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 Belgian...off-flavors 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
Steps
  • 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).

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Beer Updates: El Dorado Amber Ale, California Vanilla Porter, Gondwana IPA

Over the past two weeks, there has been some action on various batches. This is all summarized below.

  • On April 7, one week after brewing, I transferred the El Dorado Amber Ale over to the secondary fermenter. Gravity at this point was 1.014, down from 1.053; this equals 6.5% abv and 72.6% apparent attenuation.
  • I added 0.5 oz. of El Dorado hops pellets, aiming for two weeks of dry hopping prior to bottling
  • After seven days of vanilla beans in the secondary fermenter, this beer was ready to bottle. I recently got a second-hand set of "PhilTap" minikegs (thanks, Dad!), and this was the first batch to get the PhilTap treatment, along with the Gondwana IPA.
  • At bottling, gravity was 1.014, down from 1.064. This indicates 6.6% abv and 77.0% apparent attenuation.
  • The kegs were each carbonated with 1.5 tbs of corn sugar. The remaining 1.9 gallons were carbonated with 1.65 oz. of corn sugar boiled in 0.5 cup of water (target carbonation=2.6 volumes).
  • The total yield for this batch was: 2 5-L mini-kegs, 11 12-oz bottles, 3 22-oz. bottles, and 1 16-oz. grolsch bottle.
  • After 17 days of dry hopping with 2 oz. of Citra hops pellets, this beer was ready to package. As I was transferring it out, I was hit with a fantastic hops aroma - a fantastic bouquet of passionfruit with a little citrus. These also held up in the tasting.
  • At bottling, gravity was 1.008, down from 1.047. This equals 5.1% abv, and an apparent attenuation of 82.3%.
  • The kegs were carbonated with 1.5 tbs of corn sugar. The remaining 1.5 gallons was primed with 1.45 oz. of corn sugar boiled in 0.5 cup water.
  • The total yield for this batch was 2 5-L mini-kegs, 8 12-oz bottles, 2 22-oz. bottles, and 1 16-oz. Grolsch bottle.
  • After a week, I tapped one of the mini-kegs. The result is beautiful! The hops aroma is still fantastic, although the beer doesn't have a lot of body (not surprising given the high fermentability). Even so, the flavor is quite clean, which is nice after my early worries.
Gondwana IPA, first pour from the mini-keg

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Rodinia IPA

For one of the last batches of the "season", I opted for another all-grain IPA. This was a chance to try out a few new ingredients as well as a new recipe style. For my first IPA of the brewing season (an extract beer), I found that it ended up a little too sweet for my tastes. Some reading suggested that crystal malt could be behind this (although I only had 8 oz. in that recipe--on the other hand, it was fairly high gravity, too, at 1.070 s.g., but most of my extract IPAs have been on the sweet side). So, I decided to try a crystal-free recipe.

Additionally, I've been wanting to try some new hops varieties. The owner of my local homebrew shop said they had something called Nelson Sauvin in stock, and he had been wanting to try it too. That was good enough for me, so into my recipe it went! Pretty much everywhere I read said, "No equivalents" for substitutions...and the variety is usually described as having "white wine" character, so that sounded like an awesome dry hopping opportunity. I also wanted to use up some of the partial bags of hops pellets in my freezer, so Northern Brewers and Nugget went into the kettle too. With the mix of hops origins (New Zealand, Europe, and North America), and with my tradition this year of naming batches after various supercontinents, "Rodinia IPA" seemed appropriate.

Rodinia IPA
  • 13 lbs. pale malt
  • 2 lbs. Munich malt
  • 0.95 oz. Northern Brewers hops pellets (8.5% alpha) - 60 minutes boil
  • 1.4 oz. Nugget hops pellets (14.0% alpha) - 20 minutes boil
  • 1 oz. Nelson Sauvin hops pellets (12.0% alpha) - 1 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Irish moss (10 minutes boil)
  • 1 pkg. BRY-97 American West Coast Yeast (Danstar - 11 g)
  • 1 oz. Nelson Sauvin hops pellets (12.0% alpha) - 14 days dry hop
Steps
  • I mashed in with 4.75 gallons of water to achieve a temperature of ~153° (which stabilized here about 15 minutes in). By the end of the mash, the temperature was at 150°. I collected 3 gallons of wort, and sparged with 3.25 gallons of water at 170°. From this, I collected 3.4 gallons of wort.
  • In total, I collected 6.4 gallons of wort, with a preboil gravity of 1.061. This works out to 71.3% efficiency--not too bad!
  • I heated the wort to boiling, planning for a 90 minute total boil with successive hop additions. The Northern Brewer hops were boiled for 60 minutes, Nugget hops for 20 minutes, and Irish moss for 10 minutes. An ounce of Nelson Suavin was added a minute before flame-out.
  • Using my wort chiller, I chilled the wort down to 70°, whirlpooled, and let it sit for 15 minutes. During this time, I rehydrated the yeast.
  • I transferred the wort to the primary fermenter. This resulted in 4.3 gallons, with a starting gravity of 1.076. This is quite a bit higher than expected (1.071 from BeerSmith)--I suspect the reason is because I ran a very vigorous boil. From the 6.4 gallons of originally collected wort, and assuming the typical 0.5 gallon of sludge left behind in the kettle, that's a total of 1.6 gallons boiled off over the 90 minutes. BeerSmith had only assumed 0.75 gallons (0.5 gallons/hour), so I might need to adjust that in the future.
  • I pitched the yeast immediately before sealing up the primary fermenter (a carboy). 24 hours on, I'm not seeing any visible fermentation activity. I'm not entirely sure if this is due to the relatively high gravity of the wort, or if it is a character of BRY-97. My past batches with this yeast have also been slow to start, and this also was mentioned on other sources. In any case, if I don't see activity within 48 hours from the initial pitch, I'll probably repitch the yeast.
  • This batch was brewed on 12 April 2014. At this writing, the beer is at about 65° for the primary fermentation.

