Saturday, December 19, 2009

AAA Update

I just transferred the Astro Amber Ale over to the secondary fermenter. The gravity right now is 1.021, down from a starting gravity of 1.052. This provides a current alcohol content of roughly 3.8 percent. I expect that this will go up just a little bit as I let the beer finish fermenting and conditioning in the carboy over Christmas. My plan is to bottle in about two or three weeks.

In the glass, the beer has a nice reddish brown hue, and a pleasantly warm and malty taste with a smooth finish. This is a very, very premature judgement of what the final flavor might be like, of course. Regardless, I can't wait to try out the finished, carbonated product in a month or so!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Astro Amber Ale

Tonight, I decided to try for an amber ale. My buddy Steve came over to assist (in his first brewing experience ever - wow, is he brave!), and we had a great time. The ingredients I had at home lent themselves well to an amber ale (and I was in the mood for one, too), so I did a little searching on-line to find a good base recipe. Once I had that in hand, time to get creative! Here's the recipe I concocted:

Basic ingredients
6.6 lbs Briess Sparkling Amber Liquid Malt
1 lb. dry light malt
8 oz. crushed crystal malt, 40°L
4 oz. crushed crystal malt, 80°L
2 oz. carapils malt
1 oz. crushed chocolate malt
1 oz. whole Cascade hops (South Dakota grown)
1 oz. whole Sterling hops (South Dakota grown)
0.5 oz. whole Hallertauer hops (South Dakota grown)
1 packet Muntons Active Brewing Yeast, prepared according to package directions

Here's what I did:
  1. Steeped crystal malt, carapils malt, and chocolate malt in 2.5 gallons of water at ~155°F for 45 minutes
  2. Sparged malts with 0.5 gallons of water at ~155°F
  3. Heated the tea to a boil, and added the liquid malt extract and then the dry malt extract, and then added the Cascade hops
  4. Boiled for 45 minutes, and then added the Sterling hops
  5. Boiled for 15 minutes, and then added the Hallertauer hops
  6. Removed from heat, removed Cascade and Sterling hops, and then cooled using my cooling coil system (nice!)
  7. Once the wort was cooled down to ~70°F, I decanted it into the primary fermenter and topped up to 5 gallons with chilled distilled water
  8. I added the yeast, sealed up the system, and let it get on to fermenting!
The starting gravity was 1.052, indicating a potential alcohol content of around 6.8 percent. Assuming typical yield, this tasty amber ale will probably end up around 5 percent alcohol by volume. The wort has a nice reddish brown hue right now, and I expect it to lighten up some as the various proteins settle out. Next weekend, I'll transfer it over to the secondary fermenter and let the whole mess condition over the Christmas holiday.

And of course, here's the requisite picture of the wort:

Claremont IPA, The (Semi-)Final Verdict

I've been falling down on the job with updating on the Claremont IPA. After one week, we transferred it over to the secondary fermenter, and added an ounce of whole, dry Sterling hops (weighted with some marbles in the hops baggie) for dry hopping. The beer sat in the secondary fermenter for around three weeks. When we pulled it out to bottle, the uncarbonated beer had a beautiful, subtle hops aroma, and the wonderful bitter taste that we all expect for a good IPA. Final gravity was 1.15, so this means an actual alcohol content of 6.5 percent. Not too shabby!

We ended up with 38 bottles - 11 of the big, 16 oz. Grolsch bottles, and 27 of the regular, 12 oz. bottles.

All signs are pointing to this being a most excellent beer, and a successful first venture into dry hopping. Nice color, nice flavor, nice finish. I'm really looking forward to trying the first carbonated bottle!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Claremont IPA

At long last, it's here. . .the first brewing session of the season! I'm happy to be brewing with Dr. Brian, who lives just up the street and has been wanting to get back into the home brew thing. We're working at his place for this first batch - my apartment is just a touch too warm during the day still, and he has a nice cool basement.

I've been wanting to do an honest IPA for some time now. . .last year's Kamikaze Pale Ale was good, but lacked that level of in-your-face hoppiness that I crave. So, it's time for another concoction. This one I call Claremont IPA.

