Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Socks-Off IPA

This IPA is so-named because it will "knock your socks off", between the hops and the potential alcohol content. My wonderful spouse got me a "home-brewed" IPA kit from our local small brew store (i.e., one thrown together by the owner) for Christmas, so I decided to brew it up tonight, with a few minor modifications for what ingredients I had on hand and wanted to use up.

Socks-Off IPA
  • 0.66 lbs. Munich malt
  • 3.75 lbs. Pale Malt, Maris Otter
  • 3.3 lbs. Briess Amber Liquid Malt Extract
  • 3.3 lbs. Briess Golden Light Liquid Malt Extract
  • 3.3 lbs. Briess Bavarian Wheat Liquid Malt Extract
  • 3 oz. Cascade hops (whole)
  • 1 oz. Hallertauer hops (whole)
  • 1 oz. Sterling hops (whole)
  • 1 oz. Saaz hops (whole)
  • 1 tsp. Irish moss
  • 2 oz. Northern Brewer hops (pellets)
  • 1 package London Ale III yeast (Wyeast Labs #1318)
  • I heated 3 gallons of tap water to 154° F, and steeped the grains for one hour (between 154° and 156° F). Then, I sparged the grains with one gallon of water at roughly 160° F, to bring the total volume to 4 gallons (or just a little over).
  • After bringing the mixture to a boil, I turned off the heat and added the liquid malt extracts. Then, I heated the kettle back to a boil (again) and added the whole Cascade, Hallertauer, and Sterling hops.
  • After 45 minutes, I added 1 tsp. of Irish moss.
  • After 55 minutes, I added the Saaz hops.
  • After 60 minutes, I removed all of the hops and chilled the wort. Once it had gotten down to an appropriate temperature, I added the wort to my fermenter. The volume at this point was 3.5 gallons, so I topped up with cold tap water to roughly 5.25 gallons.
  • The temperature of the wort was 76° F. I pitched the yeast, sealed the lid, and let the yeast do its thing.
  • Starting gravity was 1.072 - right at the upper of end of the American IPA style. BeerSmith estimates the bitterness at 59.3 IBU, color at 11.7 SRM, and ABV at 7.1%. 
  • In a week or so, I'll move the mixture over to my secondary fermenter, and add the Northern Brewer pellets for dry-hopping.
In other news, I've started using the BeerSmith software to formulate my recipes. The excellent reputation of the program is quite deserved - it's flexible and friendly to extract brewers as well as all-grain brewers.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Amber Ale, Vanilla Porter, and Irish Stout Updates

A few updates condensed into one post. . .

Vanilla Voay Porter
This experimental brew (recipe, update, and update) was bottled on Saturday, December 10. This gave the vanilla extract/pods around two weeks in the secondary fermenter - the chopped and scraped pods floated on the surface, and many of the tiny seeds were everywhere in the fermenter.

Final gravity was 1.016, from a starting gravity of 1.056, giving 5.25% alcohol by volume. Final yield was just over 5 gallons of beer(!), with 30 12-oz. bottles, 12 1-pt. bottles, and 4 22-oz. bottles.

Four days after bottling, I was impatient and opened one of the small bottles. Carbonation was still very slight, but the flavor and aroma were delicious. A faint vanilla scent, but a rich vanilla flavor (not overpowering though, thankfully). I'm very excited to see how this is going to mature over the next few weeks!

Fake Tire Amber Ale
One week after brewing, I transferred my Fat Tire clone into the secondary fermenter. The aroma was very estery, with a strong banana component. I might have been a little worried, except the yeast strain is known to do this. The gravity was around 1.014 at this point, and hadn't changed at all when I racked the beer into the bottling bucket today (December 17, 19 days after brewing). This gives 5% alcohol by volume, a little less than the 5.2% of real Fat Tire.

From this batch, I got 20 12-oz. bottles, 14 1-pt. bottles, and 1 22-oz. bottle. Next time I might try scaling the recipe up a bit.

When preparing to bottle, I'm very impressed by the absolute clarity of the beer. This bodes well for the final product (which I'll probably test in a week's time - Christmas Eve!).

Coopers Irish Stout
The Irish stout I made a few weeks ago has matured into a wonderfully drinkable brew. The head is a nice caramel-color, and isn't overwhelming, but certainly sticks around the edges of the glass after pouring. The flavor has a hint of malt and is dominated by the roasted grains, and has a nice dry finish (as expected for the style). As I noted at the time of bottling, it's not a very exciting beer (middle of the road flavor - good but no really unusual highlights), but it's certainly a solid one.

This kit was cheap, fast, easy, and tasty - perfect for the beginning or end of the brew season when I just want to crank something out! I'll admit that it's not quite as much fun as doing everything from scratch, but then again that's also a welcome break sometimes. I expect I'll probably do this kit (or a similar one) again!