Monday, March 31, 2014

El Dorado Amber Ale

Now having an all-grain amber ale, IPA, and porter under my belt, I decided to try another all-grain amber ale. I based this recipe off of Amarillo Amber Ale from BYO magazine. I made some small substitutions for what was available at my local (and awesome) homebrew store, primarily in switching up the Weyermann malts with approximate equivalents. I also ended up using El Dorado and Nugget for the hops (they had just run out of Amarillo!). As I designed this recipe in BeerSmith, I was super excited to try a whole bunch of new grains and hops.; this sort of beer geekery is why I got into homebrewing! And even better, this was my most successful all-grain brewing session. I scored 75% efficiency, my best to date.

El Dorado Amber Ale
  • 9.3 lbs. Best Malz Pilsen malt
  • 0.25 lbs. aromatic malt
  • 0.25 lbs. 40° crystal malt
  • 0.25 lbs. carastan malt
  • 0.25 lbs. caravienne malt
  • 0.1875 lbs. chocolate malt
  • 1 tbs. 5.2 pH stabilizer
  • 0.5 oz. Nugget hops pellets (14.4% alpha acid) - 30 minutes boil
  • 0.5 oz. El Dorado hops pellets (15% alpha acid) - 10 minutes boil
  • 0.5 oz. El Dorado hops pellets (15% alpha acid) - 5 minutes boil
  • 0.5 oz. El Dorado hops pellets (15% alpha acid) - 14 days dry hop
  • 1/2 tsp. Irish moss
  • 1 pkg. SafAle English Ale Yeast S04
Steps
  • Add 1 tbs. of 5.2 pH stabilizer to grist
  • Add 13.5 quarts of water at 170° to grist in mash tun, for target temperature of 152°. The temperature stabilized here within 5 minutes, and only dropped 1 degree over the entire 60 minutes of mashing.
  • Mash for 60 minutes, add 1 gallon of water at 170°. I collected 3.5 gallons of runnings.
  • Next, I added 3.1 gallons of water at 170°. The temperature settled at 160°. I let the mash tun sit for 10 minutes, and then I collected 3.4 gallons of runnings. This totaled 6.9 gallons of wort collected; with a gravity of 1.042, I calculate 75% efficiency for my mash.
  • Because I had collected such a volume of wort, I elected to boil for a total of 90 minutes. Once I had the wort to a boil, it boiled for 60 minutes before the first hop addition.
  • At 60 minutes, I added 0.5 oz. Nugget hops pellets.
  • At 75 minutes, I added the Irish moss.
  • At 80 minutes, I added 0.5 oz. of El Dorado hops pellets.
  • At 85 minutes, I added 0.5 oz. of El Dorado hops pellets.
  • At 90 minutes, I removed the pot from the heat, and began cooling it with my wort chiller.
  • It took around 30 minutes to cool the wort to 75°. From here, I transferred the wort to my primary fermenter.
  • I proofed the yeast in 1 cup of 85° degree water, and pitched it. The space where I am fermenting is about 65° ambient temperature--perfect for this yeast strain.
  • I collected 5 gallons of wort, with a starting gravity of 1.053 (at 60°). Once I had adjusted the mash efficiency in BeerSmith for my system, I was exactly on the nose for o.g. This will potentially yield ~5.2% abv.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Beer Updates: California Vanilla Porter, Gondwana IPA, Fake Tire 3.0

I haven't done a brewing session in two weeks (life has been busy!), but I have been dabbling in a few other beer-related activities. These are outlined below.

Fake Tire Amber Ale
The Fake Tire 3.0 Amber Ale was bottled on March 23. Final gravity was 1.008; with a starting gravity of 1.045, this means I have 4.8% abv. I added 3.5 oz. of corn sugar dissolved in 2 cups of water. The total yield was 11 12-oz bottles, 7 22-oz bottles, and 8 16-oz bottles (grolsch).

Gondwana IPA
As noted before, this beer has had a bit of a roller coaster of flavors that has finally evened out on the positive side. On March 19, I added 2 oz. of Citra pellet hops for dry hopping. After these have had a full two weeks in the fermenter, I will bottle.

California Vanilla Porter
In order to achieve the eponymous vanilla flavor for this porter, I cut up and scraped 4 Madagascar vanilla beans and then soaked all of them in 2 oz. of vodka. They soaked for 10 days, and generated a really tasty and nice-smelling extract. Today, I finally got to transferring the porter from the primary fermenter into the secondary (after 15 days--the beer was brewed on March 15, and transferred on March 30). The beer is quite tasty, and weighs in at 1.014. Down from 1.064, that means the beer weighs in at 6.4% abv. Right before I sealed up the secondary, I tossed in the vanilla extract (plus pods). I figure I will bottle this in about a week.