Ingredients for "Claremont IPA"
  • 0.5 lb. carapils malt
  • 6 lbs. dry American light malt extract
  • 2 oz. Centennial hops (pellet form; 8% aa)
  • 1 oz. Cascade hops (whole)
  • 11 g active dry Nottingham brewing yeast (Danstar brand)
  • I heated 2.5 gallons of tap water to 158 degrees Fahrenheit, and steeped the carapils malt (in a nylon bag) for 25 minutes
  • I gently rinsed the carapils milt in warm (~158 degree) tap water, to bring the total volume up to 3 gallons
  • Then, I heated the water to boiling and added the dry malt extract and 2 oz. of the Centennial hops.
  • After another 55 minutes of boiling, I added 1 oz. of Centennial hops
  • After 5 minutes of boiling, I removed the wort from the heat and chilled it down to 70 degrees.
  • After putting the wort in the primary fermenter and topping it up to around 4.5 gallons with pre-boiled, chilled water, I pitched the yeast.
  • On measuring the specific gravity, I noticed it was quite low - only 1.025! This is probably because I had left a quantity in the pot with the worst of the accumulated solids. Apparently, just a little too much! So, I boiled up 1.5 lbs amber dry malt in 1 gallon of water for five minutes, chilled it in ice, and then added it to the fermenter. This resulted in an original gravity of 1.066 (8.5 percent potential alcohol).
Upcoming Plans
  • After one week, I'm going to transfer to a secondary fermenter and add 1 oz. of Cascade hops, for some dry-hopping action.
  • Then, I'll probably let it condition for another two or three weeks before bottling.

Ingredients Cost Summary
A half pound of carapils malt costs $1; the malt extract (including shipping) cost around $32. The Centennial hops cost $8.75 for two ounces, and it was $1.50 for the yeast. The rest of the hops were "free" from South Dakota, so we have a total materials cost of $43.25. Assuming a typical yield, we're looking at around $1/bottle. The real killer right now is getting the dry malt extract. . .unfortunately, my closest home brew shop (which I otherwise love) doesn't carry the light stuff.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Getting Ready to Brew Again

Temperatures are cooling. . .homebrew supply is perilously low. Time to start brewing again!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

California Summer Ale Bottled

This afternoon I (with the assistance of my buddy Matt) bottled up the California Summer Ale - the final yield was 41 bottles. Three of these were 22-oz., and 11 were 18-oz. So, that's a lot of beer! The brew has a nice hoppy taste and a golden-copper color. Can't wait to see how it turns out after a few weeks of carbonation and conditioning!

This will likely be my last batch until next fall - the daytime temperatures in my apartment are just a little too warm now. Fortunately, I've got a nice supply of home brew laid away in my closet.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

California Summer Ale Update

Tonight I transferred the CSA into the secondary fermenter. The beer has a nice light color, but is nowhere near settled yet. I've read that this strain of yeast has low floculation, so we'll just have to see how the end result looks in terms of clarity.

Right now, the gravity reads 1.010. Slightly lower than I was expecting, so I double-checked the temperature and my measurements, and all is correct. This gives me about 3.3 percent alcohol at present.

The taste of the beer so far is light and mildly hopped. It promises to be very good in the end!

Monday, February 23, 2009

California Summer Ale

As the winter brew season winds down, I've decided to brew one or two batches of something lighter in color and flavor. So, I poked around on the internet to find a recipe that I could adapt for ingredients on hand as well as those available at the local home brew store (which I'm finding has a pretty decent and reasonably-priced supply of most of the basics). Here's what I came up with!

Ingredients for "California Summer Ale"
  • 1 lb. carapils malt
  • 5 lbs. light dried malt extract (American brand)
  • 1.5 oz. whole Saaz hops (bittering)
  • 0.5 oz. whole Saaz hops (aroma)
  • 4.25 fl. oz. Wyeast American ale yeast 1056 (activator pack)
  1. I heated two and a half gallons of tap water to 158 degrees Fahrenheit, and steeped the carapils malt (in a nylon bag) for 25 minutes.
  2. I rinsed the malt with warm tap water (also approximately at 158 degrees), to bring the volume up to three gallons.
  3. Then, I heated the water to boiling and added the dried malt extract as well as the bittering hops. These were boiled for 58 minutes.
  4. For the final two minutes of the boil, I added the aroma hops.
  5. I stuck the whole pot in a sink of ice water, and let it cool down a fair bit. Once it was cool, I decanted the wort into my primary fermenter, and topped it up to five gallons with cold distilled water.
  6. Then, I pitched the yeast. I activated the pack yesterday afternoon, and found that it swelled up much more quickly than I was expecting! We'll see how it does today. I can't imagine there is any harm from just sitting overnight.
  7. The initial gravity is 1.042. This is a potential alcohol of 5.2 percent or so, but given my usual yield I would predict it will end up being about 3.5 -4 percent in the end.
Ingredients Cost Summary
The light malt extract was $4/lb, for a total cost of $20. The hops were free, the yeast cost $7 for the package, and the carapils malt was $2 for a 1 lb. package. Adding in $2 for the water, and another $2 or so for the ice used to cool this down, I spent approximately $33 on ingredients for this batch. Assuming I'll get around 48 bottles from this batch, that works out to ~69 cents of ingredients per bottle. Of course, this doesn't factor in the equipment costs (which probably about doubles things after five batches of beer), but it's still a pretty good price (under $5 per six-pack!) for what I hope will be good beer.