Irish stout, in the glass

Monday, November 28, 2011

Fake Tire Amber Ale

I've always liked Fat Tire (from New Belgium Brewing), and have previously found clone recipes to be a good way to experiment with various styles and flavors. Thus, tonight's brew was modeled after two different Fat Tire recipes I found kicking around the Internet. These are followed reasonably closely, except for the hops - I used what I had on hand, so this will almost certainly modify the resultant into something Fat Tire-ish rather than a spot-on Fat Tire (if such a thing is genuinely possible). Thus, I'm calling this batch. . .

Fake Tire
  • 5 pounds plain extra-light DME
  • 0.5 lb Munich light malt
  • 0.5 lb Carapils malt
  • 0.5 lb biscuit malt
  • 0.5 lb crystal malt (20° Lovibond)
  • 0.5 lb crystal malt (40° Lovibond)
  • 1.0 oz chocolate malt
  • 1.0 oz. Cascade hops (60 minutes boil)
  • 1.0 oz. Mt. Hood hops (5 minutes boil)
  • 1 tsp. Irish moss (15 minutes boil)
  • Wyeast 1272 (American Ale II)


  • I heated 3.5 gallons of tap water to 154° F (usually hovering around 156° to 158°), and steeped the grains for 45 minutes. Then, I sparged the grains with 0.5 gallons of tap water at 154°.
  • After bringing the mixture to a boil, I turned off the heat and added the malt. I brought it back to a boil, and threw in the Cascade hops.
  • After boiling for 45 minutes, I added 1 tsp. of Spanish moss.
  • After boiling for another 10 minutes (for 55 minutes total boil), I added the Mt. Hood hops.
  • After 5 more minutes (60 minutes total of boiling), I cooled the wort with my chiller, added cold tap water to a total of 4.5 gallons, and pitched the yeast. Pitching temperature was 74° F, and starting gravity was measured at 1.052. The wort is a nice amber color (as befits an amber ale).

As I refined the recipe, I played around with some calculators for IBU and starting gravity. I got an estimated boil gravity (4 gallon boil) of 1.077; with a top-up to 5 gallons, this gives an estimated IBU of 20.7 and estimated starting gravity of 1.061. My actual starting gravity was a little lower, at 1.052. Part of this discrepancy could be the sludge I left in the bottom of the brew pot, and the other could just be errors in the brew calculator.

New Belgium officially gives an "OG" of 12.6 and an "FG" of 2.2 for Fat Tire, which I think is on the Brix scale (even if not stated). This translates to 1.051 and 1.009. Thus, my original gravity is quite close! We'll see if this comparability is maintained through fermentation. (as a side-note, they measure 18.5 IBU and 5.2% ABV, too)

I've never fermented with American Ale II before, so I'm curious to see how it works out. Judging by the Wyeast website, this should be a nice little strain.

The grains, waiting to steep

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Coopers Irish Stout - An Experiment

Last weekend I was at my local home brew store, getting the stuff together for tomorrow's brewing session (a Fat Tire-ish amber ale). Looking up on one shelf, I saw these cans of hopped extract kits. $21 on the price tag. Intrigued by the low cost, I asked the shop owner if it was worth trying. He told me that many home brewers look down their noses at these kits (I suppose because it's considered cheating), but that they actually can turn out some great beer. Quick, easy, cheap. . .worth a try! So, I bought a kit and took it home.

I selected a Coopers Irish Stout kit, which included a can of hopped malt and a packet of yeast. The package recommended adding some additional malt and dextrose - I had dry malt already, but not the latter, so I skipped dextrose. Instead, I used one pound of light and one pound of amber dry malt extract.

The directions recommended dissolving the can's contents and the dry malt in 2 liters of boiling water. In order to achieve an additional level of sanitation, I boiled the dry malt first (in about 3 liters of water). Once that had gone for a few minutes, I turned off the heat and stirred in the liquid hopped malt. Several websites I saw said not to boil this final mixture, in order to maximize flavor. That makes sense, because the malt in the can should already be sterile, and I didn't want to drive off any latent aroma.

At any rate, I dumped the hot mixture in my primary fermenter, and topped it up with cold tap water to about 5.25 gallons (enough to get the overall temperature down appropriately for the yeast). Original gravity was 1.044. I pitched the dry yeast directly into the fermenter (per the package directions), sealed it up, and hoped for the best.

The fermentation was clearly moving along after 24 hours, and after 48 hours it was so vigorous as to be spilling out the top of my airlock. I let it go for seven days, until the gravity had dropped to 1.018. Then, I transferred the beer into my bottling bucket (with 2/3 cup corn sugar added for priming), and bottled. The overall yield was 10 18 oz. bottles and 36 12 oz. bottles - not too shabby! Given the o.g. and f.g., I can expect about 3.4% alcohol by volume.

