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).