Other tidbits
For this brew session, I made the leap to purchase a few nylon bags for grain steeping and hops boiling. This is the best brewing investment I've made so date! It's way easier than cheesecloth, ridiculously reusable, and will definitely be cheaper in the long run.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

All-American Porter Brewed and Bottled

I brewed up the All-American Porter exactly as outlined in a previous last post. I steeped the grains for around 45 minutes, and gently rinsed them with warm water. In an effort to keep the gravity up, I only filled the primary fermenter to just under 4.5 gallons. Initial gravity was 1.051--the highest of any I've brewed to date. I let it ferment in the primary for a week, and then transferred it to the secondary fermenter, where it's been aging and settling for the last three weeks. The final gravity was 1.014, giving an alcohol content of approximately 5 percent. Definitely the strongest I've ever brewed!

This afternoon I bottled it up, with a yield of 42 12-oz. bottles. I was a little worried about the flavor initially, because the wort was pretty bitter. But, the flavor has mellowed out really, really nicely in the intervening weeks. I daresay this may be the best I've brewed so far--we'll have to see how it all carbonates up!

Wheat Beer Bottled and Drinkable

Ok, so it's been a long time since the last post. The All-American Porter has been brewed and will get bottled later today. Also, the wheat beer got bottled two weeks ago--we ended up with 41 bottles, if I remember correctly. Some of these were the larger pint-sized bottles, too. I cracked the first bottle earlier this week, and it has carbonated up nicely. It's pretty drinkable, although in hindsight the normal fruity aroma associated with the German wheat beers is not quite to my taste. A little slice of lemon really rounds out the flavor, though. Next time, I think I'll try an American strain of yeast--these seem to lack the fruity aroma/flavors seen in many of the European strains.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Up Next. . .the All-American Porter

Tomorrow, I'm thinking about brewing up a porter--on a whim, I've named it the "All-American Porter" (in honor of the new president, the upcoming President's Day holiday, and the fact that I'm going to ignore the British hops in favor of the American ones in my freezer).

Here's what I'm looking at for a preliminary ingredients list. . .it will likely be updated a bit as I shop around at the local home brew shop:

1/2 pound caramel malt (for steeping; I've got some on hand, and need to use it up)
1/2 pound cara-pils malt (for steeping; again, I've got some on hand already)
1/2 pound chocolate malt (I'll have to pick some of this up at the store)
6.6 pounds Briess liquid malt (I'm thinking about 3.3 pounds Golden Light plus 3.3 pounds Sparkling Amber; I'll see what the local brew store has on hand)
2 oz. Cascade hops (bittering)
1 oz. Saaz (aroma)
The usual Nottingham ale yeast

Wheat Beer Update

Tonight I transferred the wheat beer (which has been fermenting for six days now) into the secondary fermenter. The beer has a nice yeasty-sour aroma, which is about what I would expect. Plus, it's tasting pretty good. The gravity at present is 1.010, putting alcohol at right about 3 percent. Can't wait to see what this will be like once it's settled and matured a little!

The Red Ale #1!

Here's my red ale, a month or two after bottling. This has turned into a really nice beer - good head, good flavor, good all around. I'm enjoying drinking this one.

First Taste of KPA

Over the past week or two, I've been (impatiently) cracking open a bottle or two of the Kamikaze Pale Ale. I don't think it has fully carbonated yet - after two weeks, it has a nice fizz, but not quite the level of bubbly that I would prefer. My red ale had similar behavior at first, so I think I'm just being impatient. At any rate, I agitated the bottles a bit tonight to see if that will help the carbonation along. Some brewing sites I've read recommended this procedure to "rouse" the yeast if it's not carbonating at the preferred rate. Mostly, I think I just need to wait a little longer.

On first pouring the beer, I get a mild hops scent. The beer is a nice red color (as mentioned in a previous post), and the carbonation (at this writing) is manifested as a light but steady stream of tiny bubbles along the side of the glass. The taste is smooth, with some definite hops flavor, but not overly bitter. The finish is pretty smooth, too. I don't know if it quite has as much "body" as I'd like on my beers. There is relatively little head, too, but I think this might just be a factor of the present low carbonation.

So what might I do differently next time? I might experiment with steeping another type of malt or two, to add a little extra body (but not too much). Perhaps I just need to crack the pale malt a little finer. I think I'll also try dry-hopping, to give it a more prominent hops aroma (the aroma is just a little milder at present than I might like). Additionally, I'll try boiling with a greater water volume - I only did two gallons (modified after one recipe I saw) for the boil this time, but I suspect I'd get slightly better hops utilization if I used 2.5 or 3 gallons. Next time, I'll also try using dry malt instead.

Despite all these ideas for "next time," I still think it's a pretty drinkable beer. I like the smoothness, and it will be even better once that last bit of carbonation settles in.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Wheat Beer

I don't have a clever name for this one yet. . .it's based off of the recipe for Bert Grant's Hefeweizen (by Yakima Brewing and Malting Co.) in the North American Clone Brews book by Scott R. Russell. I brewed it up last night (January 17), with some able assistance from my friend Todd.

Here are the basic ingredients:
1 lb. malted wheat (crushed)
8 oz. light crystal malt (40°L)
8 oz. carapils malt
2 oz. Hallertau hops pellets (3.8% alpha; 1 oz. for the bittering, 1 oz. for the aroma)
4 lbs. wheat dry malt extract
German wheat beer yeast (Wyeast 3333)

Here's what I did:
  • I steeped the malted wheat, crystal malt, and carapils malt in 2 gallons of water for 45 minutes, at 150°F. Then, I sparged the grains with half a gallon of water at about the same temperature.
  • I added the wheat malt extract, and heated the whole thing to boiling.
  • Once the wort was boiling, I added 1 oz. of the hop pellets and boiled for 45 minutes.
  • For the final 15 minutes, I added the last ounce of hops.
  • At the end of the boil, I cooled the wort down with an ice bath in the sink, decanted the wort into my fermenter, and topped the whole thing up to about 4.5 gallons.
  • I pitched the liquid yeast, and now everythings sitting in the closet and hopefully fermenting.
The initial gravity is 1.034, which is quite a bit lower than I expected (1.045 is what the recipe gives). In the end, this will probably give me an alcohol content a little over 3 percent, assuming that it all ferments out as my previous batches have. Part of the low gravity "problem" might be that my grains were bagged too tightly, and so I didn't get as good of utilization out of them. I don't think this explains everything, though. Next time (assuming I like the results), I'm going to go ahead and use a full five pounds of malt extract.

The color on the finished wort is a nice straw-color - the lightest I've brewed to date.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Next up. . .

Sarah has requested a wheat beer, so I'm going to try my hand at one of these next weekend (if everything arrives by then, that is). I'm basing my recipe around a clone of Bert Grant's Hefeweizen, which from the description in my recipe book looks to have all of the characteristics that Sarah likes (citrusy, yeasty, wheaty). Unfortunately, my local homebrew store didn't have any wheat malt. . .so, I placed my order with William's Brewing, and it should all ship out tomorrow afternoon.

KPA Bottled

This evening, I bottled up the KPA. I siphoned it out of the carboy (everything had settled out nicely - there was relatively little sediment, and the beer looked very clear). For primer, I boiled 3/4 cup of corn sugar in 2 cups water, cooled the mix, and stirred it in to the beer. I got 37 12-ounce bottles and 4 16-ounce bottles, for a grand total of 41 bottles. Accounting for the pint bottles, this is a slightly higher bottle count than the last batch (which gave me 41 12-ounce bottles).

The beer has a nice amber color, and tastes pretty good so far (if one can trust flat beer). It's a little darker than I was expecting, so maybe next time I'll use only dry malt extract (which I've read can give a slightly lighter color). Now to wait for carbonation. . .