The uncarbonated beer has a clean flavor, but I must say it isn't that complex or interesting otherwise. Then again, what can you expect for around $25 worth of materials? A big plus was the speed of initial brewing - it was only about 90 minutes of work to get from can to sealed primary fermenter (this includes cleaning all of the equipment!). Once carbonated, I anticipate this Irish Stout being a rather drinkable session brew - perfect for the upcoming winter months!

Vanilla Voay Porter Update 2

Fermentation in the secondary fermenter has slowed down to a crawl, so last night (14 days post-brew) I added the homemade vanilla extract (pods and all). The extract has a very nice vanilla aroma--much stronger than just soaking whole bean pods.

In one week, it's time to bottle!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Vanilla Voay Porter Update

My vanilla porter has gone through the first stage of fermentation, and after one week I have now transferred it into a glass carboy for secondary fermentation. At the time of transfer, the gravity was 1.024, down from the starting gravity of 1.056. I expect that the gravity will go down a little more over the next two weeks before bottling.

The beer is nicely flavored, with no off character that I can detect. Dark color (see photo at left), lighter body, and heading towards the direction of a very drinkable porter. Interestingly, the yeast strain I used (White Labs California V ale yeast) produced a mild sulfurous aroma in the early stages of fermentation. I have read elsewhere that this is a normal characteristic for that strain, so I didn't worry about that too much. It's not detectable on tasting, either.

I also started some vanilla beans in vodka, to make an extract for the porter. At the recommendation of my brewing colleague Greg, I split the pods, scraped the seeds into the vodka, and then cut the pods up and threw them in too. In one week, I plan to add them to the secondary along with the rest of the beer.

Vanilla Voay Porter, in the secondary fermenter

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Vanilla Voay Porter

It is finally time for the first batch of the season! I've been wanting to do a vanilla porter for some time, because I have a bunch of vanilla beans from my last trip to Madagascar. My wife and I both like porters, too (and she loves vanilla porter), so the stars are in alignment for this attempt.

The base recipe is modified from one I found on-line; nothing too fancy, but that's probably an OK thing. I had thought about riffing from the recipe for last year's Schoolhouse Porter (which turned out awesome!), but the flavor for that would be just a little too big against vanilla. The hops are all whole hops from my dad's vines in South Dakota, and I got all of the other ingredients at a new local homebrew shop (Vanguard Home Brewing Supply - much closer than the other options, and an excellent selection of malts, grains, and yeasts).

For those who are curious, "voay" (pronounced "voy") is Malagasy for "crocodile." The name was chosen because of the Malagasy origin of the vanilla, in honor of the various fossil crocs I've dug up over there, and because it has a nice ring to it!

Vanilla Voay Porter
  • 1/2 pound 40L caramel crystal malt
  • 1/2 pound chocolate malt
  • 1/2 pound cara-pils malt
  • 6 pounds light dry malt extract
  • 1 oz. Cascade hops (whole) for bittering
  • 1 oz. Sterling hops (whole) for bittering
  • 1 vial White Labs California V ale yeast (WLP051)
  • I heated 3 gallons of water to ~158°, and steeped the grains. After 30 minutes, I sparged them with 1 gallon of water, to fill the brew pot to 4 gallons.
  • I heated the water to boiling (gas stove now!), and turned off the flame. I added the dry malt extract, stirred it until it dissolved, and heated the pot to boiling.
  • Once the pot was boiling, I added the Cascade hops.
  • After 50 minutes, I added the Sterling hops.
  • After 60 minutes, I took out the hops, re-topped the kettle to ~4 gallons, and started cooling with my cooling coil.
  • Once the wort had cooled to around 70°, I put it in the fermenter, topped to 5.5 gallons, and pitched the yeast. The starting gravity is 1.056 - I had started at 5 gallons, but the gravity was just a little too high (1.070).

Friday, January 7, 2011

Rainy Day IPA 1.1 Update

Tonight (7 January 2011, six days after brew day) I transferred my latest batch of the Rainy Day IPA to the secondary fermenter, a 6-gallon glass carboy. Right now, the s.g. reads at 1.018 (down from 1.060 at the beginning, for 5.5% alcohol by volume). Once the transfer was complete, I added 2 oz. of Cascade hops pellets (5.4% alpha acid) in a nylon mesh bag, for dry hopping.

The hops pellets were left over from last year (I bought them in March 2010), and were kept triple-bagged in the freezer. I've read that some deterioration is natural after opening (these were opened last year, as it was a 6 oz. bag), but that pellets are pretty hardy in the long-term because the interior is protected from oxygen.

