.4 oz. 60° caramel malt (Briess), added at vorlauf
  • 1 oz. Newport hops (10.7% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1L starter of English ale yeast, WLP002 (reused)
  • 1 tbs. 5.2 pH stabilizer (in mash)
  • 1 tablet Whirlfloc (10 minute boil)
Hop spider in action
  • I mashed in with 3.1 gallons of water at 168°, which stabilized to around 155°. The mash had dropped to 152° after 60 minutes.
  • After 60 minutes, I added the dark and crystal grains, as well as 1.27 gallons of water at 185°. I let this sit for 15 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected 3.15 gallons of wort. Then, I added 3.65 gallons of water at 180°, which raised the mash bed to 164°. I let this sit, vorlaufed, and collected the remainder of the wort. This totaled 6.1 gallons at a gravity of 1.046. This was a little under my target on both counts, so I added 0.75 gallons of water at 120°. I drained this for the final collection.
  • All told, I collected 6.75 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.048. This works out to 75% efficiency.
  • Once the wort came to a boil, I added the hops and boiled for 60 minutes. With 10 minutes to go, I added the Whirlfloc.
  • At flame-out, I chilled the wort down to about 80 degrees and then transferred it to the carboy. I placed it in the fermentation chamber and cooled it for an hour or so, and then pitched the yeast.
  • Starting gravity was 1.056, which should result in a final abv of around 5.1%. The unfermented wort has a nice dark color and a good taste. I plan to ferment this for 2 weeks at 68°.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Seven Seas Session IPA Update

After 5 days in the primary fermenter, the Seven Seas Session IPA appeared to have finished up fermenting. So, I raised the temperature from 65°to 70°, to help things clean up a bit. After a total of eight days in the primary fermenter, I kegged the beer and added the dry hops (August 30, 2015). The yield was a full five gallons. Final gravity was 1.018, down from 1.052, which works out to 4.3% abv. The beer has a great flavor, with a definite hops character. Both the level of bitterness (higher than my last session IPA) as well as the body (more full than the last version) are greatly improved. I plan to let this dry-hop at room temperature for at least a week before carbonating and cold-conditioning.

As an experiment for my upcoming brew (titled "Packrat Porter"), I'm washing and reusing my yeast. More on that in the next post!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Seven Seas Session IPA

My first real attempt at a session IPA was adequate, but needed some work. So, I've tuned up the malt and hop bill a bit in order to bolster the brew all around. The result: Seven Seas Session IPA. The name is a bad pun on the hops variety, Falconer's Flight 7C's.

Seven Seas Session IPA
  • 7.5 lbs. 2-row malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
  • 1.25 lbs. 10° Munich malt
  • 1 lb. white wheat malt
  • 0.5 lb. crystal 60° malt
  • 0.5 lb. crystal 15° malt
  • 1 tbs. 5.2 pH stabilizer
  • 1 oz. Falconer's Flight 7C's Blend hops pellets (10.3% alpha, 4.9% beta), 15 minute boil
  • 2 oz. Falconer's Flight 7C's Blend hops pellets (10.3% alpha, 4.9% beta), 10 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Falconer's Flight 7C's Blend hops pellets (10.3% alpha, 4.9% beta), 5 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet (10 minute boil)
  • 1 pkg. English Ale Yeast (WLP002), prepared in 1 liter starter, 12 hours in advance
  • 2 oz. Falconer's Flight 7C's Blend hops pellets (10.3% alpha, 4.9% beta), 14 day dry hop
  • I mashed in with 16.75 quarts of water at 170°, to hit a mash temperature of 159.7° at the start. After 10 minutes, the mash was at 159.5°, 157.6° after 45 minutes, and 154.5° after 60 minutes.
  • I added 0.8 gallons of water at 210°, which raised the mash temperature to 160°. I let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected 3.25 gallons of wort. Then, I added 3.8 gallons of water at 185°, which raised the mash temperature to 168°. This was then vorlaufed after 10 minutes at the remainder of the wort was collected.
  • All together, I collected 6.75 gallons of wort at a gravity of 1.043. This works out to 74% efficiency.
  • I brought the wort to a boil, and added the first ounce of hops at 45 minutes, two more ounces at 50 minutes (along with a Whirlfloc tablet), and the final ounce of hops at 55 minutes. 
  • After 60 minutes of boiling, I turned off the flame and chilled the wort as much as I could. Given the high temperatures (and the warm-ish tap water), I was only able to chill down to about 90°. I transferred the wort into the fermenter, and then set it to chill in the fermentation chamber. Once I reached 70° (after about 3 hours), I pitched the yeast. I started fermentation at 68°, and will drop the temperature to 65° once visible fermentation was under way (persumably within a few hours).
  • In the end, I had 5.25 gallons of wort at a gravity of 1.052. I plan to ferment for at least 10 days before dry hopping.