Saturday, December 20, 2008

KPA Update

I just transferred the KPA to my secondary fermenter, to settle out a bit while I'm away for Christmas. Things looked A-OK in the primary, and the beer has a final gravity of 1.011. With my starting gravity of 1.041, this gives about 4 percent alcohol.

The beer has a very nice, dark golden hue, and a good hoppy aroma. The hops flavor is strong but smooth, so I think this will be a very good one once I get it carbonated. Now just to wait a few weeks. . .

Sunday, December 14, 2008

KPA Bubbling Away

I just checked on the KPA I started yesterday. . .it's brewing fine (as viewed from the outside of the bucket - there's lots of krauesen that I can see when I shine a light through), but no bubbles are evident in the air lock (which is quite firmly in place). So, I'm pretty certain that the bucket lid isn't entirely airtight, and a little carbon dioxide is escaping somewhere around the edges. Fortunately, this seems to be a pretty small deal in the grand scheme of home brewing, so I'm still not going to worry about it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Kamikaze Pale Ale

This is the first time I've ever stepped free of the confines of a brewing kit, so I've called this recipe "Kamikaze Pale Ale," or KPA for short. I started with the American pale ale in Charlie Papazian's Complete Joy of Home Brewing (3rd Edition), and changed ingredients as I felt appropriate. Some of the ingredients were determined by what was available at the nearest home brew supply shop, but that's half the fun! With the Cascade hops, I suppose it's an American pale ale, but the Nottingham yeast probably puts it into the British category. We'll see what it tastes like in the end!

I'm going to go into a fair bit of detail for this recipe, but I don't expect to do quite as much in future posts.

Here are the basic ingredients:
1/2 pound pale ale crystal malt (at least, that's what it said on the tub at the store)
6.6 pounds Bries CBW Golden Light Pure Malt Extract
3 oz. whole Cascade hops from South Dakota (2 oz. for the full boil, 1 oz. for the finish)
11 g active dry Nottingham brewing yeast (Danstar brand)

Here's what I did:
  1. I steeped the crystal malt (all wrapped up in a cheesecloth sack) in two gallons of water, heated to 160 degrees, for 30 minutes.
  2. I removed the crystal malt, let it drip out a bit, and discarded it. Then, I heated the whole mixture to a boil.
  3. I added all of the liquid malt extract and the hops (again, enclosed in a cheesecloth bag), and then boiled the whole mixture for 60 minutes. Two minutes before the end, I added the finishing hops.
  4. I cooled the whole mess in the sink - it took about 15 minutes to get it down to a reasonable temperature. Then, I poured it into the primary fermenter and topped it up to five gallons with cold tap water (with one gallon of Target's purified water in the mix - it was sitting in the house, so I thought I'd get rid of it).
  5. Finally, I sprinkled the contents of the yeast packet across the top of the whole thing, and sealed it up.
  6. I put the fermenter in the closet, where it's a happy 70 degrees. Now, I'll just wait until next weekend, when I'll siphon it into the secondary (a glass carboy - newly acquired as of last weekend) and let it sit over the Christmas break.
Other odds and ends:
For this recipe, I decided to try crushing the crystal malt at home. Easier said than done. In the end, I crushed a quarter pound at a time in two gallon freezer bags (one inside the other) by rolling over the grains with a large beer bottle. The grains ended up a little more floured than I might have liked, so we'll see if/how this affects the end result.

My starting gravity is 1.041. A little lighter than I might like, but we'll see how it turns out. If I were to do it again, I'd probably only top it up to 4.5 gallons (although interestingly enough, I didn't have any loss due to boiling over this time).

I sampled a bit of the wort - it's very hoppy and quite sweet (as I'd expect on both counts). I think this is going to be a good one!

Red Ale Number 1

I started my first brew, which I'll call Red Ale Number 1, a few weeks before I started the blog. Also, this is a kit (put together on the spot - I think I like this better than the typical "boxed" kit!) sold by my local home brew supplier. Thus, I am missing a few details on ingredients.

3.3 pounds light liquid malt extract (Briess CBW brand)
2 pounds light dry malt extract
12 ounces 60L crystal malt mixed with 1 ounce black crystal malt
2 ounces Willamette hop pellets (1 ounce for the main boil, 1 ounce for the finish)

What I Did
I pretty much just followed the directions on the sheet that the store manager gave me. Here's the outline. . .
  1. I heated two gallons of water from cold to 160 degrees, with the grains (bagged in cheesecloth) steeping the whole time. Once the water reached 170 degrees, I took out the grains and let them drain into the pot before throwing them away.
  2. I heated the brewpot water to boiling, and added the malt extracts (dry and liquid) as well as the bittering hops. I boiled the whole thing for 55 minutes, and then added the finishing hops for an additional five minutes. My hops bags burst partway through, resulting in a bit of a mess.
  3. I cooled the wort in the sink (using a sink full of ice cubes and cold water) to 70 degrees, before pouring it into a 6 gallon plastic fermenter. I added enough water to fill it up to 4.5 gallons (I decided against a full five because I had a little boil-over, and lost just a touch of the wort).
  4. I took a sample, cooled it to 60 degrees, and measured the starting gravity -- 1.045. Right at the upper end of the range suggested by my supplier.
  5. I sprinkled a package of dry brewer's yeast (Nottingham strain) on top, sealed the fermenter, put in the airlock, and put the whole thing in my closet (around 70 degrees).
  6. After a day or two, I didn't notice any bubbling in the airlock. I did, however, see that there had been some serious bubbling at some point, because there was the remains of foam and hoppy bits a few inches up the side. I chalk this up to a not-quite-complete seal on the lid of the fermenter (a little gas was probably able to escape and relieve the pressure). A quick check to the internet showed that this isn't a huge cause of worry. On the third day, I measured the specific gravity of a sample (1.012), and found that the beer had indeed been fermenting along.
  7. Seven days after the start of fermentation, I decided to bottle. The final s.g. was 1.010 (for an estimated alcohol content of 4.5 percent). I added 5 ounces of priming sugar (boiled in two cups of water), and bottled up everything. The end yield was 41 bottles of home brew.
  8. I aged the bottles at about 70 degrees (in the closet, as always) for a week before sampling.
End Results (seven days post-bottling)
I threw a few bottles in the fridge, and decided to sample them and see what I can expect with this recipe. Even after only seven days, the beer is nicely carbonated. I found that the colder bottle (one I left in for a few hours, rather than just one hour) had much better head than the first (which had almost none). There might be just a little bit of a chill haze to the beer, because the second, colder one I tried was definitely hazier than the first (which was quite clear).

True to its name, my red ale has a very pleasant reddish-brown color. The aroma is quite nice, with no unpleasant whiffs from this batch. The taste is very smooth, and this one goes down pretty easy. There's a modest hop finish to it, but certainly not overpowering. All in all, I rate Red Ale Number 1 quite well so far! I won't be ashamed to share this batch with friends.

Brewing on the West Coast

After a successful year or two of brewing with some friends during my time out East, I'm getting back into brewing after my move to the West Coast.

Why did I wait so long? The primary thing is that in southern California, it gets hot during the day for much of the year. I don't run the air conditioning when I'm not at home, and I don't think the results of 90 degree ale would be that pleasing. Temperatures have finally cooled down (I have a corner of the apartment that stays around 70 all day - not ideal, but good enough). So, it's head-first into brewing!

This blog will be active during my brewing months - so, don't expect much during the summer or early fall. It's mainly intended to be my brewing notebook, for sharing with friends and family who are also into brewing. Enjoy!