In another minor technique change, I decanted the beer from the primary into the secondary fermenter through a hose attached to the spigot at the bottom of the primary, rather than through siphoning. I had been a little hesitant to try this, because I was worried about getting too much of the trub and other nastiness off of the bottom. But, it doesn't seem like any more than normal got carried along (especially when I tipped the bucket back a bit for the initial part of the siphoning). I'll definitely be trying this again, as it was much easier.

The beer is reasonably bitter, but not quite as much so as I remember from last time. The color and flavor is nice otherwise, so it will be interesting to see how the dry hopping augments the taste and aroma.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Rainy Day IPA 1.1

The Rainy Day IPA that I brewed last March turned out to be one of the best beers I've made yet. It had everything that a good IPA should have - clarity, lots of IBUs, and a good hoppy aroma. The use of pelletized hops for the dry hopping phase seemed to be the key to getting good hop aroma retention after bottling. Perhaps the increased surface area is behind this? In that case, I wonder if finely chopping up whole hops would have the same effect.

At any rate, I decided to make another batch of this, with just a few minor tweaks (primarily related to the ingredients I had on hand). Except as outlined below, everything is the same as before. So, I'll only list the changes.

Differences From the Last Batch
  • More by accident than anything, I ended up steeping the grains at a slightly higher temperature (~170°) for the steeping phase.
  • I used 3 oz. of whole Cascade hops for the bittering (instead of a combo of whole hops and pellets added at various points during the boiling), boiled for the entire 60 minutes.
  • I added 1 tsp. of Irish moss at the 45 minute mark (done before, but not explicitly noted on the recipe).
  • I added 1 oz. of whole Sterling hops 57 minutes into the boil, and boiled these for 3 minutes, for aroma (instead of 1 oz. of Cascade pellets for 5 minutes).
  • After cooling with the cooling coil and topping up to 4.5 gallons, the starting gravity was 1.060 (on 1 January 2011). This contrasts with a starting gravity of 1.056 for the last batch.
  • I pitched the yeast, and it has been fermenting at 68°-72° degrees for the past few days.
I can't wait to see how it will turn out, and if I can replicate the good points of the last batch. I plan to dry-hop it once again with some Cascade pellets left over from last year. They probably won't be as fresh, but I do want to use them up.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Schoolhouse Porter

For the 2010-2011 brewing season, I decided to focus on porters (although I'll certainly be brewing some other styles, too). So, it seemed appropriate to start off with a batch of just that, courtesy of a kit from Beer, Beer, and More Beer (there happens to be a store within a 45 minute drive of here). This is kit #168, which they title "Brown Porter." I decided to jazz up the name a little.

Schoolhouse Porter
  • 7 lb. light malt liquid extract
  • 1 lb. English Brown malt
  • 1 lb. Crystal 40L malt
  • 1/2 lb. Chocolate malt
  • 1.5 oz. Vanguard hops (bittering)
  • 1 oz. Cascade hops (aroma)
  • 1 tablet Whirlfloc clarifier
  • 1 packet Safale S-04 dry yeast
  • I filled my brew pot with three gallons of water (tap temperature), added the malts, and turned on the heat. Following the directions, I left the grains in until the water reached 170 F. This took about 35 minutes. Then, I gently sparged them with about a quart of warm water.
  • I heated the water to boiling, turned off the heat (I'm using an electric stove), and stirred in the liquid malt. Then, I turned the heat back on.
  • Once the wort was boiling again, I added the 1.5 oz. of Vanguard hops.
  • After 55 minutes, I added the Whirlfloc clarifier. Apparently, this stuff is similar in function to Irish moss.
  • After another 4 minutes (59 minutes from the start of the boil), I added the Cascade hops.
  • After an additional one minute of boiling (for 60 minutes total boiling), I removed the pot from the heat and chilled it in an ice bath (my cooling coil was on loan).
  • While waiting for the wort to cool, I hydrated the yeast (as recommended in the directions) in one cup of water.
  • Once the wort had cooled sufficiently, I poured the wort into the fermenter, topped it up to five gallons, and pitched the yeast.
  • The starting gravity was 1.060 (with an estimated original gravity for the kit given as 1.046-1.052; not sure why I got such a high graviry). The wort had a wonderfully rich brown color.
  • This process was all started on 29 December 2010. Because I had to do another batch and only have one primary fermenter, I transferred it to a glass secondary fermenter on 1 January 2011. This was a little sooner than I wanted, but I had to brew while I had the opportunity. After these three days, the s.g. read as 1.026, suggesting ~4.5% alcohol by volume. The beer had maintained the nice brown hue, and also had a great chocolatey taste. I hope this is maintained after settling and bottling! The secondary fermenter continued to bubble steadily for two more days, so I suspect the gravity will drop a little